Written by Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley and
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Running Time: 2:05
for action violence and some scary images.
National Treasure was an entertaining, comedic and action-filled ride.
An ancient treasure had been brought to the United States a couple hundred years ago. The treasure had been collected and grown for thousands of years, and a group known as the Knights Templar was in charge of protecting it. They formed a new group called the Masons, and brought the goods to the new world, where it was hidden. Some of the most prominent founding fathers were Masons, like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Only a select few knew the secret of where the treasure was hidden, and the last remaining secret keeper gave a single clue to his hired hand. Flash forward to present time, and the latest in the line, Benjamin Franklin Gates, is following his legacy and trying to find the treasure. His family name is synonymous with conspiracy, but Gates soldiers on. And he finds the secret of the clue left to his relative. But that clue leads to another clue. And that clue is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Now the race is on between Gates, who wants to protect the treasure, and his former financial backer Ian Howe, who wants the treasure for himself. Which one will read the clues correctly and find the treasure that was buried centuries ago?
National Treasure reminded me a lot of The Da Vinci Code: a story that takes historical facts and figures and weaves them in and out of a fictional tale. I loved The Da Vinci Code and can't wait for that movie to come out, and I enjoyed National Treasure a lot as well. The problem with movies is that due to time constraints, you can't get into as much details as you can with books, so the story line was a little short, but it was easy enough to follow. The movie was filmed in such far off locations as Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York City, which made it more fun because a lot of people will be able to look at the movie and say, hey, I was just there! It makes you wonder if tourism is going to shoot up as people start to wonder if some of the things in the movie are actually real, and if there really is a treasure buried somewhere in one of those cities.
The movie had a lot of action, from scenes in the Arctic Circle, to the stealing of the Declaration of Independence, to a trip seven stories beneath the earth. But it also had a lot of comedy, most of it coming from the comedic sidekick, Riley, played by Justin Bartha, who, according to IMDB, just a few years ago was an Office PA on Analyze This. He brings the goofy sidekick character into the new millennium as no longer just a computer geek, but a good-looking, funny computer geek who willingly enters into dangerous situations. There's no mention of how he and Gates hooked up in the first place, but they seem to have known each other a long time. No matter how scary the scene, Riley always had a good line to lighten the mood. Nicolas Cage was back in fine form as an action star, after spending a few years as a 'serious' actor. His character wasn't neurotic, didn't have any tics, and didn't have some sordid history or a daughter he didn't know about. He was just a guy, looking for a treasure no one believed existed, including his own father. This was about as straightforward a character as Cage has played in a while. In his other action roles, he was always the reluctant hero, brought into the game against his will, standing up for what was right. This time he was the one bringing people along for the ride. Enter the totally hot Diane Kruger as Abigail Chase, one of the directors of the National Archives. She doesn't believe a word Gates says, but is intrigued by him. She catches him stealing the Declaration and ends up going along with the group once she realizes Gates may be telling the truth.
The story gives you an easy to follow plot that doesn't make the audience have to figure out much. It starts off in the Arctic Circle, then leads over the East Coast. There are riddles thrown in, but they are quickly figured out on screen so we don't have to do much thinking. And they all make reasonable sense, if you are willing to believe that there is a treasure buried somewhere in the United States. I think once you get over that hump, everything else will fall into place. The idea that the Masons hid clues in dollar bills (and hundred dollar bills) and that people would actually leave clues to the random person who could figure them out. The action scenes were well done, if nothing special. We've all seen action movies with explosions and chase scenes a hundred times, and there was nothing that broke new ground in this film. As I said earlier, having the movie set in recognizable places made it that much more fun because it makes you wonder if just last week when I was in downtown New York, if I was standing on top of billions of dollars worth of buried treasure.
I hadn't seen the movie since it was in theaters, so it was nice catching up with the 2-Disc Special Edition. The movie still holds up pretty well two years later. The extras were so-so. There was an alternate ending, which didn't add very much, and a couple of deleted scenes. There was also an animated version of the opening sequence. What I found most annoying was that you had to use codes in order to get to other extras. So you have to get to the end of the first four extras, get a code then punch in the code to get to other extras. They involved the history of treasure hunters (decent), the history of the Knights Templar (so-so) and some of the locations used in the filming of the movie. The second disc had more deleted scenes and some more features that I thought were a little more interesting. One was on the history of codes and codebreakers which was fun. A lot of the stuff on the second disc though seemed to be things on the first disc, just shown differently. So while the movie is definitely worth picking up, I'm not 100% sure the Special Edition is necessary. Although if you're like me, you might as well get everything there is to offer rather than feel like you're missing out.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed National Treasure. It had a lot of comedy, some good action and a fun story. With the PG rating, it's the kind of film the entire family can enjoy. And as a new feature, I'll end each review saying whether or not I'd be willing to see a movie again, either in theaters, on DVD or not at all. In this case, I'd definitely see National Treasure again and I'd be willing to see it again in theaters.
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