What The Temple Of Doom Can Teach Us About Writing Action Sequences

As I re-watch the Indiana Jones films, I notice that the colour blue is almost completely absent from the colour palette of the movies.

Anyway, on to The Temple Of Doom, and I think this is the first time I’ve seen an uncut version, complete with swearing and heart-ripping antics. It’s a lot darker than Raiders, but it does still manage to revisit some of the excellent action sequences that made the first film so great.

Not least the rope bridge sequence.

The finale of the movie comes after the mine rescue and the more famous mine-car chase (a leftover idea from Raiders apparently), but it is a masterpiece in suspense building, and how to structure an action scene. It also neatly encapsulates some basic story-telling ideas.

If drama is chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them, then this embodies that perfectly. Chase Indy onto a rickety old rope bridge, and keep removing his options. Oftentimes, if you paint your hero into a corner, then the only solution is going to make for a good scene.

Indy has no choices left. He has to risk his and his friend’s lives for the greater good.

Spielberg’s philosophy when it comes to action sequences is that the solution to one problem should cause the next problem. I often cite the out of control bomber fight scene from Raiders as a good example, but the Rope Bridge sequence is an even better encapsulation of the idea. By cutting the bridge, Indy opens up a whole new set of problems. Only this time, he’s hanging from a cliff face, not up a tree, and they’re hurling arrows, not rocks.

That’s the only blue in this movie.

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