“I can save today. You can save the world.”

Wonder Woman

Takes place in the DC extended universe films that have come out recently.  Wonder Woman actually made her first appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (I watched it after this film since Wonder Woman was in it and still not impressed.  Yes, Batman and Superman have canonically butted heads but would they really dissolve into fighting each other?)  She also later appears in the full Justice League film (again, only watched once and not one I’m going to revisit).

However, this film is directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot as Diana.  Chris Pine (most famous now as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films, but he’s played romance before in Princess Diaries 2) is the lead male, Captain Steve Trevor.  Robin Wright (Buttercup in The Princess Diaries; there’s a saying going around with the movies that came out in the 2010’s, that our princesses, i.e. Buttercup and Leia, became our generals) is General Antiope.  David Thewlis (Professor Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise) is Sir Patrick, Danny Huston (a brief appearance as King Richard in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and we’ll see him as Stryker in X-Men Origins Wolverine) is Ludendorff, and that’s James Cosmo (he’s been in period films like Troy and Braveheart and is Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and was Jeor Mormont of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones) as Field Marshall Haig.

The film actually starts in modern days, with a Wayne Enterprises truck pulling up outside the Louvre, to deliver an old photograph to Diana.  The story then turns to her upbringing on Themyscira; her desire to train alongside the other Amazons, but her mother forbidding it.  She wants her daughter the remain a child as long as possible and tells her the story of Zeus’ creation of man and Ares’ jealousy.  He poisoned the kind hearts of mankind, so Zeus created the Amazons as protectors of humans.  The queen herself led the revolt against Area, but many gods were killed.  They believed Area perished as well, but Hippolyta fears he is still out in the world and is content to remain hidden on Themyscira.  Diana begins training with Antiope in secret for several years before her mother finds out (slightly retconned in the beginning of the sequel).  Hippolyta demands that Antiope train Diana harder than any she has trained before, but the young woman cannot know the truth.

Fast forward several years, and Diana is sparring with the other Amazons, Antiope pushing her to release her full potential; “you’re stronger than you believe.”  When Diana crosses her gauntlets, they create a shockwave, stunning Antiope.  Diana is starting to wonder if there is something else going on, so she visits the cliffs to collect herself.  And discovers an airplane crashing into the water by the island; the first outsider.  She dives into the water to save the man, then the pursuing Germans attack.  The Amazons fight back, their arrows somewhat effective against the soldiers, but they’re not prepared for the guns.  Antiope takes a bullet for Diana when she’s distracted.  The Amazons take the man Diana rescued for questioning, using the Lasso of Hestia to compel him to tell the truth.  His name is Steve Trevor and he is an American assigned to British Intelligence to spy on the Germans.  He discovered General Ludendorff’s and Doctor Maru’s newest toxic gas and stole the notebook so it cannot be fully developed and used on people.  The Germans followed him to the island.  Diana, raised on her mother’s stories and belief that the Amazons’ purpose is to protect humans, wants to join Steve fighting this terrible war.  Obviously, Ares is behind it and it is the Amazons’ duty to defeat him.  Hippolyta, knowing the truth of the world, feels they are better on their island and forbids Diana from going.

Diana decides to help Steve anyway and sneaks into the tower where there is the God killer sword, a shield, and a brightly colored set of armor (modeled after gladiator garb).  She will sneak Steve off the island in exchange for him taking her to the war so she can defeat Ares; she believes it will be so simple.  Hippolyta catches them before they board a boat, but she admits she cannot force Diana to stay.  However, she can never return to the island.  Steve and Diana have a rather…awkward conversation about relationships between men and women.

In the meantime, Maru continues working on her gas, though she discovered another one that restores a man’s strength and gives it to Ludendorff (yeah, there’s definitely some magic going on there because his reaction is not natural).  Steve and Diana make it to London and meet Steve’s secretary, Etta.  First, they need new clothes because Diana is going to standout in just her cape at some point.  But she’s not accustomed to early twentieth-century garb and the fact that women are not meant to fight; corsets are not armor.  She eventually settles on a long skirt and shirt.  Steve puts glasses on her and as Etta points out, not the most camouflaging.  The pair run into German spies who try to kill Steve, until Diana uses her gauntlets to stop bullets.  When they go to British command, the men are dismissive of Diana and Steve is forced to take her out of the room.  However, she’s the only one who can decipher the combination of languages Maru is using to make her notes.  And she gets very upset when the men all insist that they cannot go after the gas factory because they cannot endanger the imminent armistice.  Outside, Steve admits, using the Lasso to prove his sincerity, he is planning on doing the mission anyways.

Steve gathers his buddies; an actor named Sammy, a sharpshooter named Charlie, and a smuggler referred to as Chief so they can infiltrate Belgium, find the factory, and destroy it.  Sir Patrick, from command, pays them a visit and even helps them along, allowing Etta to coordinate in his office.  In Belgium, Ludendorff visits the other German generals (who do point out that this ongoing war is costing the Germans just as much as it is costing the allies and are willing to sign an armistice) and uses the gas on them.  He and Maru giggle like children at the destruction they cause and set in motion the rest of their plan.

Steve and Diana pass through No Man’s Land, and Diana finally insists she can do something to help; there is a village trapped behind the German line.  She drops her cloak, revealing her armor, shield, sword, and headband, and steps out of the trench.  She draws the German’s fire and Steve leads his men after her, giving her an opening to take out the German weapons.  They go on to the village (where we are treated to the energizing theme as Diana takes out her adversaries), Steve fighting alongside Diana.  He recalls a move he saw the other Amazons use and launches Diana into the bell tower to take out a sniper.  A local commemorates their victory with a photograph (the one from the beginning of the movie).  There are a few tender moments between Steve and Diana that evening, after Steve has reported to Etta and Sir Patrick.  Ludendorff will be at a gala nearby, but Patrick forbids Steve from going in.  Diana has also come to the conclusion that Ludendorff is Ares.  Everyone knows that Steve will disobey that order and go anyway.  I do love the scene between Steve and Diana in the bedroom for the fact that there is no dialogue.  Without words, Diana asks Steve to stay and he agrees.  There is a kiss between the two and that is all we see.

On the way to the gala, Steve tells his friends the truth about Diana, and of course, Sammy wants to visit, since he’s been flirting with Diana in half a dozen languages.  Steve attempts to order Diana to stay back while he sneaks into the gala, but she steals a dress and enters, breaking his focus on charming Doctor Maru.  Ludendorff dances with Diana and Steve catches her before she executes the man.  And admittedly, Ludendorff sounds very much like a god of war.  Steve takes Diana out of the gala and they see a “firework” set off.  Except it’s actually the gas and it hits the village they just saved.  Diana is not pleased with Steve, but they follow the Chief’s signal to Ludendorff at a nearby airstrip.  Diana goes after Ludendorff while Steve and his friends go after the gas being loaded onto a plane.

Diana has a bit of a fight with Ludendorff, but she overpowers him and runs him through with her sword.  And the Germans don’t stop.  How can this be?  You kill the god of war; you stop the war.  Steve doesn’t know either.  Maybe humans aren’t wholly good like Diana believes; maybe there is no one bad guy to blame.  He asks Diana to help him stop the gas, but she’s now disheartened and doesn’t follow him.  Sir Patrick shows up and tells Diana that mankind only deserves destruction.  It’s not Ludendorff who was Ares; Sir Patrick is Ares.  “I’m not what you thought I was.”  He did not spout war; he was not obvious.  He hid in plain sight and manipulated behind the scenes where no one would suspect him.  He tells Diana he is not the enemy; instead, he is the only one who truly knows her.  He saw from the beginning that his father’s creation was evil; humans are inherently cruel and selfish [oh boy, does he sound like Lucifer from Supernatural].  Diana gears up for another fight, but Ares is able to break the sword.  And reveals that the sword wasn’t the god killer, Diana herself is.  “Only a god can kill another god.”  Diana was not simply sculpted by clay and brought to life by Zeus, she is the offspring of Zeus and Hippolyta.  Ares tries to convince Diana to join him, destroy mankind and the world will be beautiful again.  He goes on, claiming that it was not him who made humans use weapons and wage war against each other, he only whispered inspiration in their minds. 

Diana refuses to join Ares and their battle hits the tarmac.  Steve intends to stop the plane, but he can’t ground it since it’s on a timer and they can’t blow it up because it will still kill everyone in the vicinity.  The only way he can stop it is to take it in the air and hit it then.  But he finds Diana first.  Except the blow from Ares has messed with her hearing, so she doesn’t hear him at first.  He leaves her to fulfill his mission and she goes back to her fight with Ares.  He grounds her and she watches the plane explode, crying out and bursting from her bonds.  She rips through the soldiers and Ares is pleased.  He brings Maru in front of Diana and she picks up a tank.  Ares goads her, saying again that humans are weak.  Including Captain Trevor; he deserved to burn.  Diana spares Maru and goes after Ares, finally recalling what Steve told her: “I wish we had more time.  I love you.”  Before Diana strikes her final blow, she tells her brother, “I believe in love.”  There is a huge explosion as she shoots lighting back at Ares.  And everyone is just grateful to be alive afterwards that they all hug one another.

At the victory celebration afterwards, Diana quietly meets up with Etta and the men and visit the memorial wall.  Back in present day, she remarks that she decided to stay and fight and protect humanity.  It is her mission, now and forever.

There are several aspects of this movie that I enjoyed.  First and foremost, it shows a female superhero as the lead and she kicks butt!  The action focuses on her and she gets herself out of trouble.  (And totally cool that it is directed by a female.)  And it’s sweet that Steve accepts her as she is; of course he has to struggle to get her to fit in with early-twentieth century London, but that’s to avoid awkward questions.  He’s seen the Amazons in action and know they can defend themselves, so he trusts Diana to look after herself in that respect.  It’s the minutia of “in polite society you really can’t do that” that he has to worry about (like, don’t assassinate the general in a room full of witnesses who are going to take the general’s side).

Part of why this film was moved to World War I as a setting compared to its run in the comics was to differentiate it from Marvel’s Captain America; you don’t want tow Captain Steves running around.  But, it makes sense in a historical sense; the people who lived and fought in the first World War did not know there would be a second.  It was called the Great War and they thought it was the war to end all wars, so that’s a perfect time to find this amazing warrior who helps turn the tide.  And packs more of a punch when you realize that these people will live through another tragedy and Diana herself will witness the horror of the world dissolving into war again.

Also, Ares’ game plan.  Upon first viewing, and taking into account that many of the audience view this character as kind Professor Lupin, Sir Patrick’s actions are good.  He’s trying to end the war peacefully; he helps our heroes get to their destination.  Yet, it’s Ares playing the long game.  He knows how to maneuver people where he wants them without anyone suspecting.  Let Diana see her friends try and fail to end the violence.  It just cements his view that humans are inherently cruel and violent.  Of course, he weakens his argument when he reveals that he is the inspiration behind Maru’s gasses and behind weapons’ designs.

Diana and Steve were cute together, so I was happy to see Steve return in Wonder Woman: 1984, though I do question why he had to take over someone else’s body (and that opens the door to questions we possibly don’t want answered.)  The film features Kristen Wiig (oh hey, she voices Ruffnut in the How to Train Your Dragon films) as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal (a big name recently as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones and the titular Mandalorian) as Maxwell Lord.  And the guy simply credited as “handsome man” is played by Kristoffer Polaha, a mainstay on the Hallmark Channel, including their Mystery 101 series.  On the whole, the sequel was an enjoyable film, but there were plot holes.  And stick around till the end because SPOILER, Lynda Carter (who played Wonder Woman in the 70’s TV series) makes a cameo as Asteria.  There are also rumors of a third film in the works.

Definitely watch the first film, mainly because Gal Gadot is awesome as Wonder Woman.

Up Next: Starting the X-Men film series

Offering You the Chance to Save the World, Twice Before Friday

Season One

Flynn Carson is back, still protecting the world from dangerous magical artifacts (Noah Wyle is billed as “special guest star” since he couldn’t star in two television shows at the same time).  He’s been doing the job, alone, for eleven years.  Though it turns out that the Library wants to add to the team.  It recruits Colonel Eve Baird (played by Rebecca Romijn, who was Mystique/Raven in the 2000’s X-Men trilogy), head of a NATO terrorist task force, to become Flynn’s Guardian.  As Charlene points out, Flynn hasn’t had a proper Guardian since Nicole (in the first movie).  We also find out that Judson passed away five years previous, though his spirit still speaks to Flynn in a mirror (and Flynn’s mother apparently had passed as well).

In The Crown of King Arthur, Eve helps Flynn solve the mystery of why experts are being killed; one professor had been trying to reach Flynn regarding a painting.  The connection?  He had been invited to interview at the Library the same day Flynn was hired; the professor was only a few people behind Flynn.  There are a few top candidates left alive.  Cassandra Cillian (played by Lindy Booth who has starred in a few Hallmark movies, including playing a librarian falling in back in love with a football star) is startlingly brilliant with math and science, but they sometimes get cross-wired with her other senses and a brain tumor pushes her death sooner rather than later.  Ezekiel Jones (John Harlan Kim, he has appeared in a few episodes of NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0) is a master thief, and Jacob Stone (Christian Kane, previously starred in Leverage, and I absolutely loved his appearance as an old friend of Dean’s in Supernatural; complete with singing Good Ol’ Boys [one of my favorite scenes of the entire show]) is a genius art historian who hides out in his hometown.  Yes, apparently ninjas do pop up in Oklahoma, sent by the Serpent Brotherhood. 

Eve and Flynn bring the other three to the Library to keep them safe.  One of them excitedly asks if vampires are real.  Flynn answers yes to vampires, no to Dracula, because he killed him (call back to the third movie).  Cassandra is glad to have lived long enough to find out magic is real, but Jacob wants to know why no one sees is.  Response: it’s buried in ley lines.  Long ago, the world was filled with magic, but it was drained off and stored in artifacts; which is why the Librarian travels the world to collect the artifacts and house them safely in the Library.  As technology has risen, magic has faded away.  Stone helps solve the mystery of the painting; it’s The Crown of King Arthur.  The actual crown was apparently created by Merlin to allow Arthur to control the magic of Camelot in order to rule.  Hence why the Serpent Brotherhood wants it; they want to release wild magic back into the world and create chaos; that they will rule.

