By C. Robert Dimitri | Think Pieces | April 6, 2011 |
By C. Robert Dimitri | Think Pieces | April 6, 2011 |
The aim here is not to nitpick or criticize. It is simply to indulge in affectionate thought experiments and tangents related to movies that I have enjoyed over the years. What are the unspoken motivations, the unexplored avenues, and the seemingly insignificant details that lie between the frames? Oh, and if you have not seen the movies I write about in this column, you are a little behind the times, but I offer a spoiler warning regardless.
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
“That belongs in a museum!”
Per Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this was a mantra and fervently held sentiment for cinema icon Indiana Jones from a very young age. If we are to take Indy’s beliefs based on presented actions, archaeological artifacts belong in spaces where they are available for public viewing, appreciation, and education. I can only assume that this was a value instilled by his father, Henry Jones, Sr. Perhaps the principle was drummed into young Indy’s brain in between his Greek language exercises.
A harrowing 1912 chase across the Utah desert gave birth to a few Indy trademarks, and it culminated with the villainous “Panama Hat” snatching the newly excavated Cross Of Coronado from Indy, who had just stolen it from the minions of Panama Hat that found it.
Yes, “Panama Hat” is the credited name of the character portrayed by the late Paul Maxwell. Who knew that back in the old days fedoras were used to epitomize good, as contrasted with Panama hats, just as popular culture today gives the good guys Macs and the bad guys PCs?
Twenty-six years later, we find Indy aboard Panama Hat’s ship, using fisticuffs and a wisecrack to take the Cross Of Coronado back from Panama Hat so that the average people of the world might finally gaze upon the conquistador’s golden bounty.
Indiana Jones was one of my childhood heroes, but why is it that my adult perspective gives me a little sympathy for Panama Hat?
Panama Hat was a fan of Coronado. That ship that Indy destroyed in his mission to take back the relic? Its name is the Coronado, as Spielberg’s visual punchline informed us. I’ll grant you that the museum is probably the best place for the Cross Of Coronado, but Panama Hat was not just greedily, indiscriminately hoarding artifacts. This guy loved Coronado. For all we know, Panama Hat had a whole trove of Coronado souvenirs. Panama Hat was in the wrong, but was his villainy any different than that of the nerd that wants his beloved limited edition action figures sitting on his personal shelf?
Indy’s militant museum philosophy deserves additional scrutiny, though, due to what we discover only a few scenes later. Ushered into arch-villain Donovan’s abode, Indy coolly compliments Donovan on the quality of the artifacts in Donovan’s home.
Wait a second, Indy. This guy Donovan has valuable archaeological pieces in his own home? Don’t they belong in a museum? Would Donovan let just anyone drop by on a Sunday afternoon to check out his collection?
Oh, I see how it is, Indy. You tell us that Donovan has been generous in his donations to the museum before. So he can buy his way into your good graces, Indy? You’re willing to look the other way on the stuff Donovan kept because of that?
Perhaps you were just being polite and biting your tongue, but even if that is the case, shouldn’t Donovan’s home decorating have tipped you off, Indy, that this was the bad guy? Instead, you walked right into his trap.
Therefore, what’s missing from the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? I would not want to spoil that wonderful image of our heroes riding off into the sunset, but Indy has some unfinished business back at Donovan’s house. There is cataloging to be done, and there are display cases to be made!
When it comes to swordsmanship, Madmartigan is great. Warwick Davis’ Willow told us so. Yes, Madmartigan can single-handedly out-duel and skewer a bevy of Bavmorda’s baddies and flaunt it with a cocky grin and a superfluous twirl of his blade. As great as Madmartigan is, even he realized that he had his work cut out for him at the cursed, dead fortress of Tir Asleen.
Cornered by the forces of Kael and Sorsha, Madmartigan goes into one-man army mode, as he makes the most of his limited resources by hastily setting up booby traps and outposts within the castle that would make it possible for one warrior to hold back a hundred. What truly evens the odds, though, is the sudden appearance of a two-headed fire-breathing dragon-like creature accidentally spawned by one of Willow’s sorcery mishaps while battling a troll.
