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Author Topic: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Comics Adaptation  (Read 2790 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: July 21, 2006, 11:29:16 AM »

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is my favorite of the Indiana Jones films for several reasons. The first and most important is that it was the Indy flick that emphasized what I always saw as being the single most important and intriguing element of Indiana Jones: Horror, the occult, and the supernatural. Indiana Jones movies are period horror movies with occasional adventure elements, not adventure films with occasional occult elements, and of all the films TEMPLE OF DOOM makes this the most explicit.

Indy's 1930s is not Doc Savage's 1930s, where Doc always gave some weak-ass scientific explanation for why Werewolves exist, for instance. In Indiana Jones, there are monologues like "the Ark is not of this earth" and so forth. As much as I liked INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, this element of horror was absent from it: it was ALL about things like boat chases. Many point to TEMPLE OF DOOM as being the odd flick out of the three; actually, I would say that it is CRUSADE that is the one least like the others: the horror elements in the first two were diminished or minimized in that one. TEMPLE OF DOOM, like RAIDERS, emphasized the importance of history and research: the respective McGuffins in both movies are slighly frightening artifacts connected to a higher power with minds of their own, and both tie into real history: the Thuggee Cult and the Indian Mutiny, or the Ark of the Covenant and Egypt and so forth. In contrast, the Grail in CRUSADE was based on flimsier history (all the rich Arthurian Grail Lore and they end up in Turkey somewhere?) and it was more mechanical, less atmospheric. It was, in D&D terms, a Grail +1.

Many people, including Roy Thomas and Phillip Jose Farmer, have speculated about things like Indiana Jones teaming up with organizations like the JSA or with people like Doc Savage or the Phantom. The reason this somehow feels "wrong" is because Indy is, as I said, an Occult/Horror adventurer  Having Indy cohabitate his world with superspies/scientists is a goofy idea. Having Indy cohabitate with mediums, occult experts and voodoo priests, though, works a little better. When wondering if someone is right for Indy to team up with, ask yourself this question: could they fight skeletons or zombies and not have it be laughable? (This is also known as the Harryhausen Test.)

Many speculate what Indiana Jones will do in his next movie. Atlantis, a big history/myth (which has an additional Nazi connection, as HELLBOY points out) is the prime #1 destination and mythological legend in one, at least for now. I however, strongly suspect that Indiana Jones's next destination will be Haiti, home of Voodoo, or possibly somewhere appropriately occult, like Stonehenge. Atlantis is too purely "Edgar Rice Burroughs" a place for Indy.

Okay, okay, TEMPLE OF DOOM had Indy threaten to kill a random innocent woman at knifepoint so gangsters can give him his money; yeah, Indy is not a milk-drinking pureheart, but many see this as out of character. I disagree. For one thing, Willie is hardly "innocent," is she? Me, mostly I choose to interpret this as being proof that Indy hated Willie almost as much as we do. Willie was pretty unbearable, but in the film itself, she got her comeuppance: there was one scene where an elephant bonked her in the head several times; she was threatened by Indy with a knife, and in one scene, even Nature itself tried to destroy her. For comparison, try to imagine if there had been a scene in EPISODE I where Jar-Jar was punched in the face repeatedly.

Also...and this is something that struck me when I saw Scorcese's MEAN STREETS recently...Indy is a kindler, gentler Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. Lucas and Spielberg were the junior partners and fellow film brats along with guys like Scorcese and Coppola, and Indy always had a degree of streetwise "edge" to him. His dialogue, occasionally, could even conceiveably be placed in many a de Niro or Keitel character! Indy with a gun moll and gangsters is a fulfillment of this aspect of the character.

