Today I watched Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Opening on an annoying musical number in a club in Shanghai, it is evident right off the bat that they should have called this movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Racism. Our intrepid hero Indy is at this club (called Club Obi Wan in one of this film’s only funny moments) to trade the ashes of a Chinese gangster’s ancestor for a diamond but the deal goes predictably south before it even begins. Jones escapes with his life but has picked up a hanger on by the name of Willie Scott played by Kate Capshaw, who proceeds to ruin large chunks of this film, and they escape in an automobile driven by the horrifically named Short Round, a young Chinese orphan and friend of Jones. They board a plane to escape but while flying over India the pilots betray them and ditch the plane, taking the parachutes with them. Of course our intrepid trio survive and make their way to a small village where I realize that the Chinese got off easy in the stereotype and racism department. The village has been robbed of it’s sacred Sankara stone by the inhabitants of a nearby palace who have also taken the children of the town. When they arrive at the palace, our heroes soon realize that a new Thuggee cult has taken up residence and is working evil black magic.
I said it once, I’ll say it again, this film is racist and horrifyingly so. Often played for laughs, the stereotypes come fast and furious and once they get to India the film stoops to even greater depths by portraying the common people there as little more advanced than our stone aged ancestors. It is a blatant white savior narrative in which a messianic white man is dropped into a world of savages who worship him and who delivers them from evil. Continuing this film’s trend of blatant egoism at the expense of other races and cultures, there are numerous scenes in which the audience is meant to laugh and balk in disgust at the barbarous ways of the other, in ways that don’t even hold up factually, the only reason I continued watching this film beyond the infamous Maharaja’s dinner sequence is because I knew I would be able to rant about it later.
There are good elements to this film, no doubt, but the truly over the top nature of this film’s white savior theme overrule them, this film does not deserve to have it’s better qualities praised. Nothing in it’s action or it’s design can wash the bad taste out of my mouth, it is purely foul. This is the kind of art it is okay to bury in the past, it should be made a relic of our more barbarous thoughts and artistic expressions. 1/5