Madmartigan fights valiantly, of course, but it’s this dragon that wreaks the most havoc upon the enemy troops. After saving Willow from another troll, Madmartigan takes advantage of a brief respite in the battle by handing Willow a sword. I would think at this point the two of them should take advantage of the confusion and try to escape with defenseless little baby Elora Danan. What does Madmartigan do instead? He leaves diminutive Willow to fend for himself and leaps onto one of the heads of that dragon (which has no interest in attacking them at that moment) with the aim of killing it.
What inspired Madmartigan to make this rash decision that allowed Kael to wound Willow and abscond with Elora? Was it simply the crazed bloodlust of battle? Was it the “madness” of his name fully manifesting itself, in spite of his strategically measured maneuvers in that battle up to that point? Was it a subconscious impulse that had the goal of impressing and thus romancing Sorsha, a tough warrior herself? (Mission accomplished, if so.) Or did Madmartigan stop to consider the many lives that the creature was taking? Do the soldiers in Bavmorda’s army not have their own humanity? Perhaps they were swept up in an ill political cause with the hope of merely putting food on their families’ tables, and now they were being eaten alive. Perhaps this idea gave Madmartigan pause.
Or maybe in the spirit of the old mountaineering bon mot, Madmartigan slew that monster simply because it was there.
Lucas has what I consider to be an earned happy ending. Corey Haim’s brainy title character does not win the girl, but he overcomes the adversity of bullying, rejection, a relative lack of economic means, and his own ill-conceived attempt at becoming a football player that landed him a trip to the hospital. His reward: the transformed hearts and minds of all his fellow students, as revealed through a standing ovation in the school hallway and the gift of a letter jacket. However, there is something missing from those final images of the movie. It is a loose end to this happy ending that would seem to be shared by all of the characters.
Who is missing from that festival of joy that transcends all those divisive lines of high school cliques? Courtney Thorne-Smith’s character Alise.
The last prominent shot we saw of Alise was her glowering at Kerri Green’s Maggie, who stole the heart of Alise’s boyfriend Cappie. It was the iciest of gazes, hurling figurative daggers from one cheerleader at another. In the celluloid world, Alise had no happy ending. The events of Lucas have left bitterness and loneliness as her only companions.
You can argue that Maggie is a better match for Cappie. You can argue that Maggie is a nicer person than Alise. Maggie is humble and has no problems handling a cicada. Conversely, Alise acts entitled and completely freaks out at the sight of a cicada. Even so, Alise did care about her relationship with Cappie. She has been spurned. In a movie with more than one instance of obnoxious bullying, she certainly is a more sympathetic character than the jackasses on the football team that tormented Lucas.
Whom do we see in that end smattering of smiles directed at heroic Lucas? Maggie? Yes. Cappie? Of course. Winona Ryder’s Rina, who had a crush on Lucas all along? Absolutely. What about those same jackasses that nearly got an undersized kid killed with their incessant peer pressure? Yes! They are redeemed! There they are clapping for Lucas!
One might think this is a happy ending for all these students, finally united in the better perspective of respecting all of their fellow students with all of their differences. But poor Alise? Nowhere to be seen.
I acknowledge my concern could be biased by my teenage crush on Courtney Thorne-Smith, she of such classics as Summer School, L.A. Law (in which she had a recurring role as Michael Kuzak’s Laker Girl significant other), Side Out (the C. Thomas Howell volleyball flick), and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise. Still, though, if you are going to sell me on a happy ending for that entire high school, I at least want to see a smile from Alise, who I can only assume skipped school that day so that she could stay home weeping.
There is good news, I suppose. Maybe it is for the better that you escaped that relationship when you did, Alise. That Cappie guy? There seemed to be just a hint of crazy behind that “nice guy” persona of his. Who played him again?
C. Robert Dimitri’s older sister took him to the theater to see both Willow and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for his birthday. He first saw Lucas on VHS with his parents. C. ROBERT DIMITRI WILL RETURN IN “ENTIRELY TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO DETAIL - THE TRUE LOVE EDITION.”