Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice

Directed by: Jonathon Frakes

Release Date: 2008

Contains spoilers

‘The Librarian’ series are a set of films starring Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen, a librarian at the New York metropolitan library. The library hosts a secret area (as big as it needs to be) where relics are kept, and the job of librarian has a lot more excitement attached to it then one would immediately believe. Of course there is absolutely nothing original about the TV films, of which this is the third, there is a great big dollop of Indiana Jones (but let me tell you at this point that I rate this Librarian offering a lot more than I did the recent and inferior fourth film of that series, may the series rest in peace now). But more than that, this is Boys Own Adventures for the noughties.

You see whilst there is little that is original in these films – though by my looking at this episode here it is obvious that this one features vampires – it really doesn’t matter. They know they are not original, they carry references like some folks wear hearts upon their sleeves and they look to have a good old fashioned adventure. This film began its UK TV run on Sky Movies last night and started airing in the States a week before

almost Bond, but far to geekyIn this one we begin with Flynn over in England, bidding on a Ming vase that is being auctioned. The entire opening has a James Bond feel, with Flynn in Tux, until he blows it by sneezing on champagne bubbles and then explaining that it wasn’t champagne anyway but cava – the man is a geek. His contact back at the library, Charlene (Jane Curtin), has told him to stop rival bidder Mason getting the vase but to not go over budget.

attempted suicide by ExcaliburUnfortunately, as the auction goes on, he is on the phone to his upset girlfriend and the price goes up due to his conversation as much as anything. By the time he gets back to New York, he has smashed the vase to retrieve the philosopher’s stone, had a sword fight with Mason, lost his girl and spent a million pounds. By the time he threatens suicide by (self animated) Excalibur, Charlene and head librarian Judson (Bob Newhart) suggest he takes a vacation.

Castle DraculaWhilst Flynn was melting down, over in the Carpathians and (presumably) at the rather impressive castle of Vlad Draculea a group of balaclava wearing men abseil into a vault. They are there, it becomes clear, for the sake of Russia. They find what they are looking for. Later they appear in the lecture of a professor at Bucharest University, one Professor Lazlo (Bruce Davison). They are led by ex-KGB bigwig Sergei Kubichek (Dikran Tulaine) and are now looking for another artefact – a chalice.

dream womanFlynn doesn’t do much with his vacation time, he is winning virtual dollars in online poker and catching up on his reading. Charlene turns up at his flat, apparently a little drunk, and tells him not to give up on life. She shows him a set of travel brochures from vacations she never took, including New Orleans. Flynn falls asleep and dreams of a mysterious woman calling to him and the Andrew Jackson Statue (I think). He heads to New Orleans.

Stana Katic as SimoneHe lands and looks the über-geek in his pastel blue suit, he meets cab driver Andre (Werner Richmond), who actually states that Flynn is the tourist. He gets into the city that night and is drawn to a song. He follows the song to a night club, converted from a monastery, and sees the woman from his dreams performing, her name is Simone (Stana Katic). She seems to be singing to him and he approaches her. She, however, spots the Russians enter and takes Flynn somewhere more private.

getting ready to jumpSomewhere more private happens to be a chapel within the building and she gives Flynn a medallion and calls him librarian. The Russians come in for the medallion – Flynn actually drops it in wax and leaves an imprint – but Flynn uses the natural resonance of the chapel (and a high C sung by Simone) to shatter a stained glass window over their foes and make their escape. They reach a doorway leading nowhere but thin air. She manages to jump to a nearby roof, Flynn tries to follow suit but ends up scrabbling onto the side of the roof and needing Simone to pull him to safety. He seems pleasantly oblivious to the unnaturalness of her jump and subsequent strength and ends up bedding her – she is rather an aggressive lover who, playfully, tosses him across a room.

the Judas shrine, time for the next clueThe next day she has vanished, leaving a rose on his pillow, and he goes to a barbershop for a shave. The various clients and the barber himself become, in turns, Judson who discusses the mystery with him. Flynn has worked out that the medallion refers to the Judas Chalice, said to be made from the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for the betrayal of Christ. The cup has other myths attached to it. It is said to be able to revive dead vampires. Judson says that Judas was the first vampire, hence the vampiric hatred of silver and holy items. A stake through the heart works only if the stake is cut from aspen – the tree Judas hung himself from. Flynn then follows the clues to a Judas shrine in a cemetery and, having paid the silver dollar, retrieves the next clue – only to be captured by the Russians.