Flynn catches up to Eve and the trio in Munich.  The painting supports the Roman hypothesis of Arthur [we’ve seen that in a few of the prior Arthurian legend movies], but the painting is actually a fake, Stone points out.  They quickly discover that the museum was built around the painting; it’s a clue (after arguing for a bit, it’s like the inside of Flynn’s mind has spilled out, but louder).  It leads outside to a sundial, which leads to a henge in the German forest.  All the while, trying to keep ahead of the Brotherhood, led by Lamia, a skilled female fighter.  The good guys recover the crown with a bit of shenanigans. 

Flynn intends to send the three newcomers home, but an alarm is set off.  The Serpent Brotherhood has gotten inside the Library.  But with the security upgrade, someone would have had to let them in.  Sadly, it was Cassandra.  The Brotherhood promised her magic would cure her brain tumor.  Lamia gains the crown and calls Excalibur to her, though Flynn puts up a fight.  He’s stabbed with Excalibur, and even though he takes a healing tonic, it cannot cure wounds dealt by a magical weapon.  Flynn will die.

The adventure immediately picks up in Sword in the Stone.  Judson and Charlene work together to protect the Library, meaning they lock it into its own pocket dimension.  Flynn mourns the their loss and the loss of his home.  Eve and the three men are met by an elderly gentleman who agrees to help them and takes them to the Library’s Annex.  You can still access any of the books from the Library.  Its’ caretaker is Jenkins (the veteran John Larroquette, got an early start with Black Sheep Squadron, then broke out in Night Court amongst his long career), who is eager to send them on their way so he can return to his peace and research.  Jenkins encourages Eve to help Flynn; she gives him a pep talk so he will save the world one last time.

Meanwhile, Cassandra meets, Dulaque (Matt Frewer, who provided several animated voices to various series and appeared as Pestilence in Supernatural), the leader of the Serpent Brotherhood.  Excalibur is the key to unlocking the Stone, which will release magic.  And the stone is in London.  Through a secret entrance in Buckingham Palace, the royal family has been guarding it for years.  Cassandra helps the Brotherhood, until she discovers their true purpose and is then locked up for her troubles.  She does aid her new friends; Flynn understands why she chose to initially help the Brotherhood, to save herself.  Lamia places Excalibur back in the Stone, but distractions help Flynn gain the Crown and regain Excalibur.  The Brotherhood runs off, but Flynn is still dying and now so is Excalibur.  He offers the sword to heal Cassandra, it has that much magic left.  With Judson and Charlene gone, and Cal dying, it’s Flynn’s time.  Instead, Cassandra chooses to save Flynn.

Flynn feels it is safer for the three young adults to leave, but he vows to find the Library and bring it back.  Though he begins thinking; if he’s in charge now, he can change the rules.  There can be more than one Librarian.  And they can train the Librarian instead of throwing them into sink or swim situations.  He tells everyone to open their envelopes; there are new invitations inside.  Flynn will go off by himself, he’s used to it, but Eve will stay and protect the new Librarians, with Jenkins’ help.  He’s offering them a life a mystery and misery, of loneliness and adventure.  A chance to save the world, twice before Friday.  Flynn bids farewell to Eve who makes him promise not to die, and there is a parting kiss (squee!) [And I still totally want this job!]

The new crew continues their adventures in Horns of Dilemma, where they have to solve the labyrinth of the Minotaur and recover the twine.  (Familiar face is Tricia Helfer, who has been in several Hallmark Channel movies).  And yes, Santa Claus is real (and played by Bruce Campbell, who played Sam Axe in Burn Notice) in Santa’s Midnight Run.  The Serpent Brotherhood plans to kill Santa and the Librarians must stop them.  Eve ends up taking on the role of spreading goodwill back to the human race on Christmas Eve.  She was in fact named “Eve,” for being born on that night.

Ezekiel and Jenkins have to team up and entertain a conclave of magical beings in Apple of Discord while Stone, Cassandra, Eve, and even Flynn shows up to retrieve the dragon’s pearl.  Except hidden inside the pearl is the Apple of Discord, which brings out the worst in everyone.  And Dulaque wants the conclave to vote to disband the Library.  Of course, the heroes prevail and point out that the world needs the Library to protect it from harmful artifacts.  Eve permanently transfers to the Library and sends Flynn back out to do his thing (of course, with a parting kiss).  The Librarians’ next case is the Fables of Doom, where fairytales are coming to life in a small town.  Eve does ask Ezekiel to not antagonize local law enforcement, though he argues it is fun.  An old book, the Librus Fabula brings fairytales to life, but will re-write reality and sucks life from those trapped in its stories.  The local librarian is using it on a young girl and our heroes slowly turn into archetypes: Jacob is the Huntsman, Cassandra is Prince Charming, and Eve is the Princess (their clothing and hairstyles change throughout the episode).  Ezekiel is what he always is, the Lucky Thief and he helps the girl recover and rewrite the story so the good guys win.

They encounter magic occurring at a STEM fair in Rule of Three.  Someone has created an app that doubles as a focusing spell, so when the students all imagine beating the leader, bad luck will befall them three times over.  Cassandra gets to shine by combining science and magic.  And they encounter a new foe; Morgan le Fay (played by Alicia Witt, another actress who has appeared in Hallmark Channel movies, and even an episode of Supernatural [I think I may have figured out why so many Hallmark stars are in Supernatural; they both film in Canada]).  Jenkins is furious to encounter her (she calls him Galais) and warns Eve that there is a larger battle coming.  The Librarians save the day, but hints are dropped that something bigger is coming.

Heart of Darkness reminds me of a Supernatural episode.  There is a haunted house that traps people inside.  Eve keeps trying to protect Cassandra, but it is ultimately Cassandra who faces off against Katie.  The house is actually the House of Refuge, until a family of serial killers, the Bloody Benders, moved in [yep, really sounds like a Supernatural episode].  Jacob befriends the local archivist in City of Light.  It is ultimately a town designed by Tesla, but the citizens got trapped between worlds and the streetlights are the only thing tying them to this world.  They try to recreate Tesla’s plan to bring everyone back, but Cassandra works out that too much could go wrong and harm too many people.  Mabel sacrifices herself to shut it off.  Though there is a ray of hope at the end; Jenkins has Eve write down an appointment for future Librarians, so maybe there will be a way to bring them back.

The season ends with Loom of Fate.  It begins with Flynn meeting the team at an Egyptian tomb; he has an idea on how to bring the Library back.  The team helps out with the artifacts they have recovered throughout the year.  But just when Flynn is about to succeed, Dulaque enters and kills Lamia so he can view the Loom of Fate.  Eve and Flynn jump through and Dulaque cuts the Loom at the spot where Camelot fell.  Eve and Flynn then bounce through different timelines, where Flynn did not become the Librarian.  In each case, one of the junior Librarians took the job and they all lost Eve.  In one case, it’s Jacob Stone and Eve who pair up, instead Flynn.  In Cassandra’s case, she studied under Morgan and has a few more clues.  Camelot was the height of magic and power, but with the Loom cut, time is fraying and it will require all three Librarians to get Eve and Flynn back to the Annex and then to the River of Time.  Flynn reweaves the Loom with the labyrinth twine, while Jenkins faces off against a younger Dulaque…as in Lancelot du Lac (played by Jerry O’Connell, among his many television and movie roles, he does play Sheldon’s older brother in Big Bang Theory [Rebecca Romijn’s real-life husband].  Jenkins is actually Galahad [the son of Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic] and argues against Lancelot wanting to return to Camelot; it wasn’t as great as Lancelot remembers and mortals have earned the right to rule themselves.  Jenkins bests Lancelot and Flynn reverts to his usual self.  They have to get Eve help; Lancelot stabbed her.  But first, Flynn has to finish bringing back the Library.  The Library holds the solution for curing Eve…the same potion Flynn took in Sword in the Stone will actually work on Eve’s wound, though it’s a close thing.  Flynn refused to let Eve die like she had in all other timelines; he does not believe in Fate.  But he’s glad to be home in his Library.  They send the three young Librarians off on their own adventures, and Eve will accompany Flynn on his adventures.

I adore the show even more than I love the movies.  With a television show, there is more time to develop characters and plot lines further.  And of course, I love the integration of Arthurian legend into the story.  Cassandra is a sweetheart, Jacob is the big brother, Ezekiel is the annoying little brother, and Eve just tries to keep them all together.

Up Next: Season Two

Be Safe. Don’t Get Killed. Save Your Receipts.

The Librarian

First, a trilogy of movies put out by TNT; then developed into a television series.  It stars Noah Wyle (he was on E.R. for many years [no intention of watching] and he briefly appeared in an episode of Lab Rats) as Flynn Carson. Jane Curtin is Charlene and Bob Newhart (he’s popped up in other television shows like Big Bang Theory, and I had no idea he was the voice of Bernard in Disney’s The Rescuers movies) is Judson.  There’s a familiar face, David Dayan Fisher (bad guy in NCIS and National Treasure) in the first film, Quest for the Spear; and Gabrielle Anwar (the Queen in The Three Musketeers with Chris O’Donnell, Princess Margaret [Henry VIII’s sister] in The Tudors, Fiona in Burn Notice, and Victoria Belfrey/Lady Tremaine in Once Upon a Time) joins the second film Return to Solomon’s Mines as Emily Davenport.  The third film, Curse of the Judas Chalice, brings in Stana Katic (briefly glimpsed at the end of Quantum of Solace, and opposite Nathan Fillion in Castle) as Simone Renoir.

Quest for the Spear introduces us to Flynn Carson, who holds 22 degrees and intends to be a lifelong student.  Until his professors agree to cut him off and force him out into the big, bad, real world to find a job.  An invitation arrives at his home (he doesn’t see it until a pile of books drops on his head), to interview for a prestigious position at the Metropolitan Public Library.  He’s not the only applicant, the line wraps down the staircase.  He faces Charlene, who wants to know “what makes you think you could be the Librarian?”  And she means more than knowing the Dewey Decimal system; what makes him different than every other librarian.  His observational skills rival Sherlock Holmes and he can tell when Charlene broke her nose, when she divorced, and how many kinds of cats she owns.  Then another voice calls out “what’s more important than knowledge?”  Flynn echoes his mother’s statement that the things that make life worth living are not thought (in his head), but felt (in his heart).  Flynn wins the position and will begin a wondrous new adventure, from which he will never be the same.  Judson appears and leads Flynn downstairs, through a secret door and security guards, opening to a grand hall filled with shelves and display cases.

Judson explains that magic exists, but it is dangerous and must be kept out of the wrong hands.  That is the Librarian’s job.  And he must keep it secret [so I object to his mother’s dismissal of his job as simply shelving books…I wanted to become a traditional librarian at one point.]  That evening, Judson is knocked out at the Library; Charlene and Flynn find him the next morning and discover that the Serpent Brotherhood has stolen a piece of the Spear of Destiny.  The Serpent Brotherhood opposes the Library and wants to use magical artifacts to rule the world.  And the Spear was used by Charlemagne and Napoleon; Hitler had one piece; so if the Serpent Brotherhood has it, they can certainly control the fate of the world.  Flynn, as Librarian, is the only one who can go after them (which Flynn points out is a little sad).

Clues to the other pieces are in a book, written in the Language of the Birds, the universal language all people spoke before the Tower of Babble.  Flynn has to decipher it on his flight to the Amazon.  He succeeds in 7 hours and 26 minutes.  And the beautiful woman he meets on the plane is Nicole Noone (so when Judson says to “trust no one”…that’s what he meant), whose job is to protect the Librarian.  Nicole is a bit dismissive of Flynn at first, bodily dragging him out of danger, since the Brotherhood is chasing them.  But Flynn proves his brilliance; he memorized the globe as a child.  They uncover the second piece of the Spear, but are met by the Brotherhood outside, including the previous Librarian whom Nicole saw die.  He desires power now and plans to wield the Spear.  But he can’t read the Language of the Birds, so Flynn argues Edward needs him.  Oh, and the final piece of the Spear is in Shangri-La.  Edward forces Flynn to grab the spearhead, then the monastery begins to collapse.  Nicole grabs the spearhead and escapes with Flynn (and the helicopter is “horrible, horrible, high velocity pie of death!” Flynn discovers while trying to fly it).  Nicole kisses Flynn in his room in Mongolia, but she is gone when he wakes up. He has a brief discussion with Judson and realizes that the Brotherhood has to fuse the Spear back together at the pyramid display with the golden capstone that Flynn was working on at the university in the beginning.  “Call the Marines, Judson.  I’m coming home.”  But, clothes first.

Edward does manage to fuse the Spear and tests it on his minion [that bad guy we see a lot].  Nicole and Judson take on the other mooks, though Flynn does get to punch his former professor in the nose.  Flynn goes after Edward and gets beaten up a bit.  But as Flynn pointed out to the students earlier, if one stone is out of line be even one inch, the whole pyramid collapses; and Edward has been hitting stones trying to get Flynn.  Edward is crushed by the capstone and the Spear floats to Flynn.

Back at the Library, Flynn is worthy enough to pull out Excalibur and there is a new portrait hanging, featuring Flynn with the Spear.  Three months later, Flynn’s mother is still trying to hook his son up, despite hearing Nicole on the phone earlier.  Nicole zooms in on a motorcycle and kisses Flynn hello, then briefly introduced to his mother.  But they have to go (time-traveling ninjas are on the loose).

The opening of Return to Solomon’s Mines is very similar to the opening of Last Crusade; it takes place in Utah and Flynn interrupts someone digging up something that doesn’t belong to them.  Back at the Library, he receives a package while Judson instructs him that he has a lot to learn and that to be a truly great Librarian, one must sacrifice what one wants for the greater good.  Flynn stops by his mother’s house for a surprise birthday party for him and briefly speaks to his father’s best friend, Jerry.  Flynn’s father passed away when the man was thirty-two, which is the age Flynn is now.  His mother has saved some of his old drawings from bedtime adventures his father told him.  She pulls out a [Masonic-looking] medallion, which his father used to joke was their family crest.  At Flynn’s apartment, he discovers that he was mailed an odd-looking scroll, then is knocked out.  Judson wakes him and realizes that the symbol Flynn saw on the scroll leads to Solomon’s Mines, holding great treasure.  It also holds the Key of Solomon which can summon the undead.  Judson sends Flynn to Morocco.

