Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear Review


Now that The Librarians television series has ended for the season (and in my view, gone rather fast), I think it would be nice to go back to the very beginning of our franchise.  The Librarian: Quest for the Spear is the first of three television movies that spawned a new franchise.   I think that when it first aired, no one really thought Quest for the Spear was anything other than a goofy TV movie, a lighthearted romp.  I don't think anyone either in front or behind the scenes thought it would spawn a franchise, let alone a successful television series (one that will have a Season Two, to my great delight). Otherwise, we wouldn't have had the rush and quick disposal of characters we got here.  Still, while Quest for the Spear is by no means great television, its own self-awareness, coupled with a delightfully comedic turn from Noah Wyle, sells Quest for the Spear to being much better than perhaps it should have been.

Normally, this is where I give a plot summary (which is always rather long).  However, in this case I decided to write down verbatim the back cover since I think it is a far better capsule than my own.  Don't worry though...I'll add my own thoughts too.

To be a librarian, you must master the Dewey Decimal System, ace internet research and, if you're new librarian Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle), save the world! (Emphasis theirs). Wyle (ER) heads a sterling cast in a fun, fantastical, special effects-laden adventure that soars around the world from the Metropolitan Library to the Amazon jungle to the Himalayas.  Geeky Carsen lands a job as the Librarian, keeper of such top-secret Met treasures as Excalibur and Pandora's Box.  Then the Serpent Brotherhood, seeking world domination, steals one of three parts of the magical Spear of Destiny from the library.  Only Flynn, aided by a gorgeous bodyguard, (emphasis mine) has the knowhow to thwart their plan.  But does he know how to be a hero?  He will--even if he has to gouge, kick, punch, brave Mayan death traps and plunge off icy precipices every inch of the way! 

Young Flynn Carsen (Wyle) has been at school for many, many years.  With 22 degrees overall it looks like Flynn is a professional student, unwilling or unable to face the outside world.  His Egyptology professor (the fourth one I think), has decided to pass him and let Flynn experience 'the outside world'.  Despite being around 34 he still lives at home and his mother Margie (Olympia Dukakis) worries he'll never marry or find a job. 

Needing a job, he accepts a mysterious invitation to interview at the Metropolitan Public Library.  There are many applicants, but Flynn's Sherlock Holmes-type deductions about interviewer Charlene (Jane Curtin) impress her enough to hire him.  Flynn is obviously happy, but confused as to why something like a library requires so much security.  His mentor, Judson (Bob Newhart) informs him that this library holds a very special collection...things like the actual Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Goose.

Barely a day on the job, and Flynn is thrust into a most unlikely adventure: having to recover one of the pieces of the Spear of Destiny, the fabled lance that pierced the side of Christ and which united with the other two pieces, would leave the world vulnerable to worldwide domination.  With that, he is sent to the Amazon to find the second piece, hidden deep within a Mayan temple (which is odd since as far as I know, the Maya weren't in the deepest, darkest Peru, but I digress).  Unbeknown to him, the Serpent Brotherhood, a splinter group of scholars who want to rule rather than merely collect mythical artifacts, is pursuing the new Librarian.  Flynn, however, has a secret Guardian, Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger), who protects him from the Brotherhood...and his own ineptness.

They do get the second piece, but the Brotherhood has tracked them down.  Their head is Edward Wilde (Kyle MacLachlan), the former Librarian who faked his death and joined the Brotherhood.  Edward and his henchwoman Lana (Kelly Hu) cannot kill Flynn, for he is the only person who can speak the Language of the Birds, the common tongue to all men prior to the Tower of Babel which will lead them to the third and final piece of the Spear.  Flynn, however, won't do anything unless Nicole's life is spared, so with that done, it's off to the Himalayas and Shangri-La.

There, the third piece is found, and it looks like after a night of seduction, Nicole has turned traitor.  However, we find that she has been abducted and taken to the museum where Flynn last studied, where an evil ceremony uniting the three pieces of the Spear of Destiny will take place.  With only Judson to help him, Flynn Carsen, Librarian, must save the world.

My thinking is that when The Librarian: Quest for the Spear was made, no one thought anything of it.  As such, we could have a really broad manner and a rushed story zipping right by.  I don't hold that against Quest for the Spear though, for I think pretty much everyone was in on the joke.  Flynn has a flair for comedy that is unexpected.  With a youthful open face and great physical dexterity, Wyle is believable as both a bookish man and a reluctant action star.

Certainly Wyle was, and it's nice to see him play goofy and play it so well.  Flynn is openly clueless about everything except knowledge, someone who knows a lot but knows very little as well. He isn't dumb: he figured out a great deal about people by mere observation and his knowledge of minutiae.  However, he also has a generally sweet and clueless manner that makes his all the more lovable.

As he goes around the world we see that in some ways Flynn is thoroughly clueless.  "I've been cahooted," he tells Judson when he finds Nicole has disappeared along with the third piece of the Spear.  When he's asked how he knows his professor is evil, Flynn replies "He gave me an A-". Managing to say that with a straight face makes it all the more endearing.  In his discovery of the Library as the repository of mythical artifacts and in his dealings with the women his mother sets him up with.

There is no shame in saying that The Librarian was meant to be a comic adventure.  The scene in the Mayan temple where to avoid the various booby-traps, Flynn and Nicole have to waltz across the danger is highly amusing. I'd argue that the whole point of the film is to not take it seriously, to have a lighthearted romp where the lead is goofy, the villain camp, the supporting class a bit clueless.

Of particular note is Hu's Lana, who mistakes Flynn's various survivals as a sign of his great stealth and cunning, rather than mere accidents and good luck. In how she seems enamored of Flynn's 'skills' she brings more comedy, something I think Hu isn't known for.  MacLachlan has fun vamping it up to the Nth degree, but we forgive how he's over-the-top because a.) villains are suppose to be over-the-top, and b.) he isn't given much time to develop the character.

That perhaps is Quest for the Spear's greatest flaw: its rushed manner.  Everything was speeding at us that we rarely had time to pause and wonder about the Serpent Brotherhood, how Edward faked his death, how the Librarians didn't know he had faked his death, how the Brotherhood caught up to Flynn and Nicole.  They didn't have much time, granted, so it's not a killer.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, has a great self-awareness.  When he's told the fate of the world is in his hands, Flynn wipes a tear and says, "How...sad."  A mixture of comedy and action, where goofy and adventure balance pretty well make things light and amusing.  Being bookish has never been this much gleefully silly...


Next Librarian Movie: The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines

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