Film - The Librarian


Susan Omand tells everyone to shush and then explains what's so good about The Librarian films...

I take full responsibility for making my esteemed colleagues here at The DreamCage watch the Librarian films (which they swear they did, "honestly"). I love the films, they’re great fun for an afternoon sitting on the floor with fizzy juice and crisps (yes, I am really 8 it seems).

For those that don't know the films (I'll assume for now that I'm probably the only one who does) The Librarian is a job not to be taken lightly. It is the Librarian's task to collect supernatural artefacts from around the world and return them to the museum library in New York for safe keeping. However, this is a dangerous job, many librarians have perished and the library building itself has to locate a new librarian on a fairly regular basis by sending out invitations to suitable candidates, one of which is received by serial student Flynn Carsen in the first film.  He is duly dispatched to search for the three pieces of the Spear of Destiny to stop the Serpent Brotherhood from using it for their own nefarious ends. Likewise, in the second film, he must retrieve a sacred book with supernatural powers and in the third a chalice that is able to revive vampires. Yes really.

OK, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. These are made-for-TV movies so the budget wasn’t huge. Therefore the special effects are more than a little ropey, especially with things like lava. And yes there are plot holes that you can drive a bus through, with very obvious conclusions and oh so convenient events, that are never explained, being used to help the story along. And yes The Librarian films are all a rip-off of all the Indiana Jones movies but, the thing is, they know they are and they don’t try to hide it and that’s where the good stuff starts kicking in. There are so many knowing nods to the Indy franchise that it becomes almost a drinking game to spot them – like finding the Crystal Skull in the first 5 minutes of the second film, when it took Dr Jones a whole film of his own, the horse vs motorbike chase through the desert, the feisty female that isn’t at all like Marion out of Raiders, the hunt for a key to a supernatural map, the psycho trying to raise the dead in an underground temple, the aeroplane that always flies in red dotted lines across a map, the “why does it always have to be...” line – I could go on, and on, and on. And that’s just the Indiana Jones references. The writing as a whole, once you forgive the obvious plot devices, is very clever and subtle, and the humour manages to stay clear of the slapstick visuals and one-liner jokes that it could so easily have become.

The casting in all three films is also brilliant. Noah Wyle, who at the time was a star in the making as Dr Carter in the TV hospital drama ER, really got a chance to shine in a very different role as Flynn Carsen, the brilliant (with 23 different degrees) but socially awkward eponymous Librarian, and he proved that, as well as being a good dramatic actor, that his comic timing is excellent. And this is up against one of the greatest comedy talents of all time in Bob Newhart, who plays Judson, keeper of the library and an ex Librarian himself. Add in a classic Moneypenny type administrator in the form of Charlene (Jane Curtin), suitably inept bad guys and strong female companions and you have the perfect framework for a Saturday afternoon adventure movie.  All three films are directed by Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek TNG fame and you can really see how much fun he had with them as at no point to they ever take themselves too seriously or pretend to be anything that they're not.

But it is the actual concept of the library itself that is the real genius. Whereas in Indiana Jones, all the artefacts he brings back are hidden away in anonymous warehouses to keep them out of the wrong hands, here they are all catalogued and kept in a secret wing of the New York Metropolitan Public Library, ready to be called upon to fight the forces of evil as necessary. And this, indeed, is the premise of the spin off TV series The Librarians.

If you were wondering how a Walt Disney version of the Indiana Jones films would work out, I don’t think you have much further to look than The Librarian.

Addendum - March 2018

News just in that TV channel TNT has NOT renewed the spin-off series for a fifth season. So make the most of the seasons we already have!

Image - IMDb

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