Flynn meets Emily at her Roman dig in Morocco; she’s searching for evidence of the Queen of Sheba’s (the wife of King Solomon) rule there.  They discover the secret tomb and are briefly attacked after finding the legend piece.  But their attacker recognizes the medallion Flynn wears; it symbolizes a society bound to protect Solomon’s Mines.  More bad guys come and they are sent to Kenya to find the second piece.  Emily insists on accompanying Flynn; if she can find more items like the legend piece, her own research will be funded for years.  Emily also has 25 degrees (to Flynn’s 22), so they spend a great deal of their journey arguing history and archeology.  Then they come across a man buried in the sand.  For freeing him, he will take them to Gedi.

Bad guys have followed them to Gedi, but luckily they run into Jerry boarding a train.  He treats them to dinner, then Flynn and Emily discover the key to the map is playing the legend pieces like an instrument; the map is music notes.  It comes to life and leads them to another mountain.  Judson pops into instruct Flynn to return home; but Flynn and Emily continue on.  Flynn’s father’s bedtime stories lead the way to the oldest tree in Africa, underneath which is a temple.  They find the treasure, but bad guys interrupt their exploration, led by Jerry.  Jerry wants the Key, which Flynn found, so he can re-write history.  Jerry blames Flynn’s father for stealing his mother’s heart; Jerry should have had the family; and he was responsible for the father’s death.

Jerry incants from the book, opening a portal and beginning to raise the dead.  Flynn goes after Jerry and threatens to destroy the book, but Jerry tempts him with the idea that Flynn can bring his father back.  Flynn takes over the chanting, but Emily manages to distract him.  Flynn throws the book into the lava and Jerry jumps in after it.  Emily, Flynn, and the man they saved all manage to escape the explosion and Flynn is left to return home alone.  Judson encourages Flynn that he did the right thing in destroying the Key of Solomon; only a great Librarian would have done so.

Flynn is at an auction in the beginning of Curse of the Judas Chalice on Library business, but also trying to keep his girlfriend happy.  He battles against another collector to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone.  He wins, but his girlfriend leaves him.  He’s depressed once he returns to the Library and Judson’s comment that he’s a celibate monk does not help.  When Flynn looks around the Library he doesn’t see artifacts anymore, he sees the bits of his life he gave up to retrieve them, like his college reunion.  Charlene suggests that Flynn use a few vacation days, then stops by his apartment later (a little drunk) to drop off travel brochures.  Flynn dreams of New Orleans and decides to give it a try (a woman called to him in his dream).  He hears the same voice singing and meets Simone.

Meanwhile, a former KGB Russian, Kubichek meets up with a Romanian history professor.  The professor is teaching a lesson on Prince Vlad Dracul, known as the Impaler, but all his students want to know is whether the man was a vampire.  Kubichek is interested instead with the Judas Chalice.

The Russians end up chasing after Flynn in New Orleans and Simone helps him escape, such as hitting a high C in an echo chamber.  Simone takes Flynn out for a night on the town and he perks up a bit.  Judson appears to Flynn (again; he has a habit of doing that) and explains that Flynn needs to go after the Judas Chalice.  The Chalice has the power to resurrect vampires, because apparently, Judas was the first vampire, cursed to walk the Earth for all eternity after he was hung for his transgressions.  Oh, and Dracula’s tomb has been stolen.

The bad guys grab Flynn, explaining that they want to use the army of the undead to bring Russia back to its former glory [seems like lots of Russians want to do that in these types of movies].  Flynn happens to know the Romanian professor and they decipher the lens that was found.  Simone drops in to help rescue Flynn, except she’s shot.  Flynn drags her out and briefly mourns her…turns out she’s not dead.  She’s a vampire.  She was turned in Paris in 1603 where she had been an opera singer for the royal court.  Now, she’s trying to hunt down the vampire who turned her and kill him.  (She also hints that Judson is a lot older than he appears and there is a larger battle to be had with the Library, between good and evil).

Flynn and Simone find the Chalice aboard Lafitte’s shipwreck [no, not Lafayette that many now know from Hamilton.  Lafitte was French as well, but was a smuggler based out of New Orleans in the early nineteenth century.  He did aid America in the Battle of New Orleans.]  The Russians interrupt the couple and Simone seems to know the professor.  The Russians trap them, but Flynn rigs a cannon to blow open a way out.  Simone leaves him behind and Flynn fears she wants the Chalice for herself.  When they meet up at the plantation again, turns out, no, she recognized the professor as the vampire who turned her.  And who turns out to be Dracula.  And he has no intention of actually helping the Russians.  Sure, he’ll raise the undead, but so he can rule the world.  Flynn goes after Vlad and the Chalice.  Simone helps fight Vlad, who drops the Chalice.  Flynn stabs him with a stake from an aspen tree.  Simone then watches the sun rise with Flynn, one last time.  Her duty to protect the Chalice is done now; she’s gotten her vengeance.  But she encourages Flynn to live out his destiny as the Librarian.

Flynn returns to the Library in a better mood and ready to fight the larger battle that is coming.  As he and Judson walk away, it is revealed that the walkways of the Library create the Tree of Knowledge.

I love these movies.  I want the Librarian job.  Again, it makes learning fun.  History is not dry and dull [well yes, at times it is], but hunting for artifacts uses so many aspects of knowledge.  And I appreciate that the three different women who help out Flynn are all strong, independent women.  Yes, they have brief romances with the lead man, but they are also smart in their own right.  Nicole is the one to kick butt.  And they don’t look down on Flynn for being a bookworm.  Being a bookworm actually saves their butts occasionally.

Next Time: The adventure continues with the first season of The Librarians

Nazis Are Also After Historical Artifacts

Indiana Jones

The heart of modern action-adventure, true classics.  I’ll focus on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade.  I have never watched Temple of Doom since my parents mainly recall creepy bits and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while is has funny throwbacks, is just weird.  There is talk of a fifth Indiana Jones movie coming soon, but I will believe that when I see it.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and story by George Lucas [yep], these movies have a great cast.  Harrison Ford leads as Indiana Jones, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in Lord of the Rings) is his friend Sallah along with Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody.  Sean Connery joins Last Crusade as Indiana’s father, Henry.  Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones, he made an appearance in Merlin, The Young Victoria, and Troy and was General Veers in Empire Strikes Back) is Walter Donovan.

Raiders opens with a trek through the jungle where Indy discovers a golden idol.  He uses a sandbag as a weight to fool the booby trap, but it still triggers and eventually sends a huge bolder rolling after him (a now iconic scene).  His treasure is taken by fellow archeologist, Belloq and Indy manages to escape to a waiting sea-plane and we first hear of his hatred of snakes [and briefly hear a few notes of the theme, superbly composed by John Williams]. Turns out our adventurer is a professor of archeology at a university.  Marcus Brody, from the nearby museum fetches Indy to meet with two gentlemen from Army Intelligence.  They ask Indy about his former mentor Ravenwood, whose name came up in a Nazi report about Tanus.  (Hitler was actually very interested in the occult).  Well, the Nazis are digging in Cairo to find the Ark of the Covenant.  Indy and Marcus have to explain to the Army what the Ark is and Marcus remarks that an army that marches with the Ark would be unstoppable, armed with the wrath of God.  Ravenwood studied the Ark and knew the whereabouts of the headpiece for the Staff of Ra, a way to find where the Ark is actually kept.  Indy takes the job to track down Ravenwood, starting with his daughter, Marion.  Indy’s in the quest for the historical and archeological significance; he doesn’t believe in magic.  Hence why he packs his whip and gun.

Marion owns a bar in Nepal and had a previous romantic relationship with Indy, that ended badly.  She’s relatively happy to see him, but still holds a grudge.  Her father is dead and she won’t tell Indy where the headpiece is, he has to come back tomorrow.  Well, the Nazis are on the trail and threaten Marion, even starting a fire in her bar.  Indy to the rescue, but he’s gained Marion as a partner.  A Nazi tries to grab the metal piece while it’s in the fire, burning his hand, but Marion is smart enough to use a cloth real quick.  The couple heads to Cairo and meet up with Sallah.

Things do not go fully according to plan in Cairo; a monkey spies on Indy and Marion, resulting in Marion getting taken and supposedly killed.  Indy shoots a fancy swordsman instead of crossing blades with him while he’s looking for Marion (another iconic scene now).  Sallah and Indy have the headpiece translated and with both sides, they have the actual height of the staff, meaning they have the actual location of the Ark.  Indy briefly runs into Marion, but he can’t free her, it would be too suspicious.  So Marion plans her own escape from Belloq (he’s almost the equal to Indiana, but more selfish).

Sallah and Indy in fact uncover the Ark, but it is taken from them by the Nazis; Belloq spotted them in the morning.  Marion is thrown in with Indy, along with a pit full of snakes.  Indy uses a statue to break down a wall so they can escape.  They come across a Nazi airfield and manage to create a huge fireball, after Indy’s taken a few punches.  They meet up with Sallah again, though Indy had to go after the truck the Nazis put the Ark in [here, the full theme kicks in].  Indy knocks out some of the bad guys, but also gets shot in the arm, then thrown through a windshield.  He’s almost run over by the truck, but instead goes underneath and climbs back up.  Bye-bye bad guy and Indy has control of the truck now, running Belloq and his Nazi companions off the road.  Locals help hide the truck and Sallah arranges a ship back to England to carry the Ark and Marion and Indiana.

Marion tries to help Indy clean up and kisses the only spots that don’t hurt.  “It’s the years, not the mileage,” he quips.  Come morning, the Nazis are back on their trail and retrieve the Ark and Marion.  Indy manages to hide, then swim over to the sub.  In the hanger, he steals a uniform to follow the group to a Greek island, where Belloq plans a Jewish ceremony to unveil the Ark to ensure its true power.  Indy threatens to blow up the Ark, but Belloq calls him on it; Indiana could never destroy such a significant find.  And he can’t.  So he and Marion are tied up at the back of the ceremony and once a mist creeps out of the Ark, they close their eyes.  Spirits from the Ark take out all the Nazis and Belloq.  Marion and Indiana are unharmed and return to the United States with the Ark of the Covenant.  Instead of the museum getting the Ark as agreed, the government hides it away in a warehouse full of other crates.

Last Crusade actually begins with Indy’s childhood in 1912 Utah, as a Boy Scout.  (And as Boy Scouts are prone to do, they wander off when they’re specifically told not to.)  Indy and his friend come across a group uncovering the Cross of Coronado.  Indy can’t stand to see these men take it; it belongs in a museum.  So he swipes it, not minding the snakes about, and gallops off.  He’s pursued by the group and they make their way onto a traveling zoo train, dodging giraffes and rhinos.  Falling into a snake pit is where Indy gets his fear of them (understandable), and he gains his trademark whip and scar on his chin when he has to get past a lion.  The group hauls him out, but he still gets away, running home.  His father makes him stop and count to twenty in Greek; he’s busy with his own work.  Unfortunately, the sheriff takes the group’s side, since they were financed by a rich guy, so Indy loses the cross.  But the leader, wearing a leather jacket, tells Indy to buck up and gives him his fedora.

Time skip to our current Indiana, he’s on a boat during a storm, recovering the Cross of Coronado again, from the same guy.  “It belongs in a museum!”  “So do you!” the guy retorts.  Indy makes it off the boat before it collapses and explodes.  Marcus eagerly accepts the cross to put in their Spanish display.  We also get a good lesson on archeology, that Indiana doesn’t necessarily follow himself.  70% of all archeology is done in the library, reading and researching.  Archeology is the search for fact, not truth.  There are no maps to buried treasure and X never marks the spot.  When Indy returns to his office, it’s overrun, so he escapes out the window.  There, he’s picked up by some men and taken to a swanky house, where he meets Walter Donovan.  Donovan has been a generous benefactor of the museum and has a piece for Indy to look at.  A partial stone tablet that mentions the cup that holds the blood of Jesus Christ: the Holy Grail.  Grail lore is Indiana’s father’s area of expertise, aside from the medieval literature classes he teaches [I’d like to take a class on the subject, among others].  Donovan reveals that a project has been started to uncover the Grail, but their leader has vanished.  That leader is Indiana’s father, Henry Jones.

Indy heads to his father’s house along with Marcus and find it ransacked.  Indy recalls he got a package sent from Venice, where the next clue was possibly located.  It’s his father’s Grail dairy.  Marcus agrees to accompany Indy to Venice.  There, they meet Elsa Schneider.  Indy of course flirts with her, but they get to business in the library inside a converted church.  Henry’s last note was of Roman numerals; there’s a connection between the stained glass window and the pillars from the Holy Land.  The final Roman numeral, “X” for ten, is in the floor.  (Indy’s banging coincides with a librarian’s stamping for a funny scene).  Elsa and Indy venture below into the rat-filled catacombs.  A few men sneak up on Marcus and knock him out, then light the petroleum that is underground.  But Elsa and Indiana have found the second knight’s tomb and his shield is a copy of the tablet, though complete.  Indy finishes a rubbing, but the tomb is sacrificed to keep him and Elsa safe from the fire.

The same men pursue the couple once they’re above ground and Indy heads for the docks.  Elsa driving their boat between them, while crazy and dangerous and not what Indy shouted, does help deplete some of the men.  Indy grabs one of the men and threatens to chop him to bits with a propeller, but keeps him alive for information.  The man is part of a society guarding the Grail, the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.  They know that Henry Jones is being held at a castle on the Austrian-German border.

The rubbing reveals Alexandreta as the starting point for a map Henry has in his diary, pieced together to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, but no names.  Now they have the starting point.  Indiana sends Marcus ahead to meet Sallah.  Indy finds his and Elsa’s rooms ransacked; someone was looking for the diary.  The angry flirting continues between them.

