Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear

I don't know if Cynthia followed through, but I watched the TNT original movie The Librarian: Quest for the Spear on Sunday night. I've been meaning to write about it but just watching the movie wasted so much of my life I'm loath to volunteer more of my time to write about it.

Here's what you need to know:

Noah Wyle is a thirtyish grad student with dozens of degrees who loves to learn and never wants to stop going to school. His professor kicks him out, encouraging him to live his life. His mother, whom he still lives with, tries to set him up on dates but he quickly scares them off by being his stammering, awkward self. It makes you wonder what these girls expected when they agreed to go on a date with some old woman's grown live-in son--some kind of well-adjusted, super-suave ladies' man?

Immediately after being kicked out of school, Wyle receives a glowing letter with words that appear on the page as he reads it, while a woman's voice reads the text out loud for the benefit of the illiterates watching at home. Surprised as anyone would be by a glowing, self-writing letter with audio capabilities, Wyle shrugs and says to himself, "I wonder how they did that." Oh, and the letter invites him to interview for a job at the "Library."

Wyle goes to the library and interviews with a frumpy, curt Jane Curtin, who demands to know what sets him apart from all the other applicants. He tries to be polite, but finally, pushed to his breaking point, busts out his Sherlock Holmes deductive skills, which apparently you pick up if you're a graduate student for a long time. He tells her she has mono and cats.

Now Bob Newhart appears in a twinkle of light and tells Curtin to send away all the other interviewees; anyone who can tell she has mono and cats is clearly the man to guard the priceless treasures of the world. Wyle, ever perceptive, doesn't quite realize yet that sending the other applicants away means that he got the job, but eventually catches on.

Oh yes, the treasures of the world. So the "Library" is essentially the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, except better decorated. Newhart shows Wyle the Ark of the Covenant, warning him not to touch it or he'll be "electrocuted." Immediately after being told the Ark would electrocute him, Wyle can't help touching another mystical treasure, briefly opening a box that Newhart casually explains "once belonged to a girl named Pandora." Fortunately the pure evil contained within is not so quick to pounce on its opportunity and the box is closed without incident. We catch a glimpse of King Midas, now gold, on his throne.

The Library is also full of endless aisles of books, so as to justify its name. It's not clear whether the books themselves are important. As Stephanie pointed out while we were watching, the types of artifacts present indicate that perhaps this secret place might better be called "The Museum," and the movie might be more accurately titled "The Curator." Unfortunately, "curator" sounds less cool than "librarian." And for something to sound less cool than "librarian," well, let's just say that really tells you something about how lame curators are.

That night, bad guys and one Asianish, unconvincing bad girl knock out Newhart and steal a piece of the Spear of Destiny, better known to Evangelion fans as the Spear of Longinus. This spear pierced Christ's side when he was crucified, and it possesses pretty much any mystical power you want to assign to it. A bunch of great conquerors throughout history were unbeatable as long as they had it, and beatable as soon as they lost it. Even Hitler had the Spear of Destiny.

(So far, this is actually part of the real legend, and Hitler did have it. U.S. forces found it only 90 minutes before Hitler committed suicide. No doubt, if they hadn't, Hitler's morale would have remained strong despite being cornered in his bunker. Also in reality, the spear itself is gone and only the spearhead survives. Hitler's was one of two that is rumored to be the spearhead of Destiny/Longinus but nobody knows which, if either, is authentic.)

Turns out, though, that this piece in the Library is only one of three pieces of the Spear. Hitler only had one piece, and it worked out pretty well for him, so imagine how powerful someone would be if they had all three. The other two pieces are safely hidden around the world by a previous Librarian. For some reason, Newhart and Curtin think it's a good idea for Wyle to seek out the pieces from their unknown, foolproof hiding places and bring them back to the Library, where they can all be easily stolen.

Fair enough. It worked in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, another movie where the bad guys had one piece of something and no clue where to find the rest, spurring the good guys to find the rest for them and help put the world in danger so that they could save it.

First, Wyle has to decipher the previous librarian's clues to the pieces, written in the language of the birds, which no one knows. Wyle figures it out in seven hours or so, about halfway through his plane ride to the Amazon. On the plane he meets a Tough English Chick who coldly shuts down his attempt to make polite conversation, but then turns out to be an agent of the Library (complete with laminated ID card) who saves him from bad guys and the Unconvincing Asianish Bad Girl.

Tough English Chick (TEC) tosses Wyle out of the plane with no parachute, then dives out after him about a minute later. Presumably she catches up to him in midair, grabs hold of him and shares her parachute, but this happens in quickly edited cuts totaling about one second, so we don't see enough of the stunt to figure out they didn't have the budget to actually perform it. It doesn't really matter anyway, since we've seen the real stunt enough times in other movies to know exatly what always happens in that situation.

Now Wyle and TEC wander through the jungle (luckily Wyle can recognize birds and a mountain and figure out exactly where they are), gradually melting their icy relationship and seeking out the spear while bad guys trail them. Their journey includes:

The Rickety Bridge: Apparently staged using a lot of green screen, a small piece of a bridge they actually built, and a lot of CGI for the part where it collapses (spoiler!). This stunt is also saved by cutting around the action as much as possible so that we barely see what happens, we just see that they come out okay. Other movies cut to the chase, this one cuts from the chase.

