Kate Capshaw

A man on a medical table looks up at his doctor

Dreamscape (1984, Joseph Ruben)

Dreamscape has a lot of subplots. The main plot barely gets any more time during the second act than the subplots. But I’m getting ahead of myself because I wanted to talk about the first act, which has Dennis Quaid getting reacquainted with mentor Max von Sydow. The film opens with this fast, fun action sequence with psychic Quaid winning big at the track and having to outsmart some goons. It perfectly utilizes Quaid’s charm and director Ruben has a fantastic pace. Richard Halsey’s editing on Dreamscape is strong, he just doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to excel after the open.

Then von Sydow gets Quaid to do the dream experiments–going into other people’s dreams, which he needs to train to do and it does give the film a natural structure for a while but there’s all those subplots. Time to talk about the subplots. There’s Christopher Plummer’s government guy who wants them to dream fix the President (an exhausted Eddie Albert). There’s Quaid’s rivalry with David Patrick Kelly’s fellow dream psychic. There’s Quaid’s romance of Kate Capshaw. There’s Quaid’s friendship with young nightmare sufferer, Cory ‘Bumper’ Yothers (yes, he’s Tina’s big brother). Finally, there’s Quaid and George Wendt, who’s investigating the whole project. von Sydow and Quaid actually do have something approaching character development in their scenes, which I’ll lump into the main plot.

The script–from original story writer David Loughery, Chuck Russell, and director Ruben–lacks any connective tissue between the subplots. It’s like they each took a few, wrote them, then lined up the scenes. Even though it’s an exceptionally limited setting–a college campus where shadowy government stuff goes on and there are barely any students–these characters have no relationships with anyone outside the person they’re opposite. Capshaw and von Sydow, for example, have absolutely no relationship outside of exposition and direction, even though they’ve been working together for years. Same goes for Kelly and Capshaw. And Kelly and von Sydow. And Capshaw and Plummer. And everyone and Wendt. It’s very strange and very poorly done. The writing is often fine–Plummer’s got a lot of scenery to chew, Kelly’s part is awesome, von Sydow’s fantastic–but it doesn’t have a narrative flow. It’s almost like Dreamscape was made to be watched with commercial breaks.

Quaid’s solid in the lead. He doesn’t get much to do–his romance with Capshaw, while ostensibly steamy, isn’t enough–and he’s just a passenger in the rest of his subplots. He and von Sydow are great together, however. As well as Quaid and Kelly. They’re great nemeses. Capshaw’s not terrible. She’s not good, but she’s not terrible. She gets a weak part and can’t do anything with it; Dreamscape is a movie where the actors need to be able to do something with their weak parts. As scripted, Plummer’s barely two dimensional, yet Plummer is able to at least make the part into something. Capshaw can’t. Partially her fault, mostly the script’s fault, partially Ruben’s fault.

And Maurice Jarre doesn’t help anyone with his music. He makes Dreamscape weirder in a way completely contrary to what Ruben’s doing.

There are some great special effects and some solid sequences, but the third act’s a mess and the denouement is somewhat worse.



Directed by Joseph Ruben; screenplay by David Loughery, Chuck Russell, and Joseph Ruben, based on a story by Loughery; director of photography, Brian Tufano; edited by Richard Halsey; music by Maurice Jarre; produced by Bruce Cohn Curtis; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Alex Gardner), Max von Sydow (Doctor Paul Novotny), Christopher Plummer (Bob Blair), Eddie Albert (The President), Kate Capshaw (Jane DeVries), David Patrick Kelly (Tommy Ray Glatman), George Wendt (Charlie Prince) and Cory ‘Bumper’ Yothers (Buddy).

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, Steven Spielberg)

I can understand Chinese people being upset with the stereotypes–Spielberg and company basically lift all the anti-Japanese stereotypes from early 1940s American films and apply them to the Chinese–but at least they’re only goofy and mischievous. The Indians in the film are downright evil. Temple of Doom‘s atrocious script (I suppose Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz do manage to get a few excellent one-liners in) never explains how the bad guys came to have their titular temple, but it certainly implies, left to their own devices, the Indian upper class is inclined toward evil. The good Indians, working for the British (of course), show up at the end for a moment.

Besides the film’s amazingly Western view of the world (it takes the worst from old serials instead of the best… or even the mediocre and not just in its portrayal of non-whites, there’s a moment where the bad guy goes through the secret hatch to escape), it is, simply put, a piece of crap. There are some good action sequences–remove the story from the last act and all the action stuff is well choreographed and, in another context, exciting–but the rest is garbage. Oh, the dinner scene. I forgot–Indians are barbaric savages who eat gross food too. Spielberg, Lucas, Huyck and Katz really take the low road here (but it seems like most of Spielberg and Lucas’s mid 1980s output often did).

While there are some real Spielberg touches–the annoying kids, the poor casting of Kate Capshaw, who gives one of the worst performances I can remember–but it all feels like too much Lucas. Lucas came up with the shallow story, but a lot of the sequences from Temple of Doom seem like they’re straight from Return of the Jedi. Maybe ILM had all the photography techniques down.

Harrison Ford escapes somewhat unscathed. Even he can’t make the scenes with Capshaw believable, but the scenes with the annoying kid are fine. The problem, again, comes from the script. Huyck and Katz turn Indiana Jones into a superhero. An occasionally lucky one, but a superhero nonetheless and it isn’t particularly interesting watching him in the action montages. The full scenes, where he escapes due to environment or the bad guy’s bad luck, those are fine. But when it’s Indiana Jones knocking people out with one punch… it all seems too goofy. The story never gives the impression he’s smart, which is a bit of a problem. It comes kind of close a few times, but it’s a shock every time someone refers to him as “Dr. Jones.”

Spielberg always said he made the third Indiana Jones to make up for Temple of Doom. Well, if he was so aware it was something he needed to atone for, why’d he make it in the first place?



Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, based on a story by George Lucas; director of photography, Douglas Slocombe; edited by Michael Kahn; music by John Williams; production designer, Elliot Scott; produced by Robert Watts; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott), Ke Huy Quan (Short Round), Amrish Puri (Mola Ram), Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal), Philip Stone (Captain Phillip Blumburtt), Roy Chiao (Lao Che), David Yip (Wu Han), Ric Young (Kao Kan) and Chua Kah Joo (Chen).

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