NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS
Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Jon
Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood,
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2008
“Hmm. Cause last time I checked, we pretty much make our living on crazy.”
2004’s National Treasure was a surprise box office smash that not only established a new adventure movie franchise, but revived a certain type of genre that seemed to be missing at the time. It was one of the best escapist adventures of its kind since the Indiana Jones movies. Many thought it to be a knock off of a The Da Vinci Code, but that book’s movie adaptation failed exactly where this movie succeeded.
Now comes National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which epitomizes perhaps the best accomplishment a sequel can make. It’s not superior to its predecessor, but it’s an ultimately satisfying follow up and anyone who had a blast the first time around is definitely going to get their money’s worth. All the qualities that made National Treasure the grand entertainment that it is are here once again and in equal doses.
Nicolas Cage is back in adventure mode as treasure hunter Ben Gates. You’ll recall the last movie, in which Gates stole the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it from dangerous hands. And the historical artifact also contained a map leading to the largest treasure to ever be discovered.
This time, Gates is on another quest, but any treasure involved is the least of his concerned. He has been presented with evidence linking his great-great grandfather to the assassination of President Lincoln. And yet, clearing his ancestor’s name involves finding the lost City of Gold.
Along with his dad (Jon Voight), ex-girlfriend Abigail (Diane Kruger) and techno wiz partner Riley (Justin Bartha), Ben’s pursuit takes him everywhere from Paris to London’s Buckingham Palace and even to the Oval Office, where the Book of Secrets in question is located. It’s rumored to contain information ranging from the JFK assassination to Area 51.
The catch is in order to get his hands on the book, Ben will have to make a bold move…kidnapping the President (Bruce Greenwood), since the book is in fact for President’s eyes only. Meanwhile, a rival treasure hunter named Wilkinson (Ed Harris) is trying to beat Ben to the treasure. He happens to be the one who came forth with the evidence involving Ben’s ancestor.
As you can probably tell by reading the synopsis, the movie is flat out absurd. But it’s never pretending to be anything else. Like its predecessor, Book of Secrets gleefully mixes in history with fantasy. How else can you explain a movie where the climax involves a discovery of gold city inside Mount Rushmore?
But that’s what makes these movies so darn enjoyable. They are aware of the high level of absurdity and only care about entertaining its audience, who only want pure escapist entertainment. It promises a real fun time and delivers from beginning to end.
The cast is an engaging one, with Nicolas Cage once again providing a unique and terrifically likeable adventure hero in Ben Gates. Jon Voight is top notch as Ben’s put upon father. And as in the first movie, Justin Bartha provides nice comic relief as sidekick Riley.
I only have two complaints in the cast, the first of which being Ed Harris. Here’s an actor who we all know can make an effective bad guy, as in The Rock where he also faced off with Cage. But here, I don’t think he’s trying too much, and is thus not the least bit menacing. My second complaint is Harvey Keitel, whose returning FBI character seems to have wandered in from another movie, just like it did in the first movie.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a more than acceptable sequel that provides the same entertaining value as its predecessor. You can’t help but appreciate the logic-stretching plots, the energy, the humor, and the action both these movies have delivered. If you loved the first one, then seeing this is a no-brainer.
The first film looked great on Blu-ray, but the second surpasses it. With all the great settings, including Mount Rushmore inside and out, the level of detail offered by this high-def format is particularly stunning. It will make you feel like you're actually there. Colors are superbly rendered, and contrast levels in both light and dark scenes is particularly striking.
There's plenty of danger and action to keep the uncompressed 5.1 audio challenging your system, with dynamic range that goes from ambient and subtle to all-out speaker rattling. Dialogue is well balanced against the effects, and once again, Trevor Rabin provides a solid musical score to accompany the proceedings.
The disc starts off with
some exclusive Blu-ray features, including a look at the fact and fiction of the
movie, and an extra pair of deleted scenes with introductions from John
Turteltaub. There is also a terrific commentary track
with John Turteltaub and star Jon Voight. There are multiple featurettes, including
”Secrets Of A Sequel”, “The Book Of Secrets: On Location”, “Street Stunts: Creating The London Chase”,
”Inside The Library Of Congress”, “Underground Action”, “Cover Story: Crafting The Presidents' Book”,
”Evolution Of A Golden City”, “Knights Of The Golden Circle”. There’s also a very funny gag reel titled “The Treasure Reel - Bloopers & Outtakes”.
Few sequels get the job done like National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Though I still find the first one to be a wee bit better, this is a most worthy follow up that delivers the same level of thrills and spills. I am very ready for a third treasure hunt.