The Spike Pit: Where else but in a Mayan temple? And a wall that starts pushing them to the edge of the pit! How will they escape death? Why, with an...

Invisible Floor Over the Pit: Did you see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? So did the makers of this movie! But unlike the stupid trick they do in Last Crusade, which anyone with depth perception could have spotted, rendering the whole stunt an unfair trick on a movie audience who by definition can only see the picture in 2-D, the invisible floor in The Librarian uses "mirrors" or something. It's more like the invisible floor in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

From there, they pass the Darts Triggered By Floor Panel by figuring out the timing, video-game style, and literally waltzing through, keeping time with their dance steps.

Then they get to the Artifact on the Booby-Trapped Pedestal, which Wyle knows to avoid since he's seen Indiana Jones too. He pushes it off with a stick and watches a huge stone head fall where a less clever person would stand.

Immediately after getting the spear piece, they're captured by the bad guys, led by yet another former Librarian they'd presumed dead, a former lover of TEC. Lucky for Bad Librarian, the good guys just did one-third of his job for him. He forces Wyle to lead him to the third piece, at Shangri-La. But TEC and Wyle swipe the third piece (the spearhead) and escape to have sex at a hotel in Thailand. Wyle probably has so much residual virginity at this point that it would probably take two or three more rolls in the hay to successfully lose all his virginity, but he wakes up pleased with himself anyway.

Wyle chats with Newhart on the TV set, then realizes TEC and the spear are gone. He fears he's been "cahooted"--i.e. she was in cahoots with the bad guy the whole time.

Wyle knows that the spear can only be activated in an Egyptian pyramid during a full moon (as is the case with any Christian/Roman artifact, right?), and the only Egyptian pyramid in the world with a near-genuine headstone is the replica we saw Wyle's class installing at his college at the beginning of the movie!

Back at the college, Wyle meets up with Newhart, who in addition to being a seemingly immortal magical figure is also an ex-Marine.

They go into the pyramid room, where they discover that:
1) TEC was captured, not in cahoots--whew!
2) Wyle's professor who kicked him out of school is in cahoots with the bad guys
3) This villain actually says things like "The power of the spear is mine!!" which just reminds me of the movie I made where my friend Dan holds my plastic sword in my dad's closet and says "The sword is mine! Ah ha ha!" while I flicker the lights and make a "BZZZ" sound with my mouth.

A big beam of light reassembles the spear pieces, and now the spear has the power to suck out people's souls when you stab them with it, which is desireable for some reason. The Bad Librarian is pretty stoked about it, anyway.

Now follows:
The Obligatory Chickfight: Cue the Kill Bill sound-alike music (no, really, they do). Been wondering why that Asiany Unconvincing Bad Girl was tagging along all the time? Well, it's so hot chicks can fight at the end of the movie, silly, just like the good chick fought the previously unused bad chick at the end of Bulletproof Monk and The Medallion. Now, Movies, I'm as big a fan of hot chicks fighting as anyone, but if you're not willing to commit to it and build your movie around it, as in So Close, Kill Bill, or Charlie's Angels, don't bother. I can tell when you've shoehorned in a chickfight where it doesn't belong and your heart isn't in it.

Bob Newhart Kicking Ass: Yes, while Wyle battles Bad Librarian and TEC fights AUBC, Newhart, magical ex-Marine, proceeds to take out everybody else. Dozens of younger men fall before this old man with the dry comic delivery and his Judo expertise. And we go along with it, because he's Bob Newhart, and you know what, he does kick ass.

The Bad Librarian is killed when the head of the Pyramid collapses and falls on top of him, in the last of the movie's unconvincing CGI effects of Big Things Falling (see also the Mayan stone head in the Artifact on Pedestal scene).

Wyle finally placates his mom when his new girlfriend, TEC, terrorizes a sidewalk cafe on her motorbike, arriving to whisk Wyle away on another adventure--tracking down "H.G. Wells' time machine," which may be a nod to the Back to the Future tone of this "Your kids, Marty, something's got to be done about your kids!" type of joke-cliffhanger ending.

But to back up a bit--H.G. Wells' time machine?! You guys know that was a novel, right? Apparently the premise of The Librarian is that every mystical artifact from any culture ever actually exists, including fictional ones. Look for future adventures of the Librarian to feature "Huckleberry Finn's raft," "Aragorn's sword," and "Bill and Ted's Phone Booth."

Meanwhile, librarians everywhere cheer their positive new media image.


Tommaso Sciortino said...

I think I enjoyed your descirption far more than you disliked the movie so on balance, the universe wins.

Meli said...

Currently the homepage of TWoP features a poll on what career advice we should give Noah Wyle based on this latest move and his threat to leave ER.

Sarah said...

In case you're interested in wasting more time on this movie, Television Without Pity has written a recap of it.