Indy and Else pretend to be Scottish for a minute, switching hats and coats to gain entry to look at the tapestries.  The butler doesn’t believe them, but Indy knocks him out.  And discovers the castle holds Nazis as well.  He hates those guys (wonder why), but goes off to find his father.  He crashes through the window, then gets a vase to the head.  Henry and Indiana are happy to see each other for a few seconds, then back to work.  They’re interrupted by the Nazis and Henry is mad that Indiana brought the diary after he mailed it away from him.  Being called “junior” is a button for Indiana his father likes to push, so Indy takes care of matters like he usually does.  They’re almost out until Elsa is threatened.  Indy puts down the gun, but Henry was right; she’s with the Nazis and now they have the dairy.

But not the map.  The map is with Marcus.  And Donovan is with the Nazis as well.  Indy bluffs to the Nazis that Marcus is brilliant, knows the languages and customs wherever he is and will blend in.  Sadly, the man is a bit bumbling and got lost in his own museum once.  Marcus does indeed meet up with Sallah, but is shortly afterwards picked up by the Nazis.  The Jones men are tied up and will be disposed of.  They’re tied back to back and while alone, Indy has his father take out his lighter.  But Henry drops it, lighting the floor and then the room on fire.  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Head for the fireplace!”  (so amny iconic scenes: this is why they’re classics).  The fireplace is a secret passage and Indy manages to slip out of his ropes so they can escape.  And the escape is rather funny at times.  Indy is used to doing his own stunts, but now he has to pull his father along.  [Harrison had fun driving Sean around in the motorcycle].  His father should be pleased with Indiana jousting against the Nazis, but he disapproves of his son’s smile once the Nazis are dispatched.  Henry urges Indiana to head to Berlin to retrieve the diary; there’s more than a map.  There are clues to passing the three challenges, clues he wrote down so he wouldn’t have to remember.

There is a parade going on and Indy once again wears a German uniform to blend in.  He grabs the diary off of Elsa and she pleads that she disapproves of the Nazis burning books [I also strongly disapprove…ignorant fools].  They part, but Indy is caught in the crowd and brought before Hitler.  Luckily, Hitler thinks he just wants an autographs, so signs the diary.  Father and son board a Zeppelin, but they are pursued again.  Indy knocks the one man out of the window and passes it off to passengers as “no ticket.” He tries to have a conversation with his father and they hit on the point that Henry gave his son self-reliance, which Indy interpreted as being less important than men who lived and died centuries prior in another country.  He learned it so well they haven’t spoken in twenty years.  Well, Indiana left just when he was becoming interesting.  But right now, they need to focus on locating the Grail.

The Zeppelin turns around, prompting Indiana and Henry to make for the airplane attached.  They’re pursued and shot down, then one plane tries to follow them through a tunnel (does not end well for him) and Henry scares a flock of birds to take out the other plane.  The two men make it to meet up with Sallah and Marcus is being held by the Nazis.  The good guys find the bad guys and luckily a distraction comes from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.  Henry finds Marcus in the tank, then they’re both kept inside.  One Nazi wants to know why Henry came back for the diary, what does it tell him that it doesn’t tell them?  Well, goose-stepping morons should “try reading books instead of burning them.” (love that line)

My brother was in Petra once

Indy jumps onto the tank and tries to get Marcus and Henry out.  The men help a bit in their own way and Sallah gets Henry before he can be crushed by the tank’s tread.  Then the tank goes over a cliff, Indy with it.  Henry is remorseful, there was more he should have taught his son.  But Indiana is okay and even gets a hug from his father.  For a minute.  Then the quest is back on.  The Canyon of the Crescent Moon leads to a large temple [Petra in Jordan].  When Donovan’s mooks fail to make it past the booby traps, he threatens Indiana to get it.  And to do so, he shoots Henry.

The first task is the Breath of God, only the penitent man will pass.  Penitent, meaning humble, meaning he will kneel before God.  Ducking allows Indy to avoid a set of blades.  The second task is the Word of God, following the footsteps of God will allow one to proceed.  The name of God: Jehovah.  Except, in Latin, Jehovah starts with an “I.”  Indy almost falls through the floor, but he’s lucky.  And the final task is the Path of God, a leap from the lion’s head will prove one’s worth.  It’s a wide chasm that no one can jump across, not even Indy.  It will take a leap of faith.  Actually, the bridge just blends in really well with the wall [remarkable effect].  Indy encounters the final knight, but their discussion is interrupted by Donovan and Elsa.  Elsa agrees to give Donovan the Grail.  She selects a golden and bejeweled cup, worthy of the “king of kings”.  But when Donovan drinks the water, he rapidly ages (rather creepy).  He chose unwisely, the knight states.  Indiana selects a wooden cup, like a carpenter would make.  He tests it, and chose wisely.  But the knight warns him that the Grail cannot pass the great seal.

The Grail heals Henry and causes the mooks to scatter.  But Elsa tries to take it with her, causing the temple to collapse.  She and the Grail drop and Indy grabs Elsa.  She tries to reach the Grail, but he can’t hold her.  She drops and is lost, then Indiana drops.  Henry grabs him and finally calls him Indiana instead of Junior when Indy tries to reach the Grail himself.  The good guys escape and Sallah asks why Henry keeps calling Indiana “Junior.”  Because his actual name is Henry Jones Junior.  They named the dog Indiana.  And the heroes gallop off into the sunset with the theme playing.

There are a few things I liked in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, and Jim Broadbent were great additions to the cast.  They at least mentioned Marcus Brody and Henry Jones Senior.  And Indiana and Marion officially get back together, and Indiana discovers he has a son.  Oh, and we catch a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant in a crate.

These movies are so full of adventure; don’t we all wish we could go on an adventure and find priceless treasures and be the hero?  Thwart the Nazis?  History comes alive…and occasionally tries to kill us, but we’re smart enough to get away.  Harrison plays the role with charm.  He’s not suave like James Bond, but we like a rough and tumble hero.  And hey, he still gets the girl.

We can see where many of the elements of the past movies get their influence.  And I have commented that I prefer this version of the Holy Grail legend; less controversial.  As least pays homage to the time period that the Grail legend surfaced?  (And who are we to argue with Sean Connery?)  Overall, just fun movies to watch. At the end of the day, the good guy wins, with a bit of brain and brawn. And John Williams’ score is brilliant as well…everyone knows the theme; a cheerful march to victory.

Up Next: Adventures with the Library, starting with The Librarian movies

Lots of Running Around Historical Sites

Da Vinci Code

A very popular and controversial book by Dan Brown.  The movie starred Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, a symbologist [fictional career] at Harvard.  Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf and older Magneto, amongst other roles in his illustrious career) appears as Sir Leigh Teabing.  Alfred Molina (the bad guy in the live-action Sorcerer’s Apprentice, briefly appeared in Prince of Persia, he voiced bad guy Viggo Grimborne in the How To Train Your Dragon series Race to the Edge [love the show, we will definitely cover it down the road]; but he’s most notable as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2…and may be reprising the role in the upcoming Tom Holland Spider-Man movie) pops in as a bishop.  And the talented Paul Bettany (Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, Geoffrey Chauce in A Knight’s Tale, Jarvis/Vision in the MCU, Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Lord Melbourne in The Young Victoria) is once again naked at some point as Silas.  The film is also directed by Ron Howard (who has directed Tom Hanks in these movies as well as Splash and Apollo 13).

Angels and Demons was the book’s prequel, but the film’s sequel since they didn’t know if Da Vinci Code would be successful [there are further books in the series, including The Lost Symbol (which I have read) and Inferno, which I just started reading [not nearly as engaging at the moment as Once Upon a Time or Librarians] and unaware they made into a film as well…I shall have to investigate].  Hanks returns as Langdon, joined by Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast [where McKellan was Cogsworth], as well as appearing in Miss Potter, Moulin Rouge, and Down with Love) as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna [he was Italian in the book; they changed him to Irish because McGregor is certainly not Italian].  Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Bill in Mamma Mia, Captain Tupolev in The Hunt for Red October, and he even appears in the MCU as Eric Selvig) is Commander Richter.  If the Inspector looks familiar, he was General Glozelle in Prince Caspian.  (And yes, Alfred Molina provides the opening voiceover).

Da Vinci Code opens with an old man’s death inside the Louvre, Silas searching for answers.  Robert Langdon is called in because of the strange markings…and the police believe him to be a suspect.  He’s helped out by Sophie, who turns out to be the curator’s granddaughter.  Langdon was supposed to meet with the curator, but the man never showed.  Invisible ink at the crime scene reads “O Draconian devil, O lame saint,” and the Fibonacci sequence out of order.  If you rearrange the letters, it spells out Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa.  There are painted the words “so dark the con of man,” leading to Madonna of the Rocks where a cross topped with the Fleur de Lis is found.  Langdon and Sophie follow the clues, after distracting the police.

Langdon goes on to tell Sophie about the Priory of Scion, that worked against the church because it guards the secret of God’s power on Earth.  Opposing the Priory is another secret society, Opus Dei (to which Silas belongs).  Langdon claims that the Templar Knights were the military arm of the Priory, and that the reason for the Crusades were to find an artifact.  They did, but then the church turned on them and killed them.  Langdon tells Sophie they are searching for the Holy Grail.  The key leads to a Swiss bank with a long term safety deposit box.  Inside the box is a wooden box topped with a rose, supposedly the symbol for the Holy Grail.  But the police are onto Sophie and Robert, though they escape thanks to the manager because of a “safe passage clause” that came with the deposit box.  Except he turns on them once they’re safe and tries to kill them.  Robert manages to knock him out and they drive to an old friend of his who is a Grail historian, Leigh Teabing.

Inside the rose box is a cryptex, designed by da Vinci.  A five letter word will open the cryptex, but if it is forced, the secret map inside will be destroyed.  Teabing lets Robert and Sophie in after they have answered three questions.  He then explains that the Holy Grail is not a cup, but instead is a woman.  The bloodline of Jesus Christ; he married Mary Magdalene, but that was not the image that the Church wanted of their Savior, so they hid the secret [I must admit, McKellan pulls off academic speech rather well].

Silas has been after this secret as well and has made his way to Teabing’s house and attacks.  Leigh and Sophie take him down after he knocks Robert out.  Leigh determines they need to head for England now.  They find a clue beneath the rose in the box; they must find a knight interred in London, overseen by a Pope.  They first head to Temple Church, but the knights are effigies, not tombs.  Silas pops back up and kidnaps Leigh.  Sophie and Robert make a run for it and Robert finally deduces that “A. Pope” means Alexander Pope, who oversaw Newton’s funeral (because Newton’s work on gravity angered the church, supposedly). 

We discover that Leigh has been playing both sides of the game.  He is the voice of the “Teacher” that has been instructing Opus Dei.  He sends cops to kill Silas, who accidentally shoots his bishop mentor while trying to escape.  The bishop was also the one who planted the idea with the French police that Langdon was responsible.  Leigh catches up to Sophie and Robert at Westminster Abbey, where they’re trying to figure out what orb is missing from Newton’s tomb.  That orb will be the five letter word they need to unlock the cryptex.  Leigh admits he will do anything to find the Grail.  When he threatens to shoot Sophie, Robert works out the clue.  He then throws the cryptex to Leigh, who crashes to the ground, breaking the cryptex.  The police arrive then and arrest Leigh.

But Robert had worked out the clue: apple.  The scroll inside points Sophie and him to ancient Roslyn, where the tomb of Mary Magdalene lies under starry sky.  Their next stop is Roslyn Chapel in Scotland (supposedly built by the Templars [it was built by the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century]).  The couple ventures into the basement where there are carvings of stars and they find a secret door down further.  But there is no sarcophagus. There is research, detailing the bloodline and Robert finally makes the connection; Sophie was not the curator’s actual granddaughter.  The curator was the Grand Master of the Priory of Scion and he took Sophie in when the rest of her family were killed.  He trained and guarded her; for she is the descendant of Mary Magdalene [yes, the Sinclairs are descendants of the Saint-Clairs of Normandy, France…which Saint-Clair is actually a place name, so not really “the oldest family in France”].

They meet more of the Priory, who will protect Sophie.  Robert advises that she could reveal her secret to the world, but would the living descendent of Jesus Christ destroy or renew faith?  Back in Paris, Robert mulls over the Rose Line, which is a trail that runs through Paris.  He follows it and finds one over the Louvre, where the bottom of the glass pyramid meets a mirrored sculpture.  We’re shown that deep below that lies the actual sarcophagus, beneath the starry sky of Paris.

Angels and Demons begins with a Pope’s death and the ceremonial events that follow.  At the same time, the collider in Cern creates anti-matter for the first time in a large enough quantity to be studied.  Then one of the canisters is stolen.  The Vatican Police visit Robert Langdon at Harvard, requesting his help because it appears that the Illuminati have resurfaced.  He wrote a book on the subject and his recent involvement with the church (meaning the Da Vinci Code) have recommended him to their service.  The Inspector is pleased for Langdon to help, but Commander Ritcher doesn’t trust him.  The four favored Cardinals have been kidnapped and are threatened to be executed once an hour, by the Illuminati.  The Illuminati are a secret society made up by scientists who were persecuted by the church for their radical thinking.

Robert teams up with Vittoria, the lead scientist on the antimatter that was stolen and is now shown to be beneath Vatican City somewhere, where thousands have gathered to find out who will be named the new Pope.  It’s now a race around Rome to discover where the Cardinals are hidden, which may lead to the secret Illuminati church.  First, Robert needs access to the Vatican archives in order to find the first clue, hidden in Galileo’s journals.  Robert is granted access by Patrick; he holds some authority now since he was the Pope’s chamberlain.  (It is an exciting dash around Rome, but hard to write out.)

Robert manages to rescue the last Cardinal; they are too late to save the others each time they get to the marker.  He begins to suspect Commander Ritcher and is almost proven correct when Ritcher is discovered threatening Patrick.  Patrick has the final brand on his chest from the Illuminati.  It is also discovered that the previous Pope was poisoned, but now they have an idea where the antimatter is located.  Patrick agrees to take a helicopter up and let it detonate in the air, rather than below ground.  It seems like Patrick is the hero.

