what I watched: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
what I expected: exploring ancient ruins, because "Temple of Doom"
what I got: action thriller with geographically/culturally questionable weirdness, and no exploring of ancient ruins
So basically I think I was in the mood for a metroidvania-style exploration adventure, but I didn't have the time to commit to starting a new game of that sort, so instead I considered watching a movie.
This...was not it.
Instead I got what seemed like a near non-stop conga line of action scenes, plus a variety of culturally/geographically questionable elements (some of which are probably unintentionally hilarious). Also a romance scene that just felt really gratuitous but that might just be my taste since I've known that I've disliked such scenes since I was young.
To elaborate on that second point:
* I can't help but notice that Shortround is supposed to be from Shanghai but (1) speaks Cantonese (not Mandarin nor Shanghaiese) and (2) speaks English with a Cantonese accent.
* Vampire bats don't live in India. Also they're nocturnal. Also they're much smaller; the big ones are fruit bats. Apparently Indy isn't a professor of zoology!
* Willie (the female lead) is an annoying character who seems to have or at least start out with little sense for even basic survival, complaining about her nails and attempting to apply perfume to an elephant (though she does get vaguely better later on). Apparently this sentiment is shared by not just Indiana Jones fans but even the actress herself who actually called said character a "dumb blonde" and had to learn to shriek properly just to play her. Speaking of which, I don't think it's ever explained why she's even tagging along with Indy and Shortround for this adventure...? She's literally just the singer from the beginning. So she just seems like a gratuitous love interest for Indy.
* So apparently that opening song is supposed to be Mandarin Chinese
but whose lyrics are near-unrecognizable since the actress doesn't actually know Mandarin Chinese (which is, honestly, a difficult language to learn, and not to mention a tonal language). Why they threw this in, I have no idea.
* The banquet of strange and objectionable food items...apparently according to the novelization the intention was that it was supposed to be a sign that something was amiss, but that level of subtlety didn't carry through in the movie and it just looked like a ridiculous portrayal of foreign food.
* A demon-worshipping cult practicing human sacrifice just ended up being unintentionally funny in a dumb way. And this was BEFORE I read up on how much wrong there is in the portrayal of Kali or the mixing in of vaguely Mesoamerican inspirations to get the human sacrifice bit or the fact that the Thuggee were bandits rather than demon-worshippers.
Apparently the filmmakers wanted to film this in India but the government of India hated the script so they went to Sri Lanka instead. I can't say I'm surprised, heh. A friend of mine joked that they might have actually had more exploring of ancient ruins if only their script weren't "oops, all racist!".
* How the hell are you this close to a volcano to get a lava pit in here? Well, whatever, y'know what, I'll excuse this, because it fits with the ham.
There's other potentially objectionable stuff I noticed, from the "white savior" trope to Indy just casually whipping his woman back to him at the end, which other people have written more about, but at this point, the movie is ridiculous enough as is, and Indy's got a role to fill, so whatever.
According to TVTropes, the novelization seems to try to address some plot holes that I admittedly barely even noticed. For example, I never even questioned why the pilots decided to abandon the plane and let it crash with Indy on board, but the novelization apparently says that the pilots considered stabbing Indy but couldn't actually tell whether he was asleep since he caught a crate of chickens that would have fallen on him, while seemingly asleep
. (The only thing I questioned in that scene is why there's a button to jettison all the fuel.) The novelization reportedly also indicates more specifically how using fire dispels the curse.
Meanwhile, to be fair, the action in this movie is pretty solid. There's a lot of unrealism there, but again, who cares, no one's here for realistic physics or biology, and it's much more fun to have Indy's water gag even though the water pressure should have been way down by the time it got to him.
And yes, excellent mine cart sequence is excellent. Probably what inspired Mine Cart Madness in Donkey Kong Country and such. I felt like I was watching a videogame in that sequence. It was fun. Best part of the movie. I didn't expect the mine cart to actually jump like that, and that was when I was like "holy crap this is totally like DKC's Mine Cart Madness hahahahahaha".
Sidenote: now I know the reference being made when some politics geeks say "Mola Rahm, Sula Rahm" every time Rahm Emanuel shows up in the news.
Also, just a few days ago Reddit told me the film's premise is, like, offensive if you are an Indian, but double-fugging-allcaps-offensive if you are also a descendant of the worshippers of Kali of the Raj era. By which I mean, some guy on Reddit claimed that the demonic imagery was a sort of overturning-the-social-expectations stuff the lower caste folks used to tell the rich and important to shove it, but then the British came and in their little racist minds assumed they were some sort of Hindu Satanists, conflated them with bandits, called them a murderous cult and had them exterminated. I don't know how true this story is, but it certainly gives a new flair to Temple of Doom.
I've actually seen part of the mine cart sequence before, in a museum exhibit that did a hands-on demonstration of stop motion animation.
Also I read that there were some Indians who cheered on Mola Ram because he was played by Amrish Puri (who is apparently a pretty big star in India) and a few who did so because he was opposed to British colonial rule, lol.