Wednesday, 20 May 2015
Jack Hunter and the Lost Treasure of Ugarit (2008)
It's odd, I've never seen the Jack Hunter telemovies before and yet there is something eerily familiar about the logo ...
So yeah, obviously these movies are transparently pinching the "adventurer-archaeologist" schtick of the Indiana Jones films, albeit updated to the current day and with - as yet anyway - no sign of whip-wielding on the main character's part. Everything else is more or less the same, though, right up to the whole "the artefact he's seeking turns out to be an ancient superweapon" thing. The film makes no attempt to hide it, either. There's a scene early on where a comment is made about "face melting", which is a pretty blatant Raiders of the Lost Ark reference.
The film starts with Jack breaking into a museum in order to take photos of an ancient tablet, but when he accidentally triggers an alarm and gets into a fistfight with a guard, his camera gets broken. So he just steals the tablet itself, instead. He's a maverick, that Jack Hunter. He's also apparently able to spirit priceless antiques through airport security.
The tablet comes from the ancient civilisation of Ugarit (a real place in which one of the early forms of alphabet appears to have arisen). It contains a cryptic clue that Jack's mentor believes leads to the supposed location of the "Iris", part of the King of Ugarit's regalia. For his part, Jack thinks such stories are nonsense, and is ready to wash his hands of the whole affair ... but then his mentor is murdered.
So it is off to Syria, to meet the (surprise!) extremely attractive and western-educated female archaeologist who will accompany him on his search for the Iris. Naturally the two of them immediately evince the kind of mutual hostility than will inevitably lead to them falling in love at some point.
This first Jack Hunter film is a harmless enough bit of light adventure nonsense, though it is certainly an unambitious script. Fistfights and gunfights pop up regularly in lieu of characterisation or plot, and there are some clangingly awful moments of dialogue. "The Ḥashshāshīn! They're real!". Well yeah. They're also pretty thoroughly documented, supposed archaeologist-lady.
If you're looking for light entertainment and you don't mind the constant "damsel in distress" moments of the lead female, or the "wacky ethnic stereotype" antics of one of the other Syrian characters, I guess you could do worse than spend 90 minutes with Jack Hunter. But you could also do a lot, lot better.