Until Robert has a hunch.  He finds security footage showing Ritcher confronting Patrick.  It was Patrick who arranged for the antimatter to be stolen because he feels that the church is going soft by embracing science.  If he resurrected the Illuminati, it would unite Christianity and bring faith back to the forefront.  Robert and Vittoria go to the head Cardinals and show them the footage.  Instead of them electing Patrick, he is to be arrested, though he burns himself alive before he can be handcuffed.  Instead, the Cardinals elect the final preferred Cardinal, who takes the name Luke, signaling that the world needs faith and science.  In thanks to Robert, he allows Robert to access the archives in order to finish his book, on the condition that in his will, the works are gifted back to the Vatican.

I first read Da Vinci Code for a project in high school; I recall the teacher not wholly agreeing with my assessment on the book, though we did go as a class to see the film when it released.  My friend, who was strongly religious, whispered disagreement with the film during the show.  It has also been proven after the release of his books, that statements Dan Brown makes as “fact” are inaccurate.

My take?  These are exciting and interesting books, a good page-turner.  The movies are also fantastic action-adventure films, but yes, a bit controversial.  I made the remark to a teacher once that I prefer the “Indiana Jones version of the Holy Grail.”  And really, da Vinci and Arthurian legends have little in common; they’re from different cultures, one born in Italy, the other with a strong basis in Britain with influences from France…yeah, you can thank the French for the love triangle.  But because a lot of history is unknown since records are hard to find for some things,  conspiracies are born to explain what we don’t know.  I do recommend both the books and movies as a good time, just don’t take them at face value.

Up Next: The best action-adventure movies, Indiana Jones

Gotta Do Crazy Things to Protect American History

National Treasure

I love these movies for the history.  They also feature an all-star cast.  Nicholas Cage leads as Benjamin Franklin Gates, Diane Kruger (you may recognize her as Helen from Troy) is Abigail Chase.  Jon Voight is Ben’s father, Patrick Gates.  The ever diabolical Sean Bean (GoldenEye, Patriot Games, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) is Ian Howe.  Christopher Plummer (we sadly lost him recently, but he will forever be Captain Von Trapp) is the grandfather, John Adams Gates.  And if some of the FBI guys look familiar: Sandusky is Harvey Keitel (Sister Act, the bad guy) and Agent Johnson is Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer in Supernatural).  And that is David Dayan Fisher (Trent Kort, not a very good guy in NCIS, and he’ll appear briefly as another baddie in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear) as Shaw. 

Helen Mirren joins the party for Book of Secrets, as does Ed Harris (funny note; he played Beethoven in Copying Beethoven along with Diane Kruger) as Mitch Wilkinson.  Agent Spellman is played by Alicia Coppola (who has been in several television series, including JAG, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, and MacGyver).  Yes, that is Bruce Greenwood (Admiral Pike in the newer Star Trek movies) as the President, and William Brent (or Billy Unger, he was my favorite character, Chase in Lab Rats) as the young Charles Gates.

Grandfather John Adams Gates tells young Benjamin Franklin Gates about their family history; in 1832, the last signer of the Declaration of Independence was dying.  He had his driver, Thomas Gates, take him to the White House to see President Andrew Jackson, so he could pass along important information.  But the President was out.  So he whispered it to young Thomas instead.  There is a treasure beyond all imagination, collected over the centuries, hidden in America.  The Knights Templar discovered it in vaults beneath Solomon’s Temple and smuggled it out.  They eventually became the Freemasons and members included prominent Founding Fathers, such as Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.  The old man’s dying words to Thomas were “the secret lies with Charlotte.”  Sadly, he had no clue what that meant, but the Gates men pass it down through the years.  Patrick interrupts story time, but John “knights” Ben before he leaves.

Fast forward to a more present day expedition in the Arctic Circle.  Ben’s theory is proven correct, Charlotte refers to a ship.  Ian is his investor and accompanies him below deck once they uncover the ship.  The skeletal captain is guarding one barrel in particular; Ben digs out a package, revealing a carved pipe.  Ben rubs blood over the carvings and rolls the pipe, revealing the next clue.  He works out the phrasing and figures out that there is an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.  Ian speaks up that he has a grey past and he can arrange to steal the Declaration.  Ben opposes the idea, so Ian has Shaw threaten to shoot him.  Well, Ben lights a flare in a room full of gunpowder, then dives for cover with Riley.  (Great guys, you just destroyed a historical artifact.) 

Now, Ben and Riley have to stop Ian.  They try to leave a tip with the FBI, but they’re dismissed.  Ben figures they need someone passionate about historical documents, so he heads to the National Archives and meets Abigail Chase [fun fact, she is part German like her character].  They bond briefly over her collection of Washington campaign buttons, but she still does not believe “Mr. Brown” (the name Gates has poor standing in the academic community).  Ben is then inspired by a line from the Declaration that means if one has the ability, they have the responsibility to take action against something wrong.  So, the only way they can protect the Declaration from Ian is to steal it.  Riley takes Ben to the Library of Congress to prove that Ben cannot, but Ben knows of a way they can.  If they use the upcoming Archives Gala as a distraction, raise the heat sensors in the casing so the document is in the preservation room, it will be far easier to sneak the document out.

Riley sets up his equipment, Ben sends Abigail the remaining campaign button she requires (dipped in a solution that will dye keys).  Ben sneaks into the event as maintenance, but switches to a tux so he can give a glass of champagne to Abigail, so he can retrieve her fingerprint.  Meanwhile, Ian and his crew use explosives and such to sneak into the lower levels.  So far, Ben’s plan is working, until he runs into Ian.  Ian starts shooting.  Ben takes a slight detour through the gift shop where there are reproductions of the Declaration for sale.  Ian’s entrance is discovered and security is alerted.  Abigail begins to suspect “Mr. Brown” and follows him outside.  Ben tries to get away, but now has to chase after Ian, who has grabbed Abigail.

Ian ends up with the reproduction, but Ben had to use a credit card to pay for it, so he can’t return to his house.  He heads for his father’s, letting Abigail know he is actually Gates, not Brown.  And the FBI start investigating, Sandusky as lead.  They had received a tip about the Declaration being stolen, but it wasn’t deemed credible, so no file was open.  Patrick Gates is not thrilled with Ben showing up at his house and still does not believe in the treasure.  He thinks it was a myth to distract the British.  But Ben carries on and Abigail helps him rub lemon juice onto the back of the Declaration.  Ink is revealed.  There are sets of numbers, creating a cipher.  Ben asks his dad for the Silence Dogood letters; written by Benjamin Franklin at fifteen under a pseudonym.  They used to have the letters, hidden in a desk, but Patrick has now donated them to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Ian has also figured this out.

While Ben and Abigail change out of their party clothes, Riley hires a boy on a field trip to retrieve the letters from the cipher. Ian eventually notices the boy, but doesn’t catch Riley.  The clue leads to the Liberty Bell and its original housing, at Independence Hall.  They need to be standing at the right spot at the right time to find the next clue.  (I love seeing the singing room…it reminds me of 1776 [because no doubt they filmed there])  Ben retrieves a pair of spectacles, invented by Franklin.  “Heere at the Wall” with a Celtic cross is revealed.  And they catch sight of Ian’s goons.  They split up and split their pieces up; Ben has the glasses, Riley and Abigail have the document.  A chase begins in Philadelphia and Abigail almost gets hit by a truck, and loses the document to Ian.

The FBI intercepts Ben at his car, though Riley and Abigail get away.  Abigail has an idea to get Ben out of custody, though it means working with Ian.  Ben is to meet Shaw at the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York, then jumps over the side so he can meet with Ian at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, at Trinity Church.  The glasses have different colored lenses that can be combined to read different parts of the map. 

Now, they venture into the crypts beneath the church, joined by Patrick, who was captured by Ian’s men.  There is an ancient shaft they discover, leading lower.  But the years have rotted the structure and it falls apart on them.  Shaw plunges to his death and Ben and Abigail almost join him.  Ben had to drop Abigail so he could save the Declaration, but there was a landing below her; and she would have done the same thing.  Riley would have dropped both crazy people.  Ian insists they continue.  They find another chamber, but it is small and empty.  Patrick makes up a clue regarding the lanterns and sends Ian and his goon to the Old North Church in Boston.  That was just to buy him and his son time.  Ben finds another door to another chamber, but it is still empty.  Ben despairs.  He really thought he was going to find it.  Patrick points out that Ben has followed all the clues; they’ve led this far, they’ve worked, which means the treasure was real.  Ben ponders that there has to be another way out, in case of cave in.  The pipe comes in handy again and turns another door leading to a larger chamber.  A torch lights a line of oil revealing the treasure [the music almost sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean for a moment, considering Brukheimer was producer on both].  There are scrolls from the Library at Alexandria (drool), Roman and Egyptian artifacts.  And oh look, stairs!  (Riley cries).

Back topside, they call the FBI and Ben hands the Declaration over to Sandusky.  It is not a bargaining chip.  He would really like to not go to prison; maybe Sandusky will take a bribe.  How ’bout ten billion dollars?  Sandusky points out Masonic teaching states that it should not all go to one man; he is sympathetic to Ben.  Ben agrees, it should be split between various museums; it belongs to the people and the world should see it.  Credit goes to the Gates family, along with Abigail Chase and Riley Poole.  And if you really want to arrest someone, he knows someone who is breaking into Old North Church.  [So Sean Bean doesn’t die in this movie, but he does go to prison].

Riley spends his minuscule percentage on a Ferarri, while Ben buys a historical house; and starts a relationship with Abigail.

Book of Secrets starts on April 14th, 1865 in Washington D.C., five days after the end of the Civil War [which puts this prologue close to the prologue of Sahara].  Thomas Gates is hired to decode a message, at the same time that John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln.  Thomas hears the commotion and realizes who has asked him to find the lost city of gold.  He attempts to burn the page, but is shot for his trouble.  His son, Charles is watching, but spared.  Thomas is able to pass the phrase “the debt that all men pay” to his son.  Another time jump to Ben giving a lecture on this event.  A man in the audience comes forward with the missing page from the Booth diary, and claiming that Thomas Gates was a co-conspirator in the assassination since his name was listed in the diary.  Ben is now determined to clear his ancestor’s good name. 

Except, he and Abigail are split at the moment so he tries to sneak in to gain access to the page.  She allows him to run scans on the page (they negotiate furniture) and they discover residual ink from the opposing page.  The FBI agents are thrilled that Gates is in hot water, but Sandusky points out that they need to know why Wilkinson has come forward with the page now.

The residual ink shows some of Thomas’s work and Patrick recalls “the debt that all men pay,” that was passed down from his grandfather Charles.  This breaks the cipher to Laboule Lady; referring to the man who created the Statue of Liberty.  There is a smaller version in Paris that he referred to as his lady.  Riley uses a drone to capture an inscription on the flame and Ben charms French security to translate the message.  This leads them to the Resolute desks and Ben heads to Buckingham Palace.

Wilkinson attacked Patrick at night so he could clone his phone so he can keep abreast of the search.  Abigail has also shown up at Buckingham Palace and will unknowingly put a wrench into Ben’s plan, so he stages an argument with her so they are escorted to lockup.  This leads them to a service elevator so they can see the desk in the queen’s apartments [the desks are not actually identical and the queen does not actually use the Resolute desk, but it’s cool for the movie].  The desks are actually puzzles and are hiding a carved plank.  Ben gets the plank out of the palace, but they’re pursued by Wilkinson.  Ben tosses the plank after he gets a picture of it.

Now, they need it deciphered.  And his mother happens to be an expert on that language, though estranged from his father.  She teaches at the University of Maryland.  She is pleased to see Ben and Abigail, but snips at Patrick.  They think one of the symbols means Cibola, the City of Gold.  A more accurate translation is simply the Center of the World, or Sacred Temple.  And they’re missing half of the plank anyways.  Which means, Ben has to break into the Oval Office to look at that Resolute desk.  Abigail’s new boyfriend is their ticket in and she stages a kissing session with him so Ben can find the plank.  Except it’s not there, just a stamp.

Riley knows what that stamp means; he wrote a book on it (which doesn’t sell well and his friends haven’t read it yet).  It’s the President’s secret book; written by Presidents, for Presidents only and filled with every conspiracy America has.  Sandusky can tell Ben, outside of the FBI office, that the book does in fact exist, but only the sitting President knows where it is.  And, you guessed it, Ben has to talk to the President.  But away from everyone.  So he manages to get the President’s birthday party moved to Mount Vernon where Ben know there are secret passages.  One of these days, he’ll wear his tux to a party he is actually invited to.  But he does get the President interested in his map written by George Washington.  The door shuts on the passage, sealing the President away from Secret Service.  Ben will show him the way out regardless, but does ask about the book.  Once they’re outside, the President gives Ben the clues he needs to find the book, but he has to hurry, Ben is now the target of a federal manhunt for kidnapping the President.  Oh, and if he has a moment, check out something on page forty-seven.

Ben meets Riley and Abigail at the Library of Congress and they head for the special collections.  The call number is the combination to reveal the book.  He gets a picture of what he needs, sending Riley and Abigail ahead when the FBI shows up.  There’s a brief car chase where Ben has to get into Abigail’s car.  But they have what they need. 

Wilkinson has been following Ben’s progress and goes to his mother first to threaten her; she cannot reveal the true translation to Ben, only to Wilkinson, who has further information.  She drops a hint to Patrick and Ben meets up with them at Mount Rushmore.  Wilkinson wants credit for finding the treasure and Ben hints that Wilkinson may also need the money.  Rocks in the lake behind the mountain lead to an underground temple.  They all get trapped and must find their way through.  Lots of traps lay in wait, like balancing on a board on top a pillar. They do find the golden temple, after water drains away.  Sadly, the water begins to rush back in and they’re almost trapped again.  Ben is willing to sacrifice himself to save his parents, Riley, and Abigail, but Wilkinson ends up drowning instead.  His final request is that credit goes to his family.

