Temple of Doom became an unwitting target after the release of Crystal Skull, the 2008 sequel gaining a fraction of the internet’s ire. After all, if you find a nuclear refrigerator preposterous, then surely Temple’s airplane raft dive must supersede all, right?
That logic assumes that Temple is held sacred, a prequel that grabbed audiences like the original, and that’s just not true. Missteps are abound as Spielberg and Lucas toss this one together, seemingly with little thought. Temple opens on a grand dance number inside a restaurant, and if the editing is correct, one that takes place on a backroom show floor, out of the sight line of the patrons.
The number is led by vocals via Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), an unimaginable shrieking ditz that dominates the film’s landscapes. Somehow, the Indiana Jones series went from a rough and tumble Karen Allen to Capshaw, the latter of which portrays a character who would likely drop after a single shot of booze. Temple’s loss of Allen hangs over every scene.
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is still bull-headed as the script forces a romance with little to no potential chemistry. Opposites attract, although there’s a limitation on that rule Temple runs over.
This is a slightly different Jones, a partial humanitarian with an interest in riches and a small village he passes through. The set up condenses scale and chills the grand, memorable John Williams theme. Instead, this turn towards the insipid with child slaves and hearts ripped out still beating, contradicting while breaking down logic walls. Indy’s mutterings about disbelieving the in the spiritual via Raiders comes off as nonsensical if Temple comes first in the timeline, and kidnapping kids for hard labor? The village seems to have just as many functional adults who would undoubtedly chip away at rocks aimlessly.
Temple is saved by a rousing third act that is as good as any, including a hodgepodge of fight scenes leading into a mine cart chase that is tremendously effective in terms of editing. There’s a mixture of miniature sets, blue screen, and live action smashed together to create a thrilling escapade for Jones and crew.
There’s the joy of the final scene too, with a celebrating village and Indy walking over a hill with rescued children rushing behind him. It’s hard not to go home happy, and chances are you can until someone – or even yourself – puts pieces together to realize what a cluster of unconnected ideas this was. To think the opening scene serves no purpose other than to introduce Capshaw means her character didn’t even have to be here.
Paramount remasters this 1984 adventure for Blu-ray, and the resulting mixture of success and non-success brings into question what the marketing is referring to. For instance, if the idea of sharpening the image and leaving clear signs of it all around indicates remastering, Temple has it. While it’s hard to levy too much hate on this presentation, medium shots are disappointingly murky, an off halo or two are spotted, and an instance of aliasing are easily avoidable sans manipulation. The look is in direct competition with the original Star Wars trilogy that carried the similarities of being overly rigid.
Clearly, Temple has been well cared for. Signs of damage are missing, visual effect shots appear clean, and textural detail in close is exceptional. The film makes extended use of tight, sweaty close-ups to bring out a plethora of miniscule elements that would be lost at lesser resolutions. Interior rock walls, dusty floors, and jungles contain enough to satiate mild videophiles. There’s simply not enough here to satisfy the more hardcore audience.
It’s a safe bet that Temple was left alone. Colors typically feel natural with a slight bump to the primaries. Timing feels authentic while saturation recalls a bygone mastering era akin to DVD. Objects such as the red dresses and Indy’s flower in the opening scene have a push to them that feels dated. Flourishes of color only help other elements, including the jungle photography and massive volume of lava in the center of the main ritual set.
Grain carries a pronounced feel, certainly from the sharpening, while the encode keeps up without any damaging compression. Temple is quite flat (in a good way) with regards to grain, offering no spikes. Part of that might be the sometimes shadow-detail crunching black levels, but again, there’s consistency in keeping these underground environments dim as they lack light sources. Oh, and rich blacks prevents the reveal of more halos.
Splashes of fun audio will highlight the DTS-HD mixture presented here, alive as far as jungles are concerned. Ambient sounds are strong while crowds bring in elements that can fill up the rears cleanly. Whips crack with a dominant echo effect and outside chatter within the first act can offer a layer of activity.
Motion can be plentiful during chases, or even during downtime. Dialogue has a way of traveling into the stereos to extend the audio away from a basic center channel lifestyle. It only makes sense for cars, planes, or mine carts to push away into other channels as well.
Temple’s audio sounds well preserved, with clean elements free from imperfection. Everything balances, and John Williams’ score reaches those high pitches without so much as a flutter. There’s no loss of fidelity in these horns.
Temple comes packaged with the series, leaving the bonus features on a later disc. Contained here are two trailers by their lonesome. The score reflects that.
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