Librarian: Quest For The Spear

Despite the popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise, we somehow never got a whole genre out of them: we have racks and racks of kung fu and science fiction flicks, but no ‘archaeology adventures’ rack. There are films that draw on Indiana Jones imagery or themes (I’d actually put the last Indiana Jones movie in that category) but we don’t have mediocre genre flicks. Or so I thought until I saw Librarian: Quest For The Spear.

At root, L:QftS is a Noah Wyle vehicle designed to help the cute-as-the-dickens actor keep from getting labeled a one-hit wonder for his role in ER. In practice, the made for TV movie is a sort of comedic hommage to Indiana Jones which is unapologetic about packing every cliché and gag into one package. On the face of it, the cast is incredible. In addition to Wyle and Sonya Walger (who is apparently famous for being in Lost?) it also feature Bob Newhart, Kyle MacLachlan, and Jane Curtin (Kelly Hu and Olympia Dukakis also have small roles). That’s right: Jane Curtin and Kyle MacLachlan.

The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward: perpetually-ABD archaeologist Wyle stumbles on to a job working at a library that houses All Magic Artifacts (think Night At The Museum crossed with the warehouse where they file away the ark at the end of Raiders) presided over by Curtin and Newhart. Something is stolen and sensitive-scholar Wyle and tough-chick bodyguard Walger head to Tibet, the Amazon, etc. in search of it and eventually defeat MacLachlan. At the end there is a catfight between Hu and Walger over who gets to keep Wyle.

The movie is worth watching — despite how much it made me groan I never turned it off. It might even be teachable as an example of things that drive anthropologists crazy. In the end it ends up in a strange double-bind: it clearly aspires to be a cheesily comedic Raiders remake. At the same time, Wyle doesn’t really seem to have too much in the way of comic chops and, let’s face it, its not that funny. As a result the film both succeeds in being a bad remake while also being a genuinely bad remake.

Apparently Quest For The Spear is only the start — they’ve made two more The Librarian:$VERB $CONJUNCTION $MACGUFFIN films that I haven’t seen (they’re in the queue tho). I’d recommend them if you are looking for an excuse to eat popcorn, become mildly outraged at the presentation of your discipline, and enjoy some mind candy at the same time.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

8 thoughts on “Librarian: Quest For The Spear

  1. If The Librarian movies offend your archeological sensibilities, try viewing them as a librarian! Wyle doesn’t even have an MLS!

  2. There is a small genre:

    Tales of the Gold Monkey (TV series)
    Romancing the Stone & Jewel of the Nile
    The Mummy (and sequels)
    Tomb Raider (and sequels)
    Stargate (and franchise)
    Fool’s Gold (maybe…)

    ..and possibly
    National Treasure (and sequel)
    the Dan Brown stuff…

  3. Here’s a couple more to add to the genre list:

    King Solomon’s Mines (1985, with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone) and its sequel, Alan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986, Chamberlain and Stone return, this time with James Earl Jones).

    Firewalker (1986, with Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr.)

    All three are tongue-in-cheek and amusing if you are in the right mood.

  4. The Syfy (damn their renaming) is showing a new series called “Warehouse 13”, in which the principals belong to an off-the-books Secret Service unit that recovers “artifacts” (=powerful artifacts that belonged to famous people or ancient cultures of various kinds) to store them where their supernatural powers can be contained.

    It’s been entertaining, especially the stuff they end up using in their work (deco iPod-looking “Farnsworth” communicators, Tesla ray-guns). The few “ancient culture” plots have been weak — sub-“Temple of Doom”.

    Also, I recommend the Tony Hillerman books, many of which were made into PBS TV movies with Wes Studi and Adam Beach.

  5. I was told, a few months back, abou the Warehouse 13 series, which sounds really interesting! It seems to have made at least some inroads into “popular culture” in a way that anthropologists might like to look at.
    Anne g

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