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Film / The Librarian

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The Librarian films are a surprisingly popular action-adventure/fantasy series of TV movies made for the TNT cable network in the United States. The concept is fairly simple: all the world's greatest and most dangerous treasures (including the literal Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, H. G. Wells' time machine, the Golden Fleece, the Spear of Longinus and the real Mona Lisa (yes folks, the one in the Louvre is apparently a very good fake) are kept in a secret and generally highly secure library, hidden behind a secret door in the Metropolitan Public Library (previously the Library at Alexandria, Egypt, but later moved to the United States), and guarded by the world's smartest and most knowledgeable person... known, of course, as The Librarian.

Very light and tongue-in-cheek but with a surprisingly high budget for a TV movie (they're heavy on both stunts and special effects), the movies take the world's biggest geek, and make him into a bumbling but surprisingly capable action hero who must often travel the world in search of secret or stolen treasures, and retrieve them for The Library, of which he is also the chief guardian. Typically the adventures of course feature a large number of traps and other situations that require ridiculously obscure knowledge and good perception in order to beat or bypass... such as figuring out that an arrow-spewing trap is in time to a waltz (causing the hero and heroine to dance their way across the ancient Mayan death trap), or exactly where they are in the gigantic Amazon rain forest based entirely on the fact that they're within view of a particular endangered species of condor's territory (after they escape by parachute from a commercial passenger plane and land in it... which happens right after Carsen figures out how to read an ancient text after translating the long-lost Language of the Birds in a matter of hours in-flight).


The films are, in short, action-adventure comedy that parodies action adventure movies, with the world's biggest nerd as the action hero. Basically, Indiana Jones meets Warehouse 13.

ER veteran Noah Wyle stars as the title character, Flynn Carsen, a sort of cute but very geeky boy-next-door who lives with his mother in New York, and is a perpetual student with over two dozen degrees; precisely why he's offered the job in the first movie. He's accompanied in each movie by a tough-as-nails companion, who's always an attractive woman in a deliberate subversion of the "brawny man, weak woman" stereotype (Carsen himself can't fight worth a damn when it comes to throwing kicks and punches). Due to actresses' schedules (the one who played the bodyguard Nicole Noone in the first movie took a job as a regular cast member on Boston Legal around the same time), the female companion seems to change in every film, from a bodyguard appointed for his first year, to an archaeologist who happened to be searching for the same thing, to a woman that he was drawn to by destiny. This ends up giving the movies a sort of subversion of a Bond Girl who ends up at least as competent as the Librarian at the action.


The first film (subtitled Quest for the Spear) covers the Spear of Longinus. The second (subtitled Return to King Solomon's Mines) covers the lost mines of Solomon, and the third (subtitled Curse of the Judas Chalice) involves Dracula and the goblet supposedly made after Judas Iscariot hanged himself, using the 30 silver coins he was paid with. The second and third films were directed by Jonathan Frakes, who also has very short cameos in each.

The story continued with The Librarians, which has Wyle reprising his role (initially in a recurring capacity) and is led by Rebecca Romijn as his Guardian, Eve Baird. The series premiered in 2014 and ended in 2018.

Tropes include:

