Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things. It could be a favorite character or casting choice, a favorite song or score, a favorite scene, line of dialogue, shot or simply a moment. Anything is possible (costumes, sets, etc) and I’d love to hear your suggestions. Note: Just because something appears here does not make it my absolute #1 favorite thing in that category, but it is simply “one of my favorites”.
I talk about “movie moments” a lot. My definition of a moment is pretty amorphous, but it’s generally anything in a movie that makes a sharp impact. It can sometimes stretch to an entire scene, and sometimes is as quick as a blink. It can be a line of dialogue or a particular look, a bit of action, a single shot or something longer. It’s almost impossible for me to define what I consider a moment without using the word “moment”. It’s what makes your heart skip a beat, or that brings tears to your eyes or a sob to your throat, it brings you to your feet, makes you hide your face, causes you to burst into applause or just to laugh with abandon. Movies are a string of moments, and everything between is providing context and connection between them. They often occur at great moments of change, either to character or story, or as the culmination of a plot. In a way, they’re tiny (in duration) climaxes to one section of story. Some movies only have one moment and spend the entire film building to it, others have many; some are like a tsunami, others are barely a ripple. Moments are the moments that stand out, that we remember, that are burned into our minds.
I have a personal connection to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In addition to it being my favorite of the Indiana Jones films, it also happened to be what caused my mom to go into labor with me. I have to admit that I’ve built the whole thing up in my mind, and I tell myself that I must have realized the power of movies while my parents were watching it and that I just couldn’t wait any longer. I don’t know precisely which moment set everything in motion, though Temple of Doom is full of shocking scenes that could have set it off. After all, it is almost single handedly responsible for the introduction of the PG-13 rating.
My favorite moment in Temple of Doom, and in all of the Indiana Jones movies for that matter, occurs towards the end. Indy has just been saved by Short Round from the black sleep of Kali Ma, a drug induced hypnosis, and the two of them saved Willie Scott from being sacrificed into lava. After a brief reunion, Willie says to Indy, “Let’s get out of here.” Indy puts on his hat, turns to face them and says, “Right. All of us.” What follows is some seriously brilliant filmmaking, and today’s “Friday Favorite”.
The scene cuts back to the slave pit, where kidnapped children are digging for the Sankara stones. They are pushing minecarts full of rock, all chained together, and a small girl falls to the ground. The kids chained on either side of her attempt to help her to a feet, when a huge Thuggee with a whip picks her up, about to punish her. He stops when he sees a silhouetted figure ahead. As the minecart approaches, pushed by the children, its light pans up the figure’s body, revealing Indy, looking furious as John Williams’ Temple of Doom theme (“Slave Children’s Crusade”) swells. It cuts to a view of the children as we hear the sound of two punches and the kids react with shock. The Thuggee slides towards them through the dirt, unconscious, and after looking down at him, they turn their faces to Indy and smile.
Of course, why read my description when you can watch it for yourself?
Temple of Doom takes place before Raiders of the Lost Ark. We’re given an Indiana Jones who is not yet fully a hero, at least not until this moment. Jones actually comes off as an arrogant prick in early scenes, chasing after “fortune and glory”. We know from the prequel intro in The Last Crusade that he’s had a heroic streak from his teenage years, but the Indy we get at the beginning of Temple of Doom is more treasure-hunting adventurer than hero fighting the Nazis to save the world. The moment where Indy turns to Willie and says, “All of us,” is when he finally makes that choice to be a hero, and this moment that follows is his first in that role.
The scene is brilliantly lit, using Spielberg’s trademark white backlighting to full effect. When the light from the minecart illuminates him, its as if we’re seeing Indy for the first time. It’s revealing the true hero, reborn out of the darkness of the black sleep of Kali Ma, redeemed by the love of his friend and determined to save the day. His quest is no longer the quest to recover the Sankara stone so he can go home, it’s a quest to save the kidnapped children, as it should have been all along. This is obvious when he returns to the village with Shorty and Willie. He’s a badass for surviving, and certainly heroic for returning the stone to the village, but all they have eyes for is their children, who come running over the hill in joy.
This is exactly what a movie moment is for me. It’s a turning point in the character, a brilliant bit of filmmaking, an emotional climax in the story, and for me the defining moment of both the film and Indiana Jones as a character. Expect to see many more “movie moments” on future Friday Favorites (including others from Temple of Doom).
What’s your favorite “movie moment”? What scene do you think of when you think of Indy? Which is your favorite Indiana Jones movie?