Epic Movie (Re)Watch #141 - The Librarian: Quest for the Spear
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: I don’t think it’s ever been shown in theaters, so no.
1) The opening to this film (Flynn inside the pyramid then it turns out it’s just a class project) creates a nice juxtaposition between expectations and reality going into this film, especially when it comes to the establishment of Flynn Carsen.
Noah Wyle as Flynn is a really interesting character who is in a lot of ways a counter response to your typical male adventure hero. At the time of release (and an argument could be made for today as well) Flynn wasn’t different. He’s not Indiana Jones with brains and brawn to match. He’s not debonaire or smooth. He’s a giant NERD who is painfully awkward in social situations and is afraid of living his life. But he never comes off as pathetic or annoying or gripping, something I think can be attributed to Noah Wyle’s fine performance. This was one of Wyle’s first major efforts in comedy, having starred on “ER” for about ten years at the time of the film’s release. Wyle is able to perfectly capture Flynn’s nerdish and awkward qualities and a likable, fun, and interesting way. He also doesn’t make Flynn feel like a know-it-all jerk like Sherlock Holmes. He doesn’t have much of an ego, he doesn’t seek knowledge to show off how smart he is. He truly is just interested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge, a bedrock which creates for a fun and unique character.
There is a bit of that awkward, “He still lives with his mother,” thing going on but there are nice moments between Wyle and Dukakis very early on which show you that their relationship is not unhealthy. This isn’t some bullshit Howard Wolowitz and his mom relationship from “The Big Bang Theory”. They actually love for each other, care for each other, and Dukakis as Mrs. Carsen is supportive and caring towards her kid. It’s a nice relationship we get a small peek into.
3) The whole idea of the Metropolitan Public Library in New York sending out this letter looking for it’s next Librarian is something I like a lot. It gives the whole world of The Librarian sort of an extra bit of mythology, a Harry Potter vibe if you will.
4) Jane Curtin!
Jane Curtin isn’t in the film much but she is able to create a memorable character from the moment we meet her as Charlene. A bit of a tight wad who takes her job seriously, Curtin is also able to bring some extra X quality to Charlene. Maybe it’s just me, but by watching her you sort of just KNOW there’s this extra warmth hidden under the surface. Curtin does a nice job in the movie.
5) I love this, and not for reasons I usually do.
Charlene: Tell me something you know that nobody else who has walked in here could tell me.
Flynn: You have mononucleosis. Your marriage broke up two months ago. You broke your nose when you were four, and you live with three cats. Is that what you had in mind? Swollen parajugular lymph nodes and distended eyelids are clearly mono. It takes three months for an indentation on the ring finger to completely disappear. Yours is two-thirds gone. Your plastic surgeon gave you a terminus paralateral scar, which is given to children under the age of six, and I can clearly see three distinct types of cat hair. A white Himalayan, a tortoiseshell, and an orange striped tabby.
Usually when a character whips this out it’s because they want to show off how smart they are, but not Flynn. There’s no ego in his analysis in Charlene, he didn’t sit down and say some bullshit like, “Oh, how’s your divorce going?” just to show off his smarts. No, he only did it when he was asked and clearly isn’t gloating in it. He’s just doing what she asked of him: telling her something he knows no one else could have told her.
6) FYI - just like Flynn - I would lose my mind in The Library!
When I was a kid I was big into myths and conspiracies. Indiana Jones, National Treasure, those things were my bread and butter. The Library would have my going NUTS!
7) Bob Newhart as Judson
Bob Newhart is a comedy legend and I have never once seen him be bad in anything, and The Librarian is no exception. He’s able to play Judson with such subtlety and heart while still making some of the film’s best jokes, it is absolutely wonderful. He would be nominated for playing this role in the third Librarian film, but he’s just as good here. Newhart brings an extra level of heart and humor to the film that helps make it as good as it is.
8) Some of the jokes in this film just have me floored.
9) I think the fact that this film decided to personify Excalibur (and in later installments give it even more personality) was a smart decision. It not only give The Library an extra flair of magic but also another unique character to add to its halls in addition to Judson and Charlene.
10) I think the entire idea behind the villain of this film being a former Librarian is a good way to kick off the series. It shows just how corrupting/tempting this power can be (an idea later seen in depth in Return to King Solomon’s Mines) and also what can happen to Flynn if he’s not careful. Contrarily, however, it creates a nice juxtaposition between Kyle MacLachlan’s Wilde (who is very much your typical tough guy/fine-as-hell action hero turned villain) and Wyle’s nerdy Flynn.
Charlene [after the bad guys come and steal something]: “They knew about the fail safe.”
But they DIDN’T know about the security cameras?
12) Honestly if I were ever in an action/adventure movie situation, I’d probably be Flynn.