Bruce Davison as LazloThe Russians have the body of Vlad Draculea and want the chalice to revive him, so he can create an army of unstoppable vampiric soldiers and they can restore the glory of Russia that they believe has been lost. They have Lazlo with them and so do not need Flynn, just his clue, so they feed him a drug and aim to kill him. Flynn, however, escapes, manages to decipher the next clue with Lazlo but then leaves without the professor as the older man says that he cannot keep up and Flynn should get away.

Simone to the rescueBy this time the drug is kicking in and the Russians follow him through mardi gras and eventually corner him in a warehouse. Suddenly Simone is there, floating in the air. She seems to vanish and reappear in a cloud of swirling dust. She takes out two of the Russians but, eventually, she is shot protecting Flynn. He manages to carry her body out and make his escape but when, subsequently, she sits up he passes out.

revealing her true natureHe comes around in her home and she reveals that she is a vampire – hence she knew he was a librarian as the vampires have always known about the library. She is 403 years old – Flynn admits he has dated older women before but until then has never dated the dead – and was turned in Paris. She hunted for the one who turned her, to kill him, and then, when she heard about the chalice, travelled to be a guardian for it – though she never found it herself. They head to where the chalice is meant to be…

effects of sunlightNow I don’t want to spoil too much of this but it won’t be a spoiler to say that, eventually, Flynn wins – the hero always does in movies such as this. I also don’t think it is too much to reveal that Simone dies and it is vampiric suicide having helped Flynn and fulfilled her goals in unlife. I reveal her fate as I want to point out that, when in the sun, the vampiric death is sort of a breaking up into dust – much like the dust as they transport themselves and exert their powers. Also this is an area where the film was clearly derivative as I can think of at least two similar, vampiric suicide endings from quite modern films.

staken by AspenThe other ways in which a vampire can die include beheading and, as Judson pointed out, having an aspen stake thrust through the heart. Now the head vampire dies this way and it is obviously cgi but quite spectacular none the less. The stake goes through and then the vampire bursts into flames. Before they explode we see CGI skull like faces flying around, reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark and, presumably, representing victims finding release. Drinking infected blood could cause long term damage to a vampire.

the chalice effects SimoneVampires do not have to be evil. Simone lives on blood packs (though one assumes she used to hunt and not kill before they became available) and is generally a good vampire. However vampires, including her, react quite strongly in the presence of the Judas Chalice – vamping out with glowing eyes and fangs. The idea that Judas was the first vampire is not original, Dracula 2001 got there first – though there is no suggestion in this that Dracula and Judas were one and the same, which was the case in the earlier film. The idea of tying Dracula and some form of Chalice together was previously used in similar archaeology/artefact adventure programme Relic Hunter as well as in an Indiana Jones adventure book and probably derives from the legend that Vlad Tepes had a golden cup that was by a well or spring and was never stolen as people well knew their fate if they stole from Vlad.

The performances are good all the way through, Wyle is so self-effacing as the nerd turned adventurer that one cannot help but root for him and as for Stana Katic – well she is good in role but, woohoo, she looks absolutely fine as well. I should just quickly mention Ted Alderman, director of Vampyre Tales, who has a small acting role in this. Some CGI is obvious but generally the effects work and, all in all, this is good adventure material. It does what it says on the tin and it isn’t afraid to be derivative, rather it revels in it. 6.5 out of 10 for 90 minutes of adventure that asks if you will come along for the ride.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.