Ben meets with the President, who clears him of charges. Ben instructs that credit is to be shared with Wilkinson.  And there is another sequel hook that hasn’t come to fruition, when the President asks Ben about page forty-seven.  The film ends happily, Riley meets a girl, Abigail and Ben get back together, and even his parents may be on better terms now.

I do wonder how there is a connection between “pre-Columbian” culture and the Sioux of North Dakota; there is a lot of land between something that is reminiscent of Aztec or Inca and the Black Hills, and a lot of different people in between.

The action and adventure portions keep the suspense going; though I do wonder how these cultures created the booby traps.  Sure, they make sense trying to find the treasure, but how did they work creating them and how did they decide on those clues and such?  Probably a result of watching so many of these kind of movies.  Still like them; just have to suspend disbelief for a little bit.  And of course, the history!  If  these movies get more people interested in history, great!

Riley is comedic relief, though a bit whiny in the second film.  I think Nicholas Cage was a good leading man; he delivered a believable performance.  And I like Abigail; she’s intelligent, but not afraid to handle things on her own if need be.  And I really wished they had made the third movie, because I still wonder, what was the President looking for on page forty-seven?

Up Next: More history conspiracies with Da Vinci Code and Angles and Demons

They Did a Panama

Sahara

Based on a Clive Cussler novel [I have not read this particular volume, but I have read his first in the Dirk Pitt series, The Mediterranean Caper; it was quite good, I’d readily read more…and we have a whole collection in the house].  It’s an action-adventure film that I categorize as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond.  Familiar faces abound; Matthew McConaughey stars as Dirk Pitt.  William H. Macy (a pilot in Air Force One) is Admiral Sandecker, Penélope Cruz is Eva Rojas, Steve Zahn is Al Giordino, and Lambert Wilson (he’s appeared in The Matrix franchise, and was Charles, the King of France in The Hollow Crown’s Henry V) is Yves Massarde.

The backstory of the movie is the last ironclad ship of the Civil War, the Texas runs the Union blockade, carrying gold coins from the Confederacy.  Fast forward a bit and we’re introduced to NUMA through newspaper clips, photos, and memorabilia.  Our main character, who hasn’t actually appeared on screen yet, was part of the Navy SEALS, then became a salvager through NUMA.  And another plot point is introduced, W.H.O. doctors are in Nigeria, tracking a disease that is spreading out of Mali.  Eva really wants to find the source of the disease, but is blocked by red tape.  She is attacked while tracking down a patient and rescued by a diver in the water; Dirk.  She wakes up aboard a ship and is briefly introduced to Al Giordino, Admiral Sandecker, and Rudi before Dirk makes another appearance, bringing up salvage from the ocean.  NUMA is presenting the sarcophagus at the museum that evening, which means Eva can pitch her plea to businessman Yves Massarde.  She gets her trip to Mali.

What we then find out is that Yves is actually in partnership with the local dictator who is making it dangerous to travel to Mali.  Dirk is also pursuing a lead on the Texas; he has a theory and a few supporting documents that the ironclad ship got caught up in a major storm and ended up in the Niger river.  He just has to find concrete evidence.  So he wheedles the use of Sandecker’s boat and agrees to take Eva up river.  They part, though agree to hook up again in Monte Ray.  Dirk finds evidence of the storm.  Eva and her partner are attacked again, though Eva hides in the well she is gathering evidence from.  Her partner is killed and by untying the rope and hiding her glow stick, she is not discovered. 

Dirk, Al, and Rudi run into local trouble on the water; bad guys are searching for the doctors.  They evade the bad guys, with Sandecker on the phone, asking about his boat.  Well, they “pull a Panama” [one of my favorite parts of the whole film] and the boat gets blown up.  Al and Dirk will go after Eva, Rudi is to report to Sandecker.  They’ve got some red algae that needs tested.  Al and Dirk make it in time to help rescue Eva, though she does quite fine climbing out of the well and shooting a bad guy.  They’re waylaid from getting out of the country by the local rebel group.  Eva finally figures out that the “plague” is a toxin.  Something is poisoning the water system, but far apart from each other.

Al finds the puzzle piece playing with the kids; when he has to retrieve a ball, there is a drawing of Dirk’s ironclad ship.  Years ago, what was desert was water, letting the ship ride upriver.  Then it dries out, burying the ship.  Which is how the toxin is spreading, through the underground river.  They find the Texas, they find the river, and they’ll find the source of the toxin.

Meanwhile, Sandecker is trying to wrangle up help to get “his boys” out of Mali, including going to an old CIA contact.  And Rudi runs his chemistry, discovering the toxin as well.  Which, if it hits the ocean, the whole world is in trouble.  But the U.S. Embassy guy doesn’t do anything, so it’s up to NUMA.

Al, Dirk, and Eva discover Yves solar power plant.  It has the side effect of storing some toxic barrels underground, which leaches into the water supply.  Yves finds them meddling and takes Eva hostage and dumps Dirk and Al in the desert.  The two buddies rescue themselves and fix up an airplane wreck into a ride (to the awesome tune of Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf.  Sweet Home Alabama played earlier).  Dirk calls Sandecker and works out a plan.  He and Al head back to the power plant to rescue Eva, but she has told Yves what his plant is causing.  So he decides to cut his losses.  (Here comes the Bond element) he’ll plant a bomb to blow up the plant, while he gets away in his helicopter.  Al goes after the bomb, Dirk goes after Eva.  He faces off with a bad guy on the top of the solar tower, and Eva jumps out of the helicopter.  Plant does not explode, but Yves still high-tails it out of there.

Now our heroes have to deal with the local warlord, Kazeem.  They hide in the ruins they find and discover the Texas while blowing up a sand dune.  They could hide out in the tough old ship, except Kazeem has armor-piercing bullets.  So they shoot an old cannon ball at him, blowing up his helicopter.  The rebels swoop in to intimidate the rest of Kazeem’s army.  Oh, and the Texas is full of Confederacy gold.  Which Sandecker reports to the Embassy guy, there is no gold belonging to the United States aboard the ship.  But he will consider to work for the U.S. government on a project-by-project basis in exchange for a new boat.  And of course, Dirk gets the girl.  And the fancy car.

To me, Sahara is a fun action movie that shows that history can be very interesting at times.  Who would have thought that a Confederate iron clad ship could end up in Africa?  History always ties to the present and there are several novel series out there that hit on that.  And it is really cool that an old cannon can blow up a helicopter! And kind of want to know what actually happened in Panama, and why did it involve blowing up a boat?

Up Next: More history in National Treasure

History Really Comes to Life

I’m back! I apologize for the hiatus, but between the holidays and working more and trying to read the very long list of books I have, it’s taken a bit to get back to blogging. But, we have lots of fun movies ahead, continuing with the action-adventure category. Onward!

Night at the Museum

A trilogy of films, more comedy than action/adventure per say, but considering they deal with history and a museum, they get placed here.  Headlining is Ben Stiller as Larry Daley.  Dick Van Dyke (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins) appears as Cecil, Mickey Rooney (whose career stretches back to the 1920s) is Gus, Rickey Gervais (funny man most famous for The Office [no, I haven’t watched]) is the no-nonsense museum director Dr. McPhee.  Robin Williams (y’all should know who he is; Mork from Ork, Genie in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc) plays Teddy Roosevelt.  Rami Malek (recently played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody) appears as Ahkmenrah and Owen Wilson is Western miniature Jedediah.  In Battle of the Smithsonian, Amy Adams joins as Amelia Earhart and the Jonas Brothers are the three singing cherubs.  Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, the Beast in the live-action Beauty and the Beast) joins as Lancelot in Secret of the Tomb, as does Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect; and honestly, not one of my famous actresses; not my kind of humor) as a security guard.  Ben Kingsley is Merenhahre, Ahkmenrah’s father, and Brennan Elliott (very popular in Hallmark movies) is Cecil’s father.

In the first movie, Larry ends up taking a job as a night guard at New York City’s Museum of Natural History so he can have a steady income to support his son.  The former trio of guards act a little odd and hand him an instruction book, and warn him to not let anything in or out of the museum.  Then he’s very surprised when he turns around the first evening and the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is missing.  He finds it and it proceeds to chase him, until he reads he is supposed to throw the bone.  The skeleton really is just a huge puppy and wants to play fetch.  The Easter Island head calls him a dum dum and wants gum gum.  Animals are alive, as are all the displays.  Luckily, Teddy Roosevelt helps Larry out.  He explains that the tablet of Akmenrah brings everything in the museum to life at night.

Come morning, Larry initially wants to quit, but when his son tells him how proud he is, he keeps the job.  Cecil the guard suggested he read up on history, so Larry hits the books and even asks questions of the pretty museum docent, Rebecca.  Things go better the following night; he sets up his son’s remote-controlled car to drag “Rexie’s” bone around, lets Dexter the monkey steal fake keys, and tries to make peace between the Roman and Western diorama figures.  Sadly, it all goes nuts and Dexter lets some of the displays out.  The monkey gets in a slapping match with Larry, until Roosevelt puts a stop to it; “who is evolved?” 

Larry is almost in danger of losing his job, but begs one more chance.  He takes his son to work that evening and puzzlingly, nothing comes to life.  The tablet is gone.  They discover the three old security guards have stolen it, along with other artifacts.  Turns out, the tablet brings back their youth every night and they intend to keep that.  They planted evidence, hoping to get Larry fired.  It becomes a fight for the tablet and Larry gets the museum displays to work together so they can keep the magic alive.  They also release Akmenrah, who is very polite and knowledgeable.

Larry wins out, but is again in danger of being fired.  There are news reports of the exhibits outside the museum.  Except it has drawn in record crowds, so Larry gets to keep his job, and throws a party at night.

The second film takes place two years later and the displays are getting packed up, ready to be shipped off to the Federal Archives for permanent storage.  Larry is now the CEO of Daley Devices, thanks to inventions he’s come up with inspired by his time as a night guard.  He visits the museum and speaks to Teddy and finds out what is going on.  The museum board wants to see progress, so they are installing lots of new holographic displays.  Teddy will remain in New York, as well as Akmenrah and the tablet.  Meaning, it is the last night many of the characters will be brought to life.  Some blame Larry for not being around for the past year or so to speak for the museum; he’s too busy on his phone.

The next night, Larry gets a call from Jed; they’re in trouble, the monkey has stolen the tablet and its now on its way to D.C. and Akmenrah’s brother, Kamunrah is a bad guy.  So Larry is off to D.C., aided a bit by his son.  It is his son who points out that there are nineteen museums that make up the Smithsonian Institute and the archives run underneath all of them.  Larry finds his friends and the tablet, then Kamunrah, who wants to rule the world and bring back his undead army.  Larry escapes, meeting Amelia Earhart and Custer along the way.  [I love how Sacajawea finds Custer to be an utter idiot.]  Kamunrah gathers Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone to help him.  They capture Jed and that forces Larry to agree to find “the secret at the heart of Pharaoh’s tomb” in order to save him.  The bust of Teddy Roosevelt helps a bit, but Larry has to find the Einstein bobble-heads at the Air and Space museum.

That is indeed me, as a child, in Captain Kirk’s chair

Side note: I’m a huge fan of the Smithsonian; history major and all that.  At one point, I thought of finding a job there (hard to come by).  I’ve visited them several times, including as a child.  A few memorable experiences: there is a picture of me in Captain Kirk’s chair from the original Star Trek series, and I can distinctly remember looking up at a camouflaged Italian WWII plane and telling my mother it was a “pizza plane.”  Mom looks up and yeah, looks like pizza to a three-year-old, with spots that resembled pepperoni.  My dad loves planes and flying so we make sure to visit the Air and Space museum and it was nice to revisit a few places when I was on a trip in college.

Back to the film: Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch try to join Kamunrah, but they’re not evil enough.  The Tuskegee airmen thank Amelia for “clearing the runway” for them and all the planes and shuttle almost take off in the museum, but Larry says no-go.  Einstein reveals the answer is pi.  Kamunrah’s men catch up, so Amelia and Larry have to use the Wright flyer to escape.  Then crash through the beautiful stained-glass window at the Smithsonian castle.  Kamunrah claims the tablet and the combination and opens the door to the Underworld.  Half-bird, half-men emerge.  Then Abraham Lincoln stomps in and scares the birdmen back to the Underworld.  Back-up arrives and Larry gets the bad guys to fight amongst themselves.  He pushes Kamunrah through the gate and all is right with their world.  Amelia agrees to fly the New Yorkers back before the sun rises.

Larry gets his old night guard job back and implements night hours at the museum, using the living displays instead of holograms.  The museum director reveals that a mysterious benefactor donated a large endowment, on the proviso that everything remains the same.  Larry happens to spot a woman who looks suspiciously like Amelia Earhart.

In the third movie, the crew heads to London because the magic of the table it fading.  This accidentally ruins a huge night at the museum and is close to costing the director his job.  Larry finally explains what has been going on and convinces him to send Larry, Akmenrah, and the tablet to the London museum.  Teddy, Sacajawea, Atilla, Jed, and Octavius manage to sneak along.  They meet Sir Lancelot and journey to find Akmenrah’s parents.  The full back story comes out, between Cecil being the boy on the original expedition to find the tablet and the history of the tablet.  It must be recharged by the moon every night to keep its power.  But it’s been locked floors underground for fifty years.  Now it’s a race to get it recharged before all the characters die.

Sadly, Lancelot is a little delusional and takes the tablet, thinking it to be the fabled Holy Grail and he’s determined to find King Arthur (not realizing he is a mythical character).  Who he does find is Hugh Jackman playing King Arthur in a production of Camelot.  (Yep, that is really Hugh Jackman.  He even does a Wolverine bit [hilarious!].)  Larry talks Lancelot around and the tablet it recharged just when you think all hope is lost.

The displays come to an agreement; Akmenrah should stay in London with his parents, and the tablet.  Teddy and the others will go back to New York, knowing they won’t waken again.  Lancelot has come around and will keep the triceratops skeleton in line.  Larry’s not ready to lose his friends, but says goodbye nevertheless.  Teddy’s final words are “it’s time for your next adventure.  Smile, my boy, it’s sunrise.”  Larry takes the heat for the disaster at the planetarium opening, losing his job but allowing the director to keep his.  Larry goes back to school to get his degree to become a teacher.  He watches outside the museum three years later when a display visits from London, including the tablet.  The director gets to finally see everything come to life and party.

