Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines Review


The success of The Librarian: Quest for the Spear inspired a sequel, a most unlikely turn of events that must have surprised everyone involved.  Return to King Solomon's Mines is a better, stronger film, more confident and self-assured.  It's as if everyone involved knew that there was a great idea in it and decided to roll with it.  There was one plot point that I thought both totally unnecessary and undermining to the franchise (which has yet to be addressed in any of The Librarians movies/episodes and think will never come again), but minus that Return to King Solomon's Mines keeps things light, breezy, and entertaining.

Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) is now more mature and capable as The Librarian, caretaker and rescuer of mythical artifacts.  He isn't completely competent though, maintaining a slightly bumbling manner with a dash of cluelessness and naïvete mixed in.  Despite moving out of his mother's home, he still has a bit of a solitary life: no girlfriend (Nicole Noone, his guardian from Quest for the Spear not returning), but apart from that life is going pretty least until Mother Margie (Olympia Dukakis) throws Flynn a surprise 32nd birthday party.

As a side note, this does play a bit fast and loose with Flynn's age.  In QFTS, he says he had spent sixteen years in college after high school, which would have put him at around 34 when we begin.  Now, he's celebrating turning 32.  Granted, he could have graduated from school early, and it isn't a big thing (in reality, Wyle was 35 when RTKSM premiered, so we're kind of splitting hairs).  However, this to me indicates that this sequel was probably thought of as a one-and-done deal, not some trilogy that would lead to a highly successful television series.  Yet I digress.

At this party he reencounters an old family friend, "Uncle" Jerry (Robert Foxworth).  Jerry and Flynn's late father were the bestest of besties back in the day, and while Flynn's dad won Margie over there were no hard feelings (right...).  Margie gives Flynn some 'presents': some old drawings he did as a child of the stories his dad told him, and a beautiful medallion that Carsen, Sr. bought for his son before being killed in a mugging.

It isn't long though before Flynn himself is a victim of a crime: a strange scroll he received in the mail has been stolen.  The Library's senior staff, Judson (Bob Newhart) and Charlene (Jane Curtin) soon realize that the thieves are hunting for King Solomon's Mines, which not only contains great treasures but also The Key of Solomon, an ancient text of great power that will allow the holder to control time and space and thus can unleash great evil in the wrong hands.

Therefore, it's off to Casablanca, Morocco, where Flynn finds Miss Emily Davenport (Gabrielle Anwar), a woman Flynn's intellectual equal (perhaps superior, as she has a few degrees more than Flynn).  She is excavating to find clues to the fabled Queen of Sheba, who in legend is supposed to have been both Solomon's equal and one of his great loves.  The Queen of Sheba is a heroine to Emily, and she wants to find more about her. 

However, Emily finds herself in danger when Flynn gets involved in her dig as assassins are after him (and by extension, her).  They find unlikely help from the Order of the Secret Masons, an ancient cult that is descended from the original masons of Solomon's Temple, whom thanks to Flynn's medallion, is part of the order.  As they travel through Africa to Kenya (where Flynn has an unlikely encounter with a girl his mother set him up with in the last movie), they encounter Jomo (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a native Kenyan whom they rescue.  In gratitude, he pledges himself to them until he is able to return the favor.  Jomo does help them find shelter and refuge, but they are still being pursued. 

Eventually, their search for "The Breasts of Sheba" with a little help from a fortuitous Uncle Jerry leads them to the location of the mines.  However, one guess as to who has been trailing them and hunting them down.  Uncle Jerry is determined to gain power and among other things, stop Flynn's father from marrying Flynn's mother.  Flynn wants to stop him, but Jerry tempts him with the idea of bringing his father back from the dead (even after learning that Jerry was the one who killed him).  Flynn comes close to taking the power of the Key of Solomon himself, but the words of Judson (and the theme of Return to King Solomon's Mines) come to him: "You have to give up what you want for the greater good".  Flynn makes the ultimate sacrifice, both in terms of relic and romance, as Emily decides this isn't for her and they have their own Casablanca ending.

It's hard not to like The Librarian series because everything is done with a little tongue-in-cheek.  A great of the success lays with Wyle, who makes Flynn a more confident lead but who still maintains Flynn's innocence and nebbish persona.  This Flynn is one who is capable of outriding assassins, but who also doesn't quite get the ways of the world.  Wyle also gives Flynn more touching moments (such as his longing for his father) and manages some comedy too (his embarrassment on meeting a former potential bride on a 'honeymoon safari', or when looking for a clue, he remarks that 'there's always a secret chamber').  At his and Emily's farewell, which obviously and overtly rips off Casablanca, the cast and crew were smart enough to be fully aware.

In fact, Casablanca gets more humorous nods.  When the ever-chipper Flynn arrives in the fabled Moroccan city, he tries his best Bogart impression looking for Rick's Café.  The cabbie is not amused.  I admire how RTKSM made Flynn both a fan and a slightly unaware figure.

Anwar made a great foil to Wyle's Carsen, matching him in intelligence and even sharing intimate moments when remembering their own fathers.  Kae-Kazim plays a bit of a cliché (the loyal native) but he does too show a certain humor (he remarks that hippopotamuses like chocolate, so he throws some of Emily's chocolate to them). 

If there is a flaw to Return to King Solomon's Mines, it's in the business with the medallion.  We are getting the strong suggestion that Flynn is really part of a greater story, that somehow his selection to be The Librarian isn't just some curious turn but due to a mysterious and mystical/mythical heritage even he isn't aware of.  This wasn't suggested in Quest for the Spear, and as far as I know has not been suggested since in any following Librarians specials, series, or spin-off stories.  I don't even think fanfiction bothers with this.

Still, the mixture of action and humor, with a wonderful turn by Noah Wyle as our slightly befuddled but endearing action lead, and a knowing self-awareness makes The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines a nice romp. 

One last thing.  I just realized that Return to King Solomon's Mines originally aired on my birthday: December 3.  One more reason to love it more.


Next Librarian Movie: The Librarian:

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