National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets - Gold Collector's Edition
R1 - America - Walt Disney / Buena Vista
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (7th June 2008).
The Film

Nicolas Cage’s career has been kind of a wild ride, from his random appearance in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) to movies like “Raising Arizona” (1987) and becoming an action movie regular in the 90’s. Now he’s found himself as the face of Disney’s latest history-action-adventure franchise in “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” (2007) directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Once again Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian/treasure hunter whose family apparently has major connections with every major event in United States history as in this latest installment Gates’ great-great grandfather is accused of masterminding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, though Gates knows this isn’t true and sets out to prove the mystery wrong by discovering the clues hidden in history. Long sentence, long movie, long story short, the movie is a big series MacGuffins.

Each element of the plot pops up unexpectedly at just the precise time for Gates to figure out the clue and move on to the next mystery. But unlike other adventure movies, the MacGuffins in the movie just keep building up as each new piece in the puzzle feels shoved in to fit with the rest of the story. The writing in the movie feels like a long string of clever witticisms thrown back and forth between the five writers of the movie with some scant historical sounding ideas thrown in.

Gates also has to figure out the story of his former girlfriend, Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who he got in a big fight with before the movie. Apparently this fight is big enough for him to get kicked out of the house, but not enough to make her even hesitate to go on a grand whirlwind adventure through history.

Along for the ride is Gates’ father Patrick (Jon Voight) who also has to figure out a relationship mystery with Gates’s mother Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren). They haven’t spoken in 32 years, but that’s no big deal when you’ve got a plot to advance. Mirren and Voight are believable as Cage’s parents, though the fact that they ever got married is doubtable. It may be the fact that it’s a Disney movie so all the relationship issues have to be kept at face value for child audiences, but none of the chemistry works between the characters. They’re all friends, I believe that, but all the husband-wife, girlfriend-boyfriend drama seems tacked on.

For the actual mysteries being solved, somehow there’s an Pre-Columbian/Ancient-Native-American set of wooden tablets that reveal the path to an Olmec city of gold in the Northern United States. The movie likes to play with history, moving civilizations around and generalizing Indigenous cultures that much goes a little far for me, but for many it won’t even come up as an issue. It’s almost a tradition in the genre, but since all the "National Treasure" marketing loves to flaunt that the movie’s grounded in history, I may expect a little more.

Of course what would be a treasure hunt without the villans, Ed Harris plays the sinister southerner Mitch Wilkinson, who exposes the note about Gate’s great-grandfather’s apparent involvement in the Lincoln assassination. How this note ever gets disproven isn’t known, it’s just the start of the MacGuffin express.

Overall "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" fails to work on a variety of levels. Cage’s acting seems a little forced at times, almost like he wants to get through the movie and hopefully on to making "The Wicker Man 2: Even Wicker-er" (I can dream). I understand this is supposed to be a action-adventure-comedy for the PG crowd, but none of it worked for me. The chemistry isn’t existent, but the story doesn’t really hold any water either as it just keeps pushing on hoping to build up to some intensity or intrigue. Turteltaub’s directing doesn’t do much to help push this any further, I haven’t said much because there isn’t much to say. His directing gets the job done but there’s no shot that really impressed me.

This big push of MacGuffins, assorted plot points and tiny chemistry, ends up more like Sisyphus, pushing the collected film up the same hill, only to fall back at the very end, ready to push pointlessly and aimlessly for a 3rd installment in the series.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical 2.35:1 widescreen radio and anamorphically enhanced, the video is technically impressive. It’s a crisp, clear transfer that could take your breath away if the visual style was a bit more impressive. As it stands, what’s on screen looks good, but unfortunately what’s shown there is very mediocre. Disney definitely knows the technical side of transferring a movie to DVD, just with this instance the movie itself wasn’t up to par.

Audio

The sound is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital in either English, French or Spanish, and much like the Video is very technically impressive. The sound comes out crisp and clean, the score moves properly with the movie and having a good sound system may make the movie seem a little better. Unfortunately the sound is otherwise straightforward and to the point, never striving to be spectacular. Also included are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

Disney provides a good amount of extras on the 2 disc set, including an audio commentary, deleted scenes, a bunch of featurettes and bonus trailers.

DISC ONE:

The audio commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight provides some insight into the historical aspects of the film and locations. Turteltaub does most of the talking while Voight will throw his 2 cents in about the actors and be surprised about some fun historical facts that Turteltaub brings up. If you liked the movie, the commentary will be worth it because Turteltaub knows how to talk through scenes for the most part (there are a pauses but none too bad) and how to bring Voight in to the commentary.

There are also a few Disney bonus trailers on this disc for:

- “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “The Muppet Show 3” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds.
- “The Jungle Book 2: Special Edition” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “TinkerBell” runs for 1 minute and 38 seconds.
- “Sleeping Beauty” runs for 1 minute and 56 seconds.
- “Wall∙E” runs for 2 minutes and 39 seconds.
- “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” runs for 2 minutes.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” ad runs for 19 seconds.
- “Disney Parks” ad runs for 46 seconds.
- “Disney Blu-Ray Disc” ad runs for 2 minutes.

DISC TWO:

First up are the deleted scenes with director introductions which include:

- “Pursuit at Rushmore: the Unseen Chapter” runs for 7 minutes and 2 seconds. Gates and gang are at Mt. Rushmore trying to put together all the clues to find the secret location of the city of gold.
- “Hacking the Palace” runs for 1 minute and 40 seconds features Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) getting ready to hack into the Buckingham Palace computer system.
- “Pushed to the Edge” runs for 3 minutes and 16 seconds and shows Gates escaping off the roof of the Library of Congress and talking with Agent Sadusky (Harvey Keitel).
- “A Helping hand” runs for 2 minutes and 58 seconds. Gate’s father and mother explore the traps and ruins under Mt. Rushmore.
- “Tight Squeeze” runs for 35 seconds and features some banter between Voight and Mirren in the ruins.

Next is the “Secrets of a Sequel” featurette which runs for 6 minutes and 51 seconds where Turteltaub, Jerry Bruckheimer, Cage and other executive producers and actors discuss the creation of the sequel and how well they did in making the sequel.

“Book of Secrets: On Location” is a featurette that runs for 9 minutes and 46 seconds. The same group from the first clip discusses the new locations, the security and the access they were given to locations around the world.

The usual blooper featurette is “The Treasure Reel” and runs for 5 minutes and 3 seconds, Cage busts up laughing a lot, but most blooper reels are the same: laughs, mistakes and swearing.

“Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase” runs for 9 minutes and 41 seconds and, for me, is the most interesting featurette as they discuss how they set up the chase through downtown London, including interviews with stunt drivers and the stunt training.

“Inside the Library of Congress” featurette runs for 8 minutes and 40 seconds, shows off the library of congress, features a historical overview of the building and its function, along with a behind the scenes look at the filming in the building.

“Underground Action” featurette runs for 6 minutes and 48 seconds goes into the set building and the filming of the last 40-ish minutes of the movie in the underground City of Gold.

“Evolution of a Golden City” featurette runs for 10 minutes and 19 seconds. More about the creation of the underground City of Gold, along with discussion of the myth of the city of gold.

“Knights of the Golden Circle” featurette runs for 2 minutes and 40 seconds and discusses the actual southern extremist group that was mentioned in the movie and also mentions some new books about confederate gold.

And finally “Cover Story: Crafting the President’s book” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 32 seconds. A look at the prop design and the idea behind the Book of Secrets featured in the movie.

Packaging

This 2-disc set is packaged in an amaray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: A Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: B-

 


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