“For Robin Williams – the magic never ends”
There is no doubt that these words were carefully chosen.
It is certainly odd for an intentionally lighthearted comedy to double as an adored actor’s emotional farewell, but such fate befalls Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb; the movie has been laden with more emotional moments than it bargained for, and on no fault of its own.
Secret of the Tomb is Robin Williams’ final physical appearance, after the comedian took his own life in August earlier this year. Naturally, we all expect there to be some sort of farewell at the end of the movie.
But we also know that a simple “In memory of Robin Williams” would be a terribly inadequate tribute to a man who was both a true entertainer in every meaning of the word, and who also touched the lives of countless fans around the globe. So during the credits, director Shawn Levy gave Williams “the magic never ends”.
And that hit all the right notes. The words are simple, yet heavy with meaning. For any fan, it is almost painful to read. Let’s try to ignore the fact that these four words are perhaps the only thing that the bland Secret of the Tomb gets right. More importantly, this is the farewell that Williams deserves, for what the actor gave the world can truly be described as magic.
But then we realise that the words are not just for Williams; they are also for us – the audience, his fans. The decades of magic that is Williams’ gift to us will never end. And this message is further reinforced by the final moments of the movie, which teach us something important about losing Williams.
Yes, Secret of the Tomb is encoded with a message about what Williams’ departure means for the world, even if unintentionally. And this is done in four brief moments, which all involve Williams’ character, Theodore Roosevelt’s wax figure. To spell it out for you, we will take a closer look at these four scenes.
Cue siren. That was the SPOILER ALERT. Plot details for Night at the Museum 3 will be discussed in detail, so read on at your own peril.
“Let us go”
It is no mystery that Secret of the Tomb will be the last movie of the series. Its final segment is about letting go of the museum artefacts that have entertained us for three films. And this is addressed by the exhibits’ de facto leader; no less of a qualified candidate than the wax figure of President Theodore Roosevelt himself.
Larry (Ben Stiller) hesitates about leaving Ahkmenrah’s magic tablet in London, because it means that his buddies at the American Museum of Natural History will never come to life again. The exhibits that travelled to London with Larry agree that they are ready (for their end), and Teddy (Williams) simply says, “You have to let us go.”
That could not have been clearer or more direct. Robin Williams is gone. However abruptly his death came, he is gone, and we have to let him go. More specifically, we have to let Williams go to a better place. It is the only way we will move on. It is the only way we will heal.
But this does not mean tucking away all fond memories of Williams in a far corner of our mind. We do have to let him go, but as later scenes show, we have not lost him completely.
Sun rises, Teddy stills
Many of us assume this scene to be the last time we will ever see Robin Williams alive.
Teddy mounts his horse and readies himself in the appropriate position; sword drawn, looking into the distance. He does this every morning, only this time, he will supposedly never wake again. He pranks Larry at first, of course, then he returns to his position. The sun’s rays touch him, and he reverts to wax. All signs of life have disappeared, apparently for good.
The scene is a heartwrenching opportunity for fans to say goodbye to Williams. It takes its time, allowing us to cling on to every second where there is some life left in Teddy/Williams. Williams, always the comedian, gives us one final laugh with his boyish and ever-youthful antics. Then he slowly, ever so slowly, fades away, and we are left with a still and inspiring image of Teddy/Williams. It is a monument of sorts.
It is painful for us to lose Williams again. This time, we actually get to see it happen. But there are two important things to take away. Firstly, Williams continued to make us laugh, even in his (supposedly) final onscreen moment. He has always and will always make us laugh. Secondly, as with the heroic Teddy Roosevelt pose, Williams will continue to inspire us, even in death.
A final smile
We had accepted Teddy’s last goodbye as our final moment with Robin Williams. When we get to see Teddy up and moving again in the “Three years later” segment, it is a more than welcomed surprise.
There are no words this time. It is just Teddy/Williams riding on his horse, looking into the camera and at us, and smiling warmly. Just when we thought we would never see him alive again, there he is.
Remember that Levy said that “magic never ends”. This is what the scene is about. Magic never ends, so the tablet is able to bring Teddy back to life again. But more importantly, it is Robin Williams’ magic that will last forever.
We have immortalised Williams on film and television. Even after we have said goodbye to him, we will always be able to see his smile and be entertained by him. All we need to do is to watch him on screen again, whether in one of his movies, television shows or recordings of his stand-up comedies. It is for us to enjoy to the end of time.
His last words
This is the scene when Teddy positions himself on his horse and says goodbye to Larry (see #2). This is also when he utters the last words we will ever hear the actor say in a live action project.
“Smile, my boy. It’s sunrise.”
Indeed, no matter what bad things happen in the world, the sun will rise again. It might not be the same without Robin Williams, but the sun has risen anyway. And Williams wants us to keep smiling.
After all, the comedian devoted decades of his life to making us laugh. He certainly would not want us to stop, especially on his account.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Williams. We will keep smiling.