Written by Cormac & Marianne Wibberley
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Running Time: 2:04
for some violence and action.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets wasn't as much fun as the original, but was still an entertaining adventure.
The movie opens a short time after the original. Ben and Abby have gotten married and are in the process of divorcing. Riley has lost all the money he got to the IRS and is hawking a new book. While lecturing on his ancestor, Ben and father Patrick are ambushed by someone who claims that Thomas Gates was not a Civil War hero, but instead on of the masterminds behind the Lincoln assassination. The only way to clear the Gates family name is to try and prove that Thomas Gates had found a treasure map that would lead to the lost City of Gold. To do so however, would involve breaking into Buckingham Palace, the White House and, oh yes, kidnapping the President of the United States.
The original National Treasure was a lot of fun mainly because it wasn't expected to be fun. It was a surprise hit that many people enjoyed even if they won't admit it. Book of Secrets was fun, but the movie lost its originality so it didn't have the same feel. I did like the idea that the time in between films wasn't spent with all the main characters off having fun and living the perfect life. Having marital and IRS problems was a nice touch. Diane Kruger has only gotten more attractive over the last couple of years, while Nicolas Cage looks like his hairline has been painted on. But getting the band back together was a good idea because they all work well with each other. Adding Helen Mirren as Patrick's wife (and Ben's mom) was an inspired touch because she's one of the last people you'd expect to see going off on a treasure hunt. It was like seeing friends after a long time apart.
The story wasn't anything all that new. In the first movie they were going after the greatest treasure known to man. In this movie, they were going after... the greatest treasure known to man. In the first movie, there are all sort of historical clues/questions that need to be answered before you get to the final location where there's a huge action sequence and the discovery. Same thing this time around. The stakes are raised somewhat in Book of Secrets if only because they have to kidnap the President to get some information, but for the most part the plots are pretty similar. There was one major difference, and that was in the bad guy.
In the original, Sean Bean was the bad guy who was out specifically to find treasure. He was in it for the money and he let everyone know it. He didn't mind killing people if he had to and was a pretty, well, bad guy. In Book of Secrets, Ed Harris plays the bad guy. He's the one who comes out of the woodwork with the accusation that Thomas Gates was a traitor. He trails the Gates family as they run around the world trying to figure out the clues. He's willing to hurt people if necessary to find the treasure. Except... when the time comes to reveal why he did all of that, there is no explanation. At least nothing worthwhile. The entire movie builds up to a finale and you expect some major revelation as to why this guy would go through all this trouble and we're left with the flimsiest of reasons. I kept waiting for someone to say something worthwhile but there was nothing.
That being said, the action piece at the end was very well done. The Balance Cave (you'll understand when you see the movie) was rather inspired, and the ultimate reveal at the end was pretty spectacular. I thought the historical clues angle wasn't as strong as before, but was still somewhat interesting. The car chase through the streets of London was very well done. And as I said before, the cast worked well together and seemed to enjoy being back on the hunt. And, unlike the original, this one has the makings of a sequel built right in, and it has to do with the infamous Book of Secrets.
The Two-Disc Collector's Edition comes with a ton of extras. The first thing I noticed was that I really enjoyed the deleted scenes. In most movies, you can see why scenes were taken out of the final cut - mostly because they suck. But with these, the only real reason they were removed was due to time. I thought they were pretty good and could have stayed in the film, if the running time hadn't already been so long. The blooper reel was almost pointless by comparison. Each of the major sequences in the film is treated with their own making-of documentary including the car chase scene through the streets of London and the City of Gold. There's a documentary on the Library of Congress which was interesting even if it wasn't tied into the movie. All in all there are almost a dozen extra things on the second disc which makes it more than worth picking up. The only one I wish had gone into more depth was the one on the Knights of the Golden Circle, which is an organization I had never heard of before the film, but didn't really learn a lot about in the documentary.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It lost some of its originality, with the story being mostly a rehash of the first film, and the villain being less villainous. But it was still an entertaining ride with some exciting sequences and a group of actors who looked like they were just having fun.
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