The film ends “In Loving Memory of Mickey Rooney.  And For Robin Williams.  Magic Never Ends.”  This was their last film…so it makes the ending really sad.  Overall, I find these movies hilarious. For me, I already knew a lot of this history, but I hope it inspired others to read more about some of the figures brought to life.  Owen Wilson as Jedediah and his conflict with Octavius is probably my favorite part; these little guys taking on a huge world.  Robin Williams is superb and it was very surprising the first time to discover that Dick Van Dyke was a bad guy!  He’s lovable Bert!  And can still dance.  Great to see Hugh Jackman’s cameo and Dan Stevens was great as Lancelot.

Next Time: Sahara

“Cry God, for Harry, England, and St. George!”

Partaking in something that satisfies both the historian in me and the English major: Shakespeare.  Now, I believe I have mentioned before that I am not a dutiful English major; I don’t like Shakespeare, well, I don’t like reading Shakespeare.  It’s boring and most teachers pound it into our skulls by analyzing it to death.  I hate that.  But, BBC put together a phenomenal cast and put Shakespeare’s histories on screen (which I am aware has been done before, heck, I tried to watch a version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart and couldn’t make it through it.  Now, there was a slightly modern version of Hamlet done with David Tennant that was fantastic).  They timed the first arc to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics; this arc included Richard II, Henry IV parts I and II, and Henry V.  Their second arc included Henry VI and Richard III in 2016.

Gut reactions?  Richard II was a bit odd.  Henry IV was wonderful to see and Henry V is utterly magnificent.  Henry VI is simply everyone changing sides and the start of the War of the Roses and is interesting to see from this perspective.  As for Richard III; I remember doing a segment on the historical accuracy of the play in a British history course in college and I can certainly see the Tudor propaganda in the play (oh, they all cut out and condense history, but then, these are plays, not true histories…actually, I’d like to see historical documentaries on these people), yet I now see what all the hype is about.

Above all, these are a veritable who’s who in British acting.

Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (Q in Craig’s James Bond and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns) as the king.  Opposite him is Rory Kinnear (also appears with Whishaw in Skyfall, and Spectre as Bill Tanner, which he briefly played in Quantum of Solace as well) as Bolingbroke, who goes on to be crowned Henry IV.  The great Patrick Stewart appears as John of Gaunt.  If Thomas Mowbray, who argues with Bolingbroke, looks familiar, that’s because he’s played by James Purefoy, who portrays Colville aka Edward, the Black Prince of Wales in A Knight’s Tale [making this a bit funny to a historian, because Edward, the Black Prince of Wales was Richard II’s father: his father was King Edward III, but he died before his father did and so thus, his son inherited the throne].  David Morrissey appears as the Earl of Northumberland.  He’s also been the Duke of Norfolk in The Other Boleyn Girl [uncle to Anne], and has appeared in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, “The Next Doctor”.  We briefly see David Bradley (Filch in Harry Potter and Walter Frey in Game of Thrones) as the gardener and Lindsay Duncan (also appeared in a 2009 episode of Doctor Who, “Water of Mars,” she was the mother in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a queen in two episodes of Merlin, and Lady Smallwood in several episodes of Sherlock) as the Duchess of York.

The very gifted Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King [the animated classic], Tiberius in Kingdom of Heaven, Brom in Eragon, Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask, and Alfred in several of DC’s newer Batman movies) takes over as the older Henry IV.  Tom Hiddleston (we love him as Loki in the MCU) shines as Prince Hal.  Julie Walters (Mrs. Wealsey in Harry Potter and Rosie in both Mamma Mia movies) is Mistress Quickly, Robert Pugh (he’s Craster in Game of Thrones, amongst other roles in Kingdom of Heaven, The White Queen [which also depicts the War of the Roses], and Master and Commander) is Owain Glyndŵr [that is the proper spelling, IMDB lists him as Owen Glendower; a real Welsh rebel that I’ve got a book on].  Oh hey, there’s Michelle Dockery (Mary in Downton Abbey) as Kate Percy, and Harry Lloyd (Baines in 2007’s Doctor Who “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” Will Scarlett in BBC’s Robin Hood, and insane Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is Mortimer, and Joe Armstrong (Allan a Dale in Robin Hood) is Hotspur.  His father, Alum Armstrong (he’s had roles in Van Helsing, Braveheart, and Patriot Games amongst others) plays Hotspur’s father Northumberland, and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, Sir Richard Carlisle in Downton Abbey, and 2010’s Doctor Who “The Time of Angels” and “Flash and Stone”) pops up as Warwick.

Of course, Prince Hal graduates to King Henry V in the next installment.  This was the bit that makes me almost like Shakespeare.  Tom Hiddleston delivers some of the best known speeches with such quiet passion.  “Once more unto the breach,” stirs my blood, and he got the role of Henry V with “St. Crispin’s day,” which includes that famous line: “we few/ we happy few/ we band of brothers.”  One almost cries.  And his wooing of Katherine…if a dashing man ever said those words to me, I’d be weak-kneed.  I remember rehearsals for faire, male cast members are encouraged to woo female patrons (worked on me when I was a patron), and so they practiced on female cast members; I was just happy some guy was saying nice words to me, I didn’t really care what he was saying.

If Corporal Nym [grrr, I hate his name’s “Nym,” because I want to use it for a headstrong female character in my saga] looks familiar, he’s Tom Brooke and he’s appeared briefly in a few Sherlock episodes.  And look, there’s Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursely in Harry Potter, King George in On Stranger Tides) as the Duke of Burgundy [this was one of his last roles].  The ever talented John Hurt (the dragon Kilgarah in Merlin, the War Doctor of Doctor Who, Ollivander in Harry Potter, Professor Oxley in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Montrose in Rob Roy, and other roles going back to the 60’s)  acts as the chorus [and he just passed away in 2017].  Some other familiar faces join us in Henry V; Anton Lesser (Qyburn in Game of Thrones, an episode of The Musketeers, Harold Warne in Miss Potter, and other roles) as Exeter [he’ll stay on through Henry VI and Richard III] and Owen Teale (part of some older Doctor Who episodes, The Last Legion, and the Headmaster in Tolkien, but I’m sure we recognize him as Thorne in Game of Thrones ) as Captain Fluellen.

Tom Sturridge takes up the mantle of Henry VI.  Sophie Okonedo (Liz Ten in “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens” in 2010’s Doctor Who) joins him as Margaret of Anjou, and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey, Monuments Men, several episodes of Doctor Who as a pirate captain, he was even in Tomorrow Never Dies) is so encouraging as Gloucester.  Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Lord Charles Fox in Amazing Grace, and he’s even appeared in Doctor Who 2010’s “A Christmas Carol”) briefly appears as Mortimer.

In the second part, Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, amongst other roles) pops up as the Duke of York [called Plantagenet in Shakespeare as a claimant to the old royal dynasty]’s son Richard.  Phoebe Fox (the Duchess of Savoy in The Musketeers) is Anne Neville.  James Fleet as Hastings has been in several period pieces.  And say hello to the appearance of Andrew Scott (C in Spectre and Moriarty in Sherlock) as King Louis of France.  Somerset is played by Ben Miles (Peter Townsend in The Crown), and George, the Duke of Clarence is played by Sam Troughton (Much in BBC’s Robin Hood).

Benedict takes center stage in Richard III.  He is brilliant in the role.  I dislike the character of Richard, but Benedict delivers exquisitely.  Let me go on a little historical accuracy rant: historical evidence proves that Richard was not a hunchback; he may have had a slight difference in shoulder height, but is regarded to have been a tall, broad-shouldered man.  Nor was he the “Machiavellian villain” Shakespeare depicts him as, at least, no more than any other man of that time.  Shakespeare wrote him as a villain to please the Elizabethan court in order to paint her grandfather as a benevolent conqueror.  As another historian pointed out to me, if Richard had the princes of the tower in his custody, he could have produced them in order to throw suspicion off himself.  We also get the addition of Judi Dench as Richard’s mother, Cecily.

Historical note: there are several “Duke of Gloucester” throughout the plays and throughout history, because it is a title, typically a relative of the monarch.  Same as the Duke of York, and Mortimer is a title (which I got confused a bit, seeing a Mortimer in Henry IV and one in Henry VI.)  I swear, one needs a family tree to reference when watching these histories.  I’ll try to explain the central plot of the War of the Roses as best I can.  Edward III had several sons, the eldest of which was Edward, the Black Prince of Wales.  His third son (his second died young-ish) was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his fourth son was Edmund, holding the title Duke of York, and his fifth son was Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester.  The Black Prince’s son was Richard II.  The way that Bolingbroke claimed the throne was that he had a right to it as the son of Edward’s third son (hence, Richard and Bolingbroke were cousins and until Bolingbroke’s exile, they were close).  Bolingbroke became Henry IV [Lancaster], who has at least four sons, the eldest of whom became Henry V.  Henry V died tragically young and his son, Henry VI, assumed the throne incredibly young, only nine months old.  England was ruled by the Lord Protector, his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (one of Henry V’s brothers).

Then along comes Richard, Duke of York (the great-great-grandson of the Edward III’s second son by way of Lionel, Duke of Clarence’s daughter, then grandson, then great-granddaughter).  Just like Bolingbroke challenged Richard II for the throne due to ineptitude, the Duke of York [white rose] challenged Henry VI [followers wore a red rose].  The Duke of York’s son, Edward took the throne, becoming King Edward IV.  He had three children with Elizabeth Woodville; Elizabeth of York, Edward (briefly Edward V), and Richard (also holding the title Duke of York).   Edward IV has several younger brothers, including George, the Duke of Clarence, and Richard, the Duke of Gloucester.  Once Edward IV and George were dead, Richard declared Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville unlawful, making his offspring with her illegitimate.  He took the throne as Richard III.  There’s the York contingent.

But back with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his second marriage produced several generations, to John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset, then his son John, then his daughter Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, and then had Henry, who in Shakespeare was called Richmond, thus making him the Lancastrian claimant.  [Edmund Tudor was the son of Owen Tudor (a Welshman), who married the widowed Katherine (wife of Henry V)…as for Henry V’s claim of “I am Welsh, as you know,”…well, he was Prince of Wales and born there, but not actually Welsh by blood; I would guess it was a line Shakespeare inserted to play to Queen Elizabeth’s Welsh ancestry].  Henry Tudor became Henry VII and he married Elizabeth of York (remember, Edward IV’s eldest daughter) and uniting the Lancastrians and Yorkists and ending the War of the Roses  From here, we should know how things go from there for a bit.

This is the sort of stuff that fascinates me as a historian; how the different lines come together and play out.  And I understand Shakespeare’s language a bit better watching it performed, more of a dialogue rather than verse.

On a different note: I highly recommend Netflix’s Enola Holmes film.  Millie Bobby Brown is precisely the female heroine we need; smart and not afraid of action.  Henry Cavill is a calmer Sherlock Holmes, but I greatly desire to see more of these characters.  I may just check out the novels the film was based on.

“Waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp/ on this humid Monday morning/ in this Congressional incubator”

1776

An entire musical about creating the Declaration of Independence and most famously stars William Daniels (K.I.T.T. from the original Knightrider, and Mr. Feeney in Boy Meets World) as John Adams (yes, that is why the school is named John Adams and the schools in Girl Meets World are Quincy Adams and Abigail Adams).  He created the role on Broadway.  This musical did feature into a section of curriculum in my sophomore English class; but I was well familiar with the show before then; I was watching this in kindergarten.  I even found and read a published copy of the screenplay.  And Lin-Manuel Miranda does credit 1776 as a bit of inspiration for his smash hit of Hamilton.  I like to watch this film around the Fourth of July, for obvious reasons and I tend to listen to The Lees of Old Virginia when I visit Virginia.  And I am descended from some Lees; not related to Robert E. or Richard Henry; mine were miners from Wales in the early twentieth century (though my mother did find it funny when they attended a performance of the show and the actor pointed to them, not knowing they were Lees).

The film begins with John Adams musing near the Liberty Bell, then fetched to help vote on the very important issue of whether all the Rhode Island militia must wear matching uniforms.  Good God, indeed.  Adams thunders down several flights of stairs to enter the hall, rebuking “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace.  That two, are a law firm.  And that three or more become a Congress!  And by God I have had this Congress!”  For ten years, King George has imposed more and more taxes on the colonies and when they begin to stand up for themselves, the British have blockaded their ports and started a fight.  But Congress still refuses to hear any of Adams proposals on independence; even so much as the courtesy of open debate.  “Good God, what in hell are you waiting for!”  Sit Down, John the members of Congress cry.  Adams implores them to “vote yes!”  “Good God, consider yourselves fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!” he cries, then storms out to discuss the matter with God.  For one year, the Congress has been sitting there, Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve, and done nothing.  Adams would rather have a catastrophe than Congress; “good God, sir, was that fair?”  Then his wife, Abigail [one of two female roles in the entire show] chimes in.  Adams asks about the salt peter he asked the women to make; they have not done as he asks, because he neglected to tell them how to make it.  Besides, they require pins.  But they finish affectionately “till then/ till then/ I am/ as I ever was/ and ever shall be/ yours.”  (A lot of this is taken from letters they wrote to each other as well as diaries and documents the men kept during the time) [Fun Fact: the historical cobblestone street exterior shots are from Colonial Williamsburg]

william-daniels-as-john-adams-in-1776

Adams seeks out Benjamin Franklin the next day to discuss their next step.  Both are dispirited by their fellow Congressmen’s actions: “with one hand they can raise an army, dispatch of their own to lead it, and cheer the news from Bunker’s Hill.  And with the other, they wave the olive branch, begging the king for a happy and permanent reconciliation.  Fat King George has declared us in rebellion, why in bloody hell can’t they?” Adams moans.  “Reconciliation, my ass.  The people want independence.”  Franklin points out that what America is doing has never been done before; no colony has broken from the parent nation.  Then thinks of a humorous saying that treason is an excuse for the winners to hang the losers.  Besides, “the people have read Mr. Paine’s Common Sense, I doubt very much that Congress has.”