  • Action Girl: Carsen's companions. All of them. Also, the hot henchwoman from the first movie.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Flynn Carsen.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: The Metropolitan Public Library.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Flynn Carsen.
  • As You Know: Flynn pulls this a lot in general. Emily from the second movie frequently gets annoyed with him as she is usually more informed about the historical subject in question.
  • Badass Bookworm: Flynn Carsen.
    • Also, generally a requirement for the post of the Librarian. The movies seem to be pointing out that there's plenty of badasses, and plenty of bookworms, but not everyone can be both and still be a good guy.
  • Badass Normal: Arguably most of the characters, in a weird sort of way. The Librarians rely entirely on brainpower and observational skills, which are absurdly good, but still technically humanly possible, one would suppose; the bodyguard, Nicole Noone is tough and capable, but not magically tough and not as clever as her charge, etc. Meanwhile, Bob Newhart's character is a man who has inexplicable powers like walking through dreams, solid objects, reality, etc. He's one of the few folks with outright supernatural powers in the films. He is also the warrior librarian from thousands of years earlier who first founded the Library.
  • Bluff the Imposter: Flynn thinks Emily is doing this to him. He's wrong.
    Emily: "Where did you say you're from again?"
    Flynn: "I'm from the Geological Institute"
    Emily: "So you must know John Binder over there, tell me how's old John doing these days?"
    Flynn: "Very good. It's a trick question, there is no John Binder."
    Emily: "He's the head of the institute"
  • Bodyguard Crush: Nicole starts out as Flynn's bodyguard and falls for him. She also loved the previous librarian.
  • Brother Chuck: The lead seems to always get a new love interest for each movie with the previous woman disappearing for no reason other to just have him find a new girlfriend.
    • Lampshaded in the third movie, when Flynn's girlfriend leaves him near the beginning. Very few love interests can deal with someone whose life is as complicated as the Librarian's. They all ended up leaving him for some reason or another. Reversed in the series - he ends up having to leave Eve Baird, though for good reason. She needs to take care of the libarians-in-training and he needs to find the lost library.
  • Busman's Holiday: The third movie, Flynn is supposed to be on holiday. A dream from the Girl of the Week, however, leads him to something much more exciting.
  • The Cameo: From Jonathan Frakes (who directs the second and third movies). In the second film he's the scowling ex-con fiance of an ex-girlfriend of Flynn's, and in the third movie he's a trombone player that Flynn and Simone walk past.
    • The cameo in the third movie also counts as a Shout-Out to [1] - Riker played trombone!
  • Catfight: Between the aforementioned hot henchwoman and Nicole Noone in the first movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The replica of the Pyramid of Giza in the first movie.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: The previous Librarian before Carsen is the baddie of the first film, who uses his brains for selfish gain... and subsequently gets outwitted and defeated by the new Librarian.
    • Flynn's bosses are adamant about not using artifacts for personal gain. They won't even use the Philosopher's Stone to help their budgeting issues.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: in Return to king Solomon's Mines the heroes have to traverse a bridge over a lava river, fed by a lava waterfall. It's high over the lava, but they should still be dead.
  • Cool Loser: Absurdly smart, surprisingly funny, Noah Wyle-level cute, earnest, usually polite... and still lives with his mother?
    • Global financial crisis, natch.
      • Plus, he was a perpetual student until the first movie. Then when he got a job, he had to travel all over the world all the time so why bother moving?
  • Cool Sword: Flynn gets swordfighting lessons from Excalibur.
  • Crystal Skull: Flynn retrieves one (a lost treasure of Atlantis, apparently) at the beginning of the second movie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Flynn and Scary Librarian Charlene who hires him.
  • Death Trap: Lots of them.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Between Nicole and the villain's Dragon in the first film.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In the second film, a set of self-playing pan pipes started playing the film's theme while Judson was scolding Flynn.
  • Dirty Communists: They're the main antagonists in the third movie.
  • Empathic Weapon: Excalibur.
  • Expy: Nicole Noone, snarky, world-hopping, British-accented Action Girl. Hmm....
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The cobra brothers have members of all races and genders.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: A concise as possible example in Curse of the Judas Chalice (when Flynn was aiming at a steam pipe behind the bad guy).
    Baddie: Missed.
    Flynn: Didn't.
  • Excalibur: A magical self-aware flying sword who's Flynn's best friend.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the first movie, after the Serpent Brotherhood get the final piece of the Spear of Destiny, Judson explains that the only way to reforge said spear is with a high-powered EM Pulse, the likes of which would only occur from the light of a peak full moon striking the capstone of the Pyramid of Giza, and since the Egyptian government had said capstone removed and refuse to replace it, Flynn thinks they don't have a problem... until he remembers how the museum now has a scale replica of the Pyramid, complete with capstone.
  • Extranormal Institute: Particularly in the third movie, when the magic of working in the Library has completely worn off for Flynn. Also Jane Curtin's character throughout all three—her most pressing concern is that Flynn saves his receipts while he's off saving the Crystal Skull or whatever he's been sent to retrieve.
  • Flynning: The sword fight in the third film, Incredibly Lame Pun aside.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the auction in the opening of Curse of the Judas Chalice, who else is seen standing next to Flynn but Matt Frewer, who would go on to play Dulaque, head of the Serpent Brotherhood in The Librarians!
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampires: Simone from the third movie
  • Ghostapo: According to Judson, having one third of the Spear of Destiny contributed to Hitler's rise to power.
  • Graceful Loser: Dracula in the third movie. After Flynn shanks him with a yew branch, he seems more impressed by Flynn's knowledge of history than pissed at his own demise.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Sergei Kubicheck is the one chasing Flynn around in the third movie, planning on resurrecting and controlling Count Dracula. Sergei ends up bitten and controlled by Dracula, who turns out to be the old, crippled professor that Sergei had dragged along with them after kidnapping him near the beginning of the movie to help find the Judas Chalice.
  • Historical In-Joke: A number of them, mostly in the form of the objects kept safe in The Library, but also notable is the retconning of the Library at Alexandria into the original Library where ancient treasures were stored, until the Seprent Brotherhood rallied the mob that burnt it down.
  • Hot Librarian: Noah Wyle. As a librarian. Duh.