TEMPLE OF DOOM also featured the guy that played Nehru in GANDHI as the evil Prime Minister. Apparently, Hollywood is allowed to have One Indian Guy working besides Ben Kingsley, and he was the One Indian Guy in the 1980s (the current reigning One Indian Guy is of course, our very own Kumar from SUPERMAN RETURNS; who wants to BET Kumar's got a cut scene on the DVD?). I have only the vaguest idea who Nehru was, but I have heard one amusing Nehru anecdote: when Fidel Castro went to speak at the United Nations for the first time back in the sixties. Castro, like many Cubans, loves the sound of his own voice, and so he just blabbed on for the longest speech in UN history. In the end, everybody, even the Russians, were either asleep or pretending badly to be awake - except one, the stiff-shouldered Nehru, who was the only one that clapped for Fidel when he left.

Finally, we have Shortround, who is the best of the Indy sidekicks, I think, because he had such a clear relationship with Indy. Some of the truly heartwarming things like Shortround duplicating Indy's mannerisms (crossing his hands the same way, mimicking speech patterns like calling women "doll"). There was the moment where Short Round says that Indiana is his best friend, and there's a hug there, which is nowhere near as hokey as I'm making it sound.

True story: back in High School, my best friend was this short Chinese guy, who was very childlike and small; we had similar interests: math, science fiction, comics, horror movies, that sort of thing. I called him "Shortround" sort of like with this film (I also referred to him as "my loyal Musketeer") and introduced him as Shortround to other people, because after a certain point I think I forgot his real name. I've always wondered if he ever interpreted this nickname as being patronizing; apparently it did, because in the time since then, I haven't been able to get in touch with him once!

I'm sorry, I was supposed to talk about the comic adaptation, wasn't I? Okay, let's get to that.

Looking at the comic adaptation of a a film (particularly one like TEMPLE OF DOOM, which I have seen to the point of memorization, so any detail really stands out) is really interesting because it helps show the differences between comics and movies as a medium. One example would be, for instance, the fact that the big opening dance number was completely cut from the comic. Dennis O'Neil said also that "chases" don't work in comics well; thus, the Shanghai chase scene is totally omitted, and the later chase scene involving the mine carts is completely eliminated. On the other hand, the comics take certain moments and use common comic tricks for characterization: the opening scene with Indy walking into the Obi Wan Club was a brief shot but in the comic, it's an entire page, with establishing shots of Shanghai and narrative boxes describing how coat-check girls give Indy appreciative glances, and Indy's outfit as being loose for rapid movement.

First things first: the splash page that opens the book features a truly spooky and scary image of what may be the creepiest sequence in the whole movie: the otherworldly statue of Kali Indy tells Shortround and Willie to 'not come up here" to see. This sets the stage for the whole story.

It's by Dave Michelinie (author of an AVENGERS and DAREDEVIL run I'm fond of) and penciler on the Flash, Jackson Guice.

Some moments work better in the comic than in the movie. For instance, the total clunker of a joke "Archeologists are funny little men looking for their mommies" is actually rewritten to be funny .Another example would be the banquet scene; the comic has Short Round and the Maharajah become jealous and tense with each other. What that does is, it means that Willie has nobody to talk to during all the grossout stuff, so consequently the focus of the scene is on Indiana Jones and the Prime Minister's tense conversation, where it belongs. Yet another moment that works better in the comic: the revalation

Guice the Juice's art makes Willie seem cuter and wider-eyed than Kate Capshaw herself, who always has kind of a pissed-off face. .

Short Round was given a few more interesting moments in the comic adaptation than the movie. One humorous moment was when Willie screams that 'There's a KID driving the car!" and Indiana's response is "Don't worry, I've been giving him lessons." Another would be Indiana bursting into Willie's room to search for hidden attackers with Short Round nearby. Willie, with absolute befuddlement says, "Uh, what's the kid doing here? I'm as liberal as the next gal, but..."

The comic contains several sequences that the finished movie does not,: for instance, there was one scene on the trek to Pangkot that has Willie bathing in a pond naked.

The comic also has some pieces of information that the finished film doesn't give, which is to be expected in an "information rich" medium like comics. For instance, we learn that Willie took the seat on the poultry freighter that was reserved because Indiana's sidekick Wu Han died. The comic also explains why it is that the Thuggee needed children to do their digging: as they are smaller, they can work in tunnels. We also learn a little more about Willie Scott herself: she lost her nightclub career in the Depression, which is why she was in China. We also learn more about the presence of "Voodoo" elements in India: the "Voodoo dolll" used in the film is in fact a Kritya, an Indian object that does the same thing.

