Making the Grades
In 1984, the second episode of the adventures of Indiana Jones barged into theaters. Running on the heels of the incredibly successful Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was a great deal of new cash to be spent of what would become one of cinema's most memorable franchises.
Under the direction of Steven Spielberg with George Lucas penning the script, the story puts suave and sophisticated Indy (Harrison Ford) into yet another dilemma when he escapes from a clash with Chinese gangsters, only to discover the plane he has stolen has been earmarked for his death. Surviving with the help of a life raft turned parachute, Indy, along with two tagalongs -- lounge singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and young Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) -- skid down snow covered slopes, float along a river and end up unscathed and ready for a good meal in a poverty stricken village in India.
The leader is thrilled to meet the adventurer and immediately gives him a new quest: A mystical rock has been stolen, the absence of which has been blamed for various curses upon the people, including all of their being children stolen. It's all the excuse our hero needs to set out and discover who would so such a thing. His trek leads the trio to a beautiful mountaintop palace where they are wined and dined on eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains while being assured that nothing unsavory is happening in the neighborhood.
After dinner and back in their rooms, Indy's overtures toward Willie are met with a cold response, and he instead finds his hands on the breasts of a statue. The overt move sets off a series of mechanisms revealing the underground Temple of Doom and an evil voodoo doctor who is sacrificing humans in a volcanic pit.
Of course, it's all in good fun, but for parents whose memories may have faded over the past few decades, there is ample reason preview this film before sitting the family down for a movie night. The aforementioned themes of human sacrifice and black magic result in visuals of a man being set on fire and burned to death, along with demonstrations of a voodoo doll stuck with objects that relate to characters suffering the same consequences.
Yet, perhaps even more surprising, is the intensity of the violence in the PG-rated film (it was released prior to the PG-13 category being created in the U.S.). Many killings are depicted with victims dying from various methods, including an impaling with a flaming skewer, a hanging from a ceiling fan, and a character crushed under a huge wheel (leaving a residue of blood). During a cult ceremony, another man has his heart ripped out of his chest while alive (the wound miraculously heals). Add some whippings, the feeding of a few more humans to a group of starving crocodiles and some sexual innuendo, and you may discover that this film isn't quite as family-friendly as you recall.
On the positive, watching this production may make you reminiscent for the days when the industry still knew how to create an adventure with a hero that was hard -- if not impossible -- to beat. Spielberg's precise pacing takes Lucas's obstacle-around-every-corner script and Harrison Ford's top-of-his-game performance and turns it into a rollicking good time culminating in the iconic mine car race. Made just before digital effects and other new technologies began crowding out old school filmmaking techniques, this 1984 adventure still holds up as a great example of its genre, but may only be suitable for your oldest teens.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
This movie takes place in the 1930s and was made in 1984. Yet, by today’s standards, some of the characterizations may appear stereotypical or even demeaning and derogatory. Is the context of a film—in this case an adventure comedy—a reasonable excuse for including content that may be viewed as inappropriate toward certain ethnic groups?
The PG-13 rating was introduced in the late 1980s. How have movie ratings changed over the years? What do you think this film would be rated if it were released today?