    • And very good with the ladies - he ends up sleeping with all three of his companions. In one case on the first night they meet!
  • Idiot Ball: When Flynn picks it up, he starts jumping up and down on an unstable bridge of made of rotted wood.
    • Or mixes his own gunpowder out of old damp materials to use a 200-year-old cannon and Newton's Third Law to bust down a thick reinforced door... as opposed to going out the perfectly ordinary glass windows we can see right behind him.
  • I Minored in Tropology: Flynn has studied just about everything you can imagine and everything he could possibly need to know (plus a good deal that he presumably doesn't need). He refers to Master's and PhD theses, rather than the more standard "I minored in 'X'" line, but the principle's the same.
    • Justified, as Flynn is in his thirties, and has been a perpetual college student for long enough to have a total of 22 degrees, 12 bachelors, 6 Masters, and 4 PhD according to King Solomon's Mines, but who's counting .
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Flynn is all too eager to hit the sauce when his mother not only springs a surprise birthday party on him (one that includes karaoke), but also tries hooking him up with his own 3rd cousin.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: At the end of the second movie, Flynn asks Judson if he inserted himself into the vision that he'd experienced earlier. Judson denies having the power to such things... but he mentions a detail of the vision in the process. Flynn notices this immediately.
  • Jungle Opera: This is something of a satire of this.
  • Large Ham: The actor who played the villain in the first movie is clearly having a lot of fun. Coincidentally, the movie gets considerably sillier as soon as he shows up.
  • Leap of Faith: At least for the Action Girl - but not for Flynn, who calculates exactly where they have to jump.
  • Lovable Nerd: Flynn Carsen.
  • Magical Library: Not only does it contain legendary and magical books, but also all the world's greatest and most dangerous treasures.
    • It's also mentioned at one point that the Library is as "large as it needs to be."
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: An incident in the 3rd movie, where Carsen uses the acoustics of a specific room in conjunction with a High C from his vocalist companion as a weapon.
  • The Matchmaker: Flynn's mother is constantly trying to set him up with a girl because of his sheltered awkwardness, to the point she even tries to hook him up with his 3rd cousin.
  • Monster Progenitor: Judas to all Vampires.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: The Library.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Simone in the third movie. There is a reason for it. She's a vampire
  • Offscreen Breakup: Flynn breaks with Nicole at some point after the first movie, before the second one...
  • One-Liner: Ditto.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires in the third movie can get sick with human diseases. They also temporarily die when killed before coming back to life. They're also tied heavily in the tale of Judas, who was the very fisrt vampire, which used to explain things like the traditional weaknesses to silver and a stake through the heart (it has to be rowan wood, the same type of tree Judas hung from).
  • Philosopher's Stone: Flynn recovers it at the beginning of "Curse of the Judas Chalice".
  • Primordial Tongue: Quest for the Spear features a book written in "The Language of the Birds" which is stated to be the language spoken before the Tower of Babel.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Library has a huge collection of these, including HG Wells' time machine, Jason's Golden Fleece, Excalibur (which is apparently a Living Weapon), the Holy Grail, Poseidon's Trident, Pandora's Box, The Ark of the Covenant, and a whole slew of others. Basically? You name it, they have it.
    • Also among which is a working jetpack. Apparently it's a rite of passage for each Librarian to come across it, try to use it, and spend the next several minutes chasing the thing down.
  • Punny Name: In the first film, Nicole Noone = "no-one".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Nicole Noone doesn't appear as a character in the second film because the actress was working on Boston Legal.
  • Seen It All: Judson, to a degree. He doesn't seem surprised at half of the questions Flynn has, and notes that it normally takes a new Librarian a while to find the jetpack and set it off. Flynn did it in record time.
  • Semper Fi: Judson is a Marine and can handle an entire army of Serpent Brotherhood mooks on his own.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: The villain's henchwoman has a more midriff revealing outfit compared to Nicole's more practical one in the first movie.
    • Swapped around in the second, where Emily spends nearly the entire movie with exposed midriff.
  • The Shangri-La: The heroes (and villain) search for and visit Shangri-La in the Himalayas during their quest to find the other two missing parts of The Spear of Destiny.
  • Sherlock Scan: This is part of how the main character gets his job - he scans his boss, determining that she was recently divorced from the depth of the ring-line on her finger and noting that she had three cats by being able to tell their hairs apart on her jacket. He occasionally does this to other characters as well.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Flynn's vacation to New Orleans was a love letter from the director to the restored city, severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina two years prior.
    • Driving the point home, during a montage of Flynn and Simone's first evening together, exploring the delights of the French Quarter, briefly appears a musician on a trombone — the movie's director, Jonathan Frakes, (who does play the trombone in real-life), with a out-of-universe shout out to his character, Commander Riker, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • The ending of King Solomon's Mines is a big one to the ending of Casablanca.
  • The Smart Guy: The entire premise is that the world's most important and dangerous position outright requires occupation by the ultimate Smart Guy, or on occasion, the ultimate Smart Girl.
  • Soft Water: In the first movie, Nicole and Flynn fall a few hundred metres down a cliff then seconds later down a waterfall without injury.
  • Something Else Also Rises: In the first movie, Nicole leans against a bathroom doorway in a robe and not much else. Flynn pops the champagne bottle he's holding.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: Simone in the third movie.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the second and third film Flynn is portrayed to be smarter and stronger than he was in the first movie, especially how he defeats his opponents.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Not only does no one in a hotel seem unduly surprised when Carsen walks up to the front desk in a bedsheet, but two gentlemen who are watching TV don't bat an eye when Judson pre-empts their program to have a two-way conversation with him via the lobby's television set.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Dark Action Girl for the bad guys tries this on Flynn towards the end of the first movie. It was probably genuine, considering she spent much of the movie praising him as one heck of a Librarian to her fellow henchpersons (and at one point while Flynn is captured sitting next to him in a helicopter and smiling fondly at him).