Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 4K Blu-ray Review
After the huge critical and commercial success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a sequel was an inevitability, but with Spielberg and Lucas riding high from the back-to-back successes of Star Wars and E.T., it was always going to be on their terms. Bucking the established Hollywood sequel trend that errs on the 'safe' side, Lucas and Spielberg chose to lean into a much darker tone, setting the events of Temple of Doom before those of Raiders in what we now know as a 'prequel'.
Harkening back to Spielberg's desire to film a James Bond film, Temple of Doom kicks off with an elaborately staged pre-credits sequence with Jones facing impending death by poisoning at a nightclub, a plane crash, and a cruise down the rapids into a Malaysian village. Serendipity has dictated that Jones is now joined by the decidedly fish-out-of-water Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) en route to the impoverished village of Mayapore, where the local children have vanished, and their sacred religious stones have been stolen. While the lavish Pankot Palace welcomes the trio with open arms, their motives quickly come into question - confirmed by a series of secret underground tunnels leading to an ancient and deadly cult.
Owing to the film's darker and somewhat lopsided tone, writer/producer George Lucas was undergoing a messy and costly divorce (hence the literal heart removal scene), and director Steven Spielberg was falling in love with star Kate Capshaw, whom he later married. Thrashing between humor, spurts of light-heartedness, an incredibly dark middle section, followed by a return to some solid action fare at the finale, Temple of Doom remains the step-child of the series as controversial now as it was at the time, although many proclaim it to be superior to the later sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm have produced a stunning 4K Blu-ray set, which includes all four films in the series alongside a Blu-ray disc of bonus features. Let's jump in.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with H.265 compression and finished with a Dolby Vision pass, which includes a base HDR-10 layer.
Unlike Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's been several years since Temple of Doom has been digitally restored, with the previous Blu-ray release returning to the same HD master completed by Lowry Digital way back in 2003. Two decades on, Paramount has wheeled out the original camera negative for a brand new director-approved 4K transfer which provides a stunning image upgrade and the best base for the digital restoration. Like Raiders, the studio has gone the extra mile to fix several errors inherent in the original production, including enhancing several dodgy image composites and uneven mattes. A number remains imperfect, but it's a much more consistently pleasing image than previous.
The new 4K transfer is sharp, detailed, and retains all the glorious grain and image detail that can be pulled off the negative. Overall, this is a glorious restoration and, without doubt, the definitive presentation of the film released to home video. It will probably remain unsurpassed for some decades to come.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is presented with a newly remixed Dolby Atmos object-based audio track.
Again, like Raiders, the new Dolby Atmos soundtrack has been reworked by original sound designer Ben Burtt to refine and enhance the previous 5.1 mix for additional clarity and introduce some subtle but occasionally impressive height surround effects. There's been no attempt to replace or re-record any of the sound effects - this is the film as it's always been, but slightly fresher and slightly clearer. Take, for example, the mine chase sequence; the sound effects are a little thin and unavoidably dated, but there's greater separation, with improved reverb, and John Williams score soars with higher clarity than ever before.
In short, Temple of Doom sounds authentic but also technically proficient enough to impress.
Bar three Theatrical Trailers (all presented in 1080p), all of the bonus material is included on the fifth disc of the collection, which also houses the bonus features for the other three Indiana Jones films. In this section, I will talk about the bonus features relevant to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Included from the previous DVD release is the 40 minute Making of the Temple of Doom documentary produced by Spielberg regular Laurent Bouzereau. Owing to its age, it's only offered in standard definition but remains a worthwhile inclusion based on the substantial amount of information imparted, and which addresses the darker tone and mixed critical and audience reaction it received on release.
The Bottom Line
The second Indiana Jones entry remains as divisise as ever, but it's captured on a superb 4K disc.