I spent last night watching the second of the three TV-movies in The Librarian franchise.
It’s like riding a seesaw – and if I actually enjoyed the first Librarian movie, the second was a terrible let down.
The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines is an African adventure aimed at a younger audience that fails to capture the simple goofishness of the first movie. And yet, the cast is more or less the same, the plot is a simple piece of chewing-gum and everything should go for the best.
Only it does not.
A pity, really – but no matter how much I wanted to like it, I sank into a bottomless barrel of boredom.
The plot: having recovered a crystal skull (take that, Indiana Jones) librarian/adventurer Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) receives a scroll of a map showing the location of King Solomon’s Mines. The map is stolen, and Flynn has to get on the tracks of the thieves to protect the world from what’s actually hidden in the Mines.
Could be worse, right?
In his adventure, Flynn is soon joined by archaeologist Emily Davenport (Gabrielle Anwar) and the two travel through Africa and bicker incessantly and then face the bad guys.
Turns out Flynn’s father was a Freemason and a descendant of the original masons that built King Solomon’s underground complex, and he gave Flynn instructions on what to do in case of emergency through the fairy stories he told him at bedtime. Or something.
This is the first weak point.
In the first movie, Flynn was an ultra-competent nerd that could use his weird collection of fringe knowledge to face the bad guys. Here, he is still that,. But he’s also the last heir of a long line of conspirators that protect a secret knowledge. This cheapens the character, turning him into just another man of destiny.
Also, he has very little to do – he only has to remember what his dad used to tell him at bedtime… and should he forget, he can check his childhood sketches, that his mom (Olympia Dukakis) has slipped in his bag.
This is lazy writing.
The plot follows more or less H. Rider Haggard’s novel, but once again there is no joy or wit in the references, and basically the sense of deja-vu compounds the general boredom. Ditto the tired Casablanca in-jokes.
We get long shots of the characters walking through deserts and savannas but there is very little adventure here. The plot twists are painfully predictable (not in itself a big problem) but are executed with such deadpan lack of panache that they fail to impress (and this is a big problem).
Add less-than-snappy dialogue and a general tiredness, and the end result is very weak. In the end all that remains is Gabrielle Anwar (beautiful and under-used) and a general sense of relief that the thing ended.
A pity, really, because the series, as I mentioned previously, has a lot of potential, and is just right for a young adult audience.
Or would be, should the movies keep up the standards set by the first.
Now I’ll have to try and catch the third, to see if at least two out of three entries in the series are good.
I’ll keep you posted.