The sequence with the Kritya also featured a line by Indy that NAILS, right on the head, Indiana Jones's atmosphere and story very well: "You think the British rule India, Corporal. They don't - the old gods still do."

The comic sometimes just makes more SENSE than the finished film. For one thing, the comic explains that it isn't fire that steals the Thuggee Mind Control (a pretty weird idea) but extreme pain, which causes one to "snap out of it." Another example was that it was the young Maharajah who, leaving just before Indy did after being restored to his sanity, was the one that contacted the British, whose cavalry charge in the film is totally unexplained.

Then again, the comic is less effective than the films in other ways. For instance: the comic has no heart-ripping. I mean, jeez, that's the one thing anybody ever remembers about that movie! I never cease to be fascinated by the hypocrisy of the Comics Code; they can have Willie skinny dip naked, and have the White Queen in X-Men in what is pretty much lingerie, but one good old fashoned heart-ripping isn't okay?

Now you've read the comics adaptation, where to then?

Don't read the LAST CRUSADE adaptation (strangely, also by Michelinie). It's a by-the-numbers adaptation that is paced all wrong (trying to be too much like a transcript of the movie instead of a COMIC) and Bret Blevins's Indiana looks more like Face from the A-Team than Harrison Ford.

There's also the Marvel Comics FURTHER ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES comics, which came out between RAIDERS and TEMPLE. Reading these are very interesting, because it is essentially how Indiana Jones was seen when there was only one movie out. Marian, for instance, is a regular character in the comics.  As demonized as it is, TEMPLE OF DOOM is very important in establishing Indiana Jones's identity: these stories are regular "exotic land" pulp yarns with Indy instead of Little Orphan Annie; there's nothing particularly Indy-ish about them at all. Consequently, the comics feel less like Indiana Jones, more like Brenda Starr or Terry and the Pirates. The stories by Denny O'Neil are worth reading. However, the Byrne art is the epitome of "lazy" Byrne: no backgrounds, characters surrounded by big white spaces of nothing. It only looks even halfway decent because of Terry Austin's inks. The book only really gets going after Byrne and O'Neil leave and David Michelinie and Kerry Gammil come in. Gamil's art is an absolute delight: busy, detailed, researched - it looks like Carl Barks.

If you're interested in some good-quality adaptations, there are a few others that can be recommended:

1941 - one of the few comic adaptations that is much better than the movie, which features the art of a very young George Perez.

Then there's THE LAST STARFIGHTER, a forgettable Star Wars clone that happened to get a stylish limited series that made it all the more interesting.

Did GYMKATA ("the thrill of gymnastics, the KILL of Karate!") ever get a comics adaptation? I hope so! That movie was crying out for it.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2006, 08:11:08 PM »

UPDATE: GYMKATA never got a comic adaptation. Apparently, that treatment is reserved for blockbusters like TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE.

Which is just as well, because without sound, how else will we hear Thomas's outrageous Minnie Mouse voice?
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2006, 03:06:46 AM »

Very sad about your highschool friend.  Can't blame him, though.

Your favorite cartoonist, Dan Clowes, is scripting a movie about a group of kids who are remaking Raiders, shot for shot.  I'm sure you will love it!

My fave adapt?  That Darn Cat!  Gold Key, 1960s.
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2006, 03:08:02 AM »

Followed closely by Kirby's 2001.

And then the Cracked and Marvel version of Empire Strikes Back --total nostalgia.
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2006, 03:05:18 AM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
Your favorite cartoonist, Dan Clowes, is scripting a movie about a group of kids who are remaking Raiders, shot for shot.

Actually, I think those kids finished that shot-for-shot remake, because I saw it last year.  The wild thing was, they started making the film when they were kids, when Raiders first came out, but they didn't finish it until a couple of years ago.  So Indy will suddenly age 15 years in the middle of a scene and then get young again.

S!
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