The Librarian: Quest For The Librarian Franchise

Ok since my original post about Librarian: Quest For The Spear I have had a chance to watch the other two movies in the series, Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mine and Librarian: A Verb I Forget Whose Direct Object Is The Judas Chalice.

The first thing I learned in writing my post about the love-hate relationship anthropologists have with popcorn films that misrepresent them is that there are far, far more out there than I knew about — indeed, most of the comments on my post were links or mentions of other movies we definitely won’t like. At some point we will have to get together a proper Visual Anthropology conference — not all that informative, artsy stuff Kerim does — and make up a list of the best of the worst (and vice versa).

Second, although the Librarian franchise looses some star power in its future iterations (no more Kyle Maclachlan) the other two are worth seeing — particularly the third one in the series, Librarian: Something Something Judas Chalice. The second one in the series, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ definitely is better made than the first one, which means that it realizes its vision more completely. The problem, of course, is that vision. This is the movie where The Librarian Goes To Africa and, let’s face it, it’s practically impossible to write make an adventure movie in Africa that will make an anthropologist happy. The second Librarian film is no exception — the tribal mating dances, black people eating insects for gross-out humor effects, they pretty much manage to fit it all in. Additionally, I sort of don’t feel that Gabrielle Anwar works particularly well as the romantic interest. The tension between her and Noah Wyle (they are both bookworms and so compete to see who is the real archaeologist) is certainly there, but in the inevitable scene where he walks in on her, drunk, half clothed in supposedly ‘traditional’ Masai clothing, and they get it on you don’t really understand why she’s fallen for him if she finds him so annoying (other than the fact that its in the script). Also, to be honest, although I think Anwar is going for ‘lithe’ she just looks emaciated to me, and my first impulse is not to see her as a sex object, but to get some calories into her before she passes out. But maybe that’s just the Jewish mother in me.

The third film in the franchise is remarkably similar to Dracula 2000. I know because I saw it. Why did I see Dracula 2000? Was it because I knew about Gerard Butler before he was big? A pre-Firefly crush or Nathan Fillion or a post-Star Trek crush on Jeri Ryan? No. It was because someone told me Christopher Plummer played Van Helsing, and I got him confused with Crispin Glover, and I thought “damn Crispin Glover is completely nuts and rarely does film any more — I’d love to watch him play Van Helsing.” Anyway both films are set in New Orleans — although the Librarian’s ridiculous use of the city as a massive product placement did more to offset production costs than add ambience to the film. Both play with the idea that Vampires are related to Judas Iscariot (is this a common idea?). But there the similarities end.

The female lead, Stana Katic, is much more appealing than Anwar, and we get to see Bruce Davidson produce another one of his “So wholesome… no wait so CREEPY… no wait so wholesome… no wait so – ” performances. Wyle’s character has really come into its own, and is sort of charming — nonviolent (unlike Indiana Jones), constantly coming up with cerebral and often insanely dangerous ways to get out of trouble. The performance is much more assured and the character more likeable than earlier installations in the series. Even the Russian bad guys are great in that sinister eastern-bloc baddie kind of way that I am almost nostalgic for in this age of Those Who Hate Our Freedoms. Yes that’s right: Russians and Vampries in New Orleans.

So there you have it — two more Popcorn Anthropology films. If anyone out there gets around to seeing them, let me know what you think.


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

4 thoughts on “The Librarian: Quest For The Librarian Franchise

  1. This is a bit off topic since it’s not about a popcorn film, but I find it amazing how most anthropologists have never seen or even heard of “_Regeneration_”:, in which Jonathan Pryce plays W. H. R. Rivers. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the number of anthropologists who have never read or even heard of Rivers…

  2. I think the novels are pretty widely read amongst Melanesianists but I had no idea they had been turned into a movie!

  3. Librarians have a love/hate relationship with the portrayals of librarians in movies & tv, too. Most of us don’t actually have weapons chests stashed behind the reference desks (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or battle mummies (The Mummy), or travel to Africa or even New Orleans to retrieve mysterious scrolls or relics. In fact, perhaps not unlike anthropologists, it seems that very few people in the general public actually know what we do. If someone wants to push a librarian-as-adventurer/Indiana Jones/defender of mankind image, though, I’m happy to take it. It’s better than the shushing image we usually see, after all. And just about anything with Bob Newhart in it is worth at least a look.

  4. In terms of cheesy anthropology references in popular culture, I recently came across a German made for tv movie circa about 2000. It’s about a young, sexy ethnologist named Britta who travels to a fictional Arabian country to do research on ancient textiles, only to get mixed up in a web of intrigue, danger, and romance, of course. It’s called “Der Arabische Prinz” (the Arabian Prince) and I’m not sure if you can find an English subtitled version online.

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