Flynn: “The fate of the world is in my hands? That is just so…sad”
13) Ugh, femme fatale intros. The moment when a female character walks on screen in slow motion with saxophone music or something playing behind her while the male lead ogles her. A clear indication that this is more of a trope than a character.
14) However I will say, despite that introduction, Nicole Noone ends up being a pretty interesting character. I personally don’t think it makes sense that she sleeps with Flynn after having her heart broken so recently by the (supposed) death (and eventual betrayal) of her last love, but on her own she is fairly well written. Tough as nails, we understand her sense of humor, what makes her tick, her sense of loyalty, what gets her to smile, what gets her to cry, we get a pretty nice peek into who she is as a character. It’s a shame the franchise would lose Sonya Walger (although I do like the female characters in the proceeding films) as she does a pretty great job in this movie, but I’m glad we got her here.
15) While this film does work against some established tropes with action/adventure characters, it unfortunately does fall into, “Super attractive woman falls in love with someone she disdains at first AFTER we make clear just how HOT she is.”
Nicole [to Flynn]: “I’m WAY out of your league. WAY out. If your league were to explode I wouldn’t see it for days.”
It does establish Flynn’s reasoning for calling her egotistical throughout the early parts of their relationship, but still. It would be so refreshing to me - personally - if we had a movie where two characters like this formed a deep friendship instead of a romance. Not that it ruins the film by any means. It just reminds me of tropes I am bored with in cinema in general.
16) I love the running gag of Kelly Hu’s Lana seeing Flynn as this brilliant Librarian and having a massive crush on him.
Rhodes [Wilde’s thug]: “That’s the Librarian?”
Lana: “Don’t underestimate him.”
Lana [after Nicole pushes Flynn out of a plan with no parachute]: “He brilliantly lowers our expectations then dives without a ‘chute! Remarkable!”
Kelly Hu is great in general but this running gag just makes me chuckle every time.
17) The reason I say I’m Flynn is not because of his brains or anything, but because of how he reacts to what’s going on around him.
Flynn [after Nicole pulls out a sword]: “How did you get that on the airplane?”
18) We don’t get much of a peek into the relationship between Flynn and his late father in this film. That’s coming up in the sequel.
Flynn: “My mother said my father was a dreamer…”
19) While I do greatly enjoy this film, I think it misses some opportunities to increase how fun and adventurous is. This is an observation I’ve made mainly through comparison with the film’s two sequels (which were directed be someone else than this film), but still. An example of this is the scene where Flynn and Nicole make their way across the rotted bridge in the Amazon. I personally feel that with some faster pacing in moments and the addition of music it could have been a lot more fun, a lot more adventurous, but that’s just me.
20) Flynn and Nicole do have fun chemistry, more when they’re bantering than anything else. But Flynn is also shown to understand Nicole, despite her claims to the contrary. There’s not only a whole scene where he tells her what he’s noticed about her character, but also fun lines like this:
Flynn: “Why are you smiling? I don’t like it when you smile. It means you’re about to do something dangerous.”
21) I will say, any issues I have with the bridge scene, those issues do NOT apply to the temple waltz scene. The fact that the only way Flynn and Nicole can only get through the booby traps by doing a waltz is just so fun and well paced, while also providing some nice character interaction between the two. I love how Nicole leads in the dance and how she dips Flynn. It’s just a lot of fun, and that’s when this movie is at its best. When it’s having fun!
22) Lana is so turned on by Flynn just speaking a dead language, I love it!
23) Another moment I find sort of weaker in the film is when Flynn falls off the mountain on the way to Shangri La and Nicole has to save him. It sort of just happens, I feel. Its over and done with out of nowhere with little tension. It doesn’t feel real, if that makes sense. But again, maybe that’s just me.
24) Are we not going to address the fact that these supposedly peaceful monks just start fighting out of nowhere? Do they train in fighting? Did they ever have to use their fighting skills before today? I must know!!!!
25) Okay, in this moment I’m Judson.
Flynn [upon learning a former professor is evil]: “I should’ve known he was evil. He gave me an A-.”
26) Bob Newhart gets a fight scene! Bob Newhart has a fight scene! Bob Newhart has officially done everything! Well…probably not. But still! Fight scene!
27) I like how Flynn is able to outsmart Wilde into causing the pyramid to crash down on him instead of taking him on in a straight fist fight. It is a perfect illustration as to how Flynn isn’t your typical action/adventure hero.
28) I would love to see the whole “Time Traveling Ninjas going after HG Welles time machine” adventure this film ends on. Maybe not as a full movie, but in some format that’d be fun.
While I do prefer the sequels to the original, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear is an exemplary start for the franchise. The unique mythology is established in a fun way, Wyle excels as Flynn Carsen, Newhart and Curtin give A grade performances which will continue throughout the series, and we just are taken on a fun adventure for about 100 minutes. Because that’s what this movie is: fun. If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path than Indiana Jones or National Treasure, this film is a worthy substitute.