Congress doesn’t like to listen to Adams, Franklin continues, because the man is obnoxious and disliked.  Thus, if Adams wants the topic of independence to be discussed, it would be best if someone else proposes it.  “Never!” Adams declares.  Well, did Franklin have anyone in mind?  Perhaps…and in rides flamboyant Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia.  Adams is not keen on the notion, but Richard is happy to help.  Virginia is a known supporter of independence, but its government in Williamsburg has not formally committed to the cause.  Richard eagerly muses that once Virginia is official, the middle colonies and then the south will follow.  “Gentlemen, to Virginia, the mother of American Independence!”  “Incredible, we’re free and he hasn’t even left yet,” Adams grouses.  Richard knows he will succeed because “my name is Richard Henry Lee/ Virginia is my home…for I am FFV/ the first family/ in the sovereign colony of Virginia/ yes, the FFV/ the oldest family/ in the oldest colony in America!”  “You see it’s here a Lee/ there a Lee/ everywhere a Lee, a Lee!”  Franklin joins in on The Lees of Old Virginia starting words that end with “l-y,” so Richard can announce “Lee!”  Adams mutters “spoken modest-Lee/ God help us.”  Richard is so confident, he feels that “God leans a little on the side/ of the Lees, the Lees of Old Virginia!”  He names several Lees, including his nephew, General “Light-horse” Harry Lee [father of Robert E. Lee from the Civil War].

Quick historical note: there were families known as the FFV, the First Families of Virginia and the Lees were one of them.  They were not necessarily the first settlers of the colony, but were the most socially prominent and wealthiest.  Most had strong ties back in England and friends with King Charles II.  Hence why Virginia was sometimes referred to as “Old Dominion” and “Cavalier Country.”  The first Lee in Virginia was Richard Henry’s grandfather, who emigrated to Jamestown in 1642.  At one point, I wanted to move to Virginia to utilize my history degree, since colonial history has many ties to British history and the Stuarts (Charles II was a Stuart; George III was a Hanoverian, the subsequent dynasty in England) were a topic of interest.

Carrying on, Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia arrives to Congress and both sides are eager for him to join, though Rutledge of South Carolina mandates that the deep South speak with one voice; it’s traditional.  We witness the dynamics of Congress; Pennsylvania is divided between Franklin and Dickinson, Judge Wilson bows to Dickinson’s requests.  Delaware is also divided.  New Jersey hasn’t shown, New York continually abstains, courteously (because they have no instructions; everyone in New York government speaks very loud and very fast; no one hears anyone else and thus, nothing gets done).  North Carolina respectively yields to South Carolina.  And just when Dickinson, leader of the opposition to independence, starts to believe that the upstart idea has blown itself out, Lee returns with the proposition from Williamsburg: “Resolved, that these united colonies are and have a right to be, free and independent states.  That they are absolved of allegiance to the British Crown and that all political alliance between them and the stage of great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved!” [Historically known as the Lee Resolution]

Now comes the debate.  Dickinson asks Adams ‘why.’  Why do the New England colonies want to break with the greatest empire the world has ever known?  Why forsake Hastings and Magna Carta , Tudor and Plantagenet?  Is not England the noblest and most civilized nation known to man?  Adams is simply an agitator.  If he has disagreements, he must provide a gentler mean of breaking with England, short of revolution.  Well, Adams first point is that the colonists are no longer Englishmen, they are Americans.  Franklin wakes from his nap when Dickinson starts banging his stick, “Englishmen!”  After a joke about bulls, the elder statesmen points out that Americans are being denied the rights of Englishmen.  The colonists are a rougher breed; they are a new nationality and require a new nation.  Rutledge of South Carolina chimes in, wanting to know who will govern South Carolina in the new nation.  The people of South Carolina, or the people of Massachusetts?  Adams insists it will be one nation.  Well, South Carolina desires independency, for South Carolina.  They envision sovereign states united for mutual protection; meaning that South Carolina does not have to do what Massachusetts or Pennsylvania does.  Another Congressman argues that they should wait until they somehow win the war (for the are fighting against the largest army of that time period); once they win, they can declare anything they please.  Adams urges that the men fighting need a purpose or goal that they are fighting for.  They more than make up for Britain’s army with spirit.  Adams and Dickinson start name calling, ending with “landlord!” and “lawyer!” beating each other’s sticks.

The fight breaks up with Cesar Rodney of Delaware collapses.  But New Jersey has arrived, finally, led by Reverend John Witherspoon [an actual ancestor of mine on my father’s side].  And they have been instructed to vote for independence.  But Dickinson moves that any vote for independence must be unanimous.  And Hancock agrees; so no brother is fighting his brother [oh boy, bit of foreshadowing].  Adams must stall for time and moves for a postponement, so they can craft a document listing their reasons for separating from England, keeping with European tradition.  In essence, declaring their illegal rebellion in fact legal.  Thus, a committee is created, including Adams, Franklin, Sherman (CT), and Livingston (NY).  They ask Lee, but he has been invited to join the Virginian government, so they derail Jefferson’s plans to leave for home and have him join; they need a Virginian.

Franklin figures he can get Adams to write the declaration, “to your legal mind/ and brilliance, we defer.”   But Adams reminds Franklin “well, if I’m the one to do it/ they’ll run their quill pens through it/ I’m obnoxious and disliked/ you know that, sir;” it would be better if Franklin wrote it.  But, Mr. Adams, Franklin “won’t put politics on paper/ it’s a mania/ so I refuse/ to use the pen/ in Pennsylvania.”  Sherman is not controversial, but he doesn’t “know a participle from a predicate.”  Livingston is a diplomat, but has a new son at home, so he’s “going home to celebrate/ and pop a cork.”  That leaves Jefferson.  Adams flatters him, saying “you write ten times better than any man in Congress, including me.  For a man of only thirty-three years, you have a happy talent of composition and a remarkable felicity of expression.”  Jefferson insists on going home.  Adams refuses to let him; he will make Jefferson write it, by physical force if necessary (note: there’s about a foot difference in height between the two men).  Adams knows how Jefferson feels, startling everyone; he continues to yearn for his own wife.  But it’s Jefferson’s duty, damn it.  Adams shoves the quill pen into Jefferson’s hands and declares, “do as you like with it!”  Jefferson struggles to start and it’s not until Adams sends for his wife that he shows any inspiration.  Well, after he attends to his wife first.

Adams reminisces on his wife; they both live solitary, celibate lives at the moment and hate it.  But Abigail ensures her husband “what was there, John/ still is there, John.”  Yours, Yours, Yours.  When Franklin returns in the morning, Adams remarks that he won’t be remembered in the history books, only Franklin.  “Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing.  Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse.  Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod, and the three of them, Franklin, Washington, and the horse, conducted the entire Revolution all by themselves.”  (Adams has a point; we hear far more about Franklin, especially as young students, and when we do hear about Adams, he’s usually regulated to a background character.  Washington and Jefferson are both better known.)

1776 (1972) Directed by Peter H. Hunt Shown from left: Howard DaMartha finally emerges to see Franklin and Adams and they ask how Jefferson wooed such a lovely young woman, for he is not a verbose man.  Instead, He Plays the Violin; “he tucks it/ right under his chin/ and he bows/ oh he bows/ for he knows/ yes, he knows/ That it’s high, high, high/ diddle diddle/ twixt my heart/ Tom, and his fiddle/ my strings are unstrung/ high, high, high, high/ I am undone.”  (As a young child and even into my teenage years, the innuendo of this went over my head; I learned it innocently and that is how I viewed it, despite my friends attempts to change my mind.)  When Tom is not playing the violin, they dance.  So Martha dances with both Franklin and even Adams (such a pretty gown, with a poufy skirt).

While Jefferson writes, Franklin and Adams must see to persuading the other colonies.  When news of whoring and drinking amongst the army in New Brunswick is reported to Congress (most of Washington’s dispatches were filled with doom and despair), Adams and Franklin take Samuel Chase to win Maryland’s vote.  Dickinson cheers that Adams is gone.  So it is time for the Cool, Cool, Considerate Men to reign (supposedly President Nixon ordered this song removed and it was from the video release, but the film was not destroyed and thus restored when released on DVD).  These conservative men [meaning they are not the fiery men like John and Samuel Adams; it has nothing to do with present political standings and viewpoints] “have land/ cash in hand/ self command/ future planned/ fortune thrives/ society survives/ in neatly ordered lives.”  “What we do/ we do rationally/ we never ever/ go off/ half-cocked, not we/  why begin/ till we know we can win/ and if we cannot win/ why bother to begin?”  Why risk losing?  (Hmm, Adams was right a bit, calling Dickinson a coward.)  Dickinson asks Hancock to join them as a man of property, but Hancock would rather join Adams.  Dickinson warns that Adams and his friends will be branded traitors.  “Traitors to what, Mr. Dickinson?  The British Crown, or the British half-crown (piece of money)?  Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”  Dickinson argues that “most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why, they will follow us.”

The film takes a sad tone after this, when the Congressional custodians ask the dispatch rider about himself.  He begins to eagerly recount he’s seen fighting and two of his best friends got shot in the same day, not far from their homes.  Then their mothers look for them on the battlefields, Momma Look Sharp.

Everyone reconvenes for the reading of the Declaration of Independence.  Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson wait outside the room.  Adams vows it’s a masterpiece.  What’s left to decide is the symbol of America.  Should it be a dove, an eagle, or a turkey?  Franklin pushes the turkey, but Adams swoops in and declares it will be an eagle.  “Though the shell/ may belong to Great Britain/ the eagle inside/ belongs to us!”  Then comes nearly a week of revisions.  Adams tries to shut down some of the extensive ones; “it’s a revolution, dammit; we’re going to have to offend somebody!”  Jefferson insists that the king remains a tyrant; up till now, he’s been going along with Congress, but he insists that passage be scratched back in.  Franklin counsels Dickinson that “those that give up some of their liberties in order to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty, nor safety.”

But a larger battle comes to head; the issue of slavery.  South Carolina wants the passage removed from the Declaration, for they wish to retain their peculiar institution.  Rutledge points out that Jefferson himself owns slave, for all that he comments the Good Book abhors it.  Adams insist they are Americans; they are people and they are here.  But Rutledge brings up that New England profits from the slave trade as well, despite their propriety; they provide the ships and trade on the African coast.  Molasses to Rum to slaves is the trade triangle, and Rutledge illustrates an auction until he is warned.  “Hail Boston/ Hail Charleston/ who stinkest/ the most?” he finishes.  Then the whole South walks out.  Franklin and Adams argue.  Adams storms up to the bell tower and ponders the position he is in with Abigail.  She urges him to remember commitment.  And there is a surprise waiting for him.  She sent the salt peter.  Adams orders one of the aids to go out and buy every damn pin in Philadelphia for the ladies.

Reinvigorated, Adams urges Franklin and Jefferson to continue working; the vote is in the morning.  Hancock offers to do what Adams wants; he’s still a Massachusetts man, but Adams implores him to remain a fair man.  Then Adams has the hall to himself in the dark for a moment, looking over Washington’s last dispatch, quoting Is Anybody There?  Does anybody care?  Passionately shouting “Does anybody see/ what I see…I see fireworks/ I see the pageant/ and pomp and parade/ I hear the bells ringing out/ I hear the canons roar/ I see Americans/ all Americans free/ forevermore.”  Dr. Hall startles him by entering and moves his vote to ‘yay,’ openly recalling something he read from Edmund Burke, a member of Britain’s Parliament, that a representative owes his people his judgment and he fails if he does not do so.

The vote is called in the morning.  Delaware brings Cesar Rodney back to have a majority vote.  Pennsylvania passes so they can continue to debate amongst themselves.  When they come to South Caroline, Rutledge faces down Adams and Jefferson and Jefferson himself scratches the passage out.  Adams and Franklin argue amongst themselves that they will be guilty of the same thing they are rebelling against; how will posterity forever them?  Franklin states that the issue right now is independence.  Yes, posterity will frown on them, but they will be dead.  And they’re men, not demi-gods.  With the South on their side, the vote for independence comes down to Pennsylvania.  Franklin votes yes.  Dickinson votes no.  Now, it all rests on Judge Wilson.  There is no precedence here to go by.  And he’s not like Dickinson, he doesn’t want to be remembered.  If he sides with the majority, he’s one of many.  If he sides with Dickinson, he’ll be the man who prevented American independence.  He votes ‘yay.’  Dickinson will not sign the Declaration and thus cannot remain in Congress, but he is still loyal to America and will join the fight in her defense, even if he hopes to one day reconcile with England.  Adams leads the cheer for Dickinson as he leaves.  The official copy is brought out for signing, John Hancock’s signature being the first and largest, so King George can read it without his glasses.  The bell chimes as each man signs, the date reading July 4th, and the camera pulls back to show a mirror image of John Trumbull’s famous painting.

1776 end scene

Yes, there are a few historical inaccuracies in the show.  The Declaration of Independence was ratified on July fourth, but it wasn’t signed until August second.  Some of the debates  were re-worked for a bit for dramatic effect.  Still, it is a lot more accurate than many other shows and movies (cough-Braveheart-cough).  There have since been further retellings of these men, such as an HBO miniseries in 2008 on John Adams based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, starring Paul Giamatti (I believe my mother has read the book and I’m not sure if she has watched the series).  There is of course, the recent smash Broadway hit of Hamilton (which premieres on Disney+ on July 3rd).  But this show owns a piece of my heart.  It was probably one of my first history lessons.  When we covered it in sophomore English, my classmates would come to me for answers because I sat there, reciting the whole film.  A friend and I wanted to do a gender-swapped production; she’d be Franklin and I’d be Adams.  Though I love The Lees of Old Virginia, it would be fun to sing Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.  While Molasses to Rum is not a pleasant song, John Cullum performs it well.  William Daniels is wonderful as John Adams, though he is of equal status as Mr. Feenie.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to message me.

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