National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
When a film does very well at the box office it is only natural that a sequel will quickly get the green light for production. This is the case for ‘National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets’. While this sequel falls a little short of the original, which is not saying much, it does hold together and does what it sets out to do. You have to remember that this is a Disney flick and is targeted towards the lucrative ‘tween market. If you look at this film only from the vantage point of being an adult it will not come out well. This is not intended to teach history or even have a deep, meaningful plot. It was created to provide a family friendly action adventure flick. It also advances the concept that history is interesting. Hopefully the kids watching, and perhaps a few adults, will go online to research some of the historical points made here. Perhaps they will even take a family trip to a real library and open a few books. This sequel is the type of film that tends to do poorly when you have to look at things like plot, consistency and character development. These are aspects of a film important to the critics and other mavens of the art of cinema. They are also typically not the primary importance to those in the audience watching it. For the audience all that should matter for a movie like this is whether it was entertaining and provided the necessary amount of action. The answer to that is yes, it does. When rating a film it is usually judged against other members of the same genre. With the summer blockbuster season rapidly approaching and some many excellent films in this genre it is almost impossible to reach the bar that has been set. ‘National Treasure 2’ does work while watching it. It is a fun flick that the whole family can watch together and that is a rare thing no matter how many technical gaffs the movie may make.
There are a lot of listed credits for writing this film. Some are for the original characters others for the story and yet another set for the actual script. Usually this means the studio owned a property that they were able to adapt using characters from the first movie. The script writers here are Marianne and Cormac Wibberley. They are two of the go to writers when a studio needs a sequel or remake. Their credits as a team include Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle’, ‘Bad Boys II’, ‘The Shaggy Dog’ and ‘I Spy’. They also penned the script for the original ‘National Treasure’ flick. This story is even weaker than that one but it still manages to be strangely engaging. Sure there are plot holes here that you could pass an air craft carrier through but this is an old fashion adventure flick. It is reminiscent of the old swashbuckling days long gone now where the movies were filled with adventurers and no one in the audience dissected the reality factor of the script. The Wibberleys do a lot to expand the scope of this story; after all a sequel is expected to be grander than its predecessor. Instead of have the hero tramping over what were the original 13 colonies this time he gets to take his treasure hunt global. He builds up his frequent flyer miles as he goes all over the United States and then off to Europe. Sure, some people in the audience will be able of figuring out the ‘secrets’ long before the characters but this movie is like a roller coaster ride. You know how it ends but the enjoyment is not in that knowledge but in the thrill of the ride.
The film is directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, same as the first flick. Once again they spin their magic making a gossamer thin story into a solid piece of entertainment. Bruckheimer has a long and very strong career in action movies having produced ‘Con Air’, ‘The Rock’, both with Nick Cage, as well as some of the most popular TV series like ‘CSI’. He knows how to gather the right people to make the audience happy. Turtletaub may have directed such lamentable flicks as ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘The Three Ninjas’ but since he also was behind episodes of ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ and the recently deceased excellent TV series ‘Jericho’ we can extend him forgiveness. As long as the audience is able to suspend belief as much as humanly possible they will have a good time here. Turtletaub knows how to keep the action moving along even when it is unencumbered by a plot. As mentioned it is possible to figure out the ending long before it happens. This, however, is based on the audience’s knowledge of the action flick format and not the clues presented in the film. Turtletaub does his level best to cover the fact that the intellectual leaps of understanding the characters are able to accomplish are not based on the clues to the mysteries as presented here.
A few days after the conclusion of the Civil War John Wilkes Booth (Christian Camargo) and other members of the secret society The Knights of the Golden Circle, a Southern organization dedicated to the South’s annexation of territories meet with Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch). He is well known for his abilities with puzzles and codes so they show him a diary that contains hidden clues the Knights want access to. As Gates is working on the code Booth goes to the Ford's Theater to assassinate President Lincoln. Gates breaks the code discovering it is a map to a vast hidden treasure. He also realizes that the men who approached him were dedicated to the South and their motive for obtaining the treasure is far less than admirable. A distraction is created in the tavern they are meeting when news of the assassination is heard. Gates rips a couple of pages from the book and burns them in the fireplace. In the present day Gate’s great, great grandson Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is relating the tale to a historical conference. He is interrupted by Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) who claims to have 18 of the dairy’s missing pages. On one of them Thomas Gates is mentioned and implicated on the murder of Lincoln as the one behind it. Ben Gates is outraged and becomes determined to clear his ancestor’s good name. There is also the perk of finding another vast treasure. He knows that he will need help so he calls on the old troupe of treasure hunters for assistance. Among them is his father, Patrick (Jon Voight) and his mother Prof. Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren) who just happens too be an expert on ancient Native American languages. Also joining up is his former sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and his now ex-girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). The group use high tech means along with some historical knowledge and good old fashion guess work to decipher the clues, find the treasure and clear the Gates name. Along the way they have to invade the President of the United States, the Queen of England and several national monuments.
Like the previous DVD release there are plenty of extras for the kids to enjoy after the movie. Please note that the two disc collector’s edition DVD was sent for preview. The Blu-ray version has slightly different extras.
This is not a great film by any means but it is a fun representation of a PG flick for the whole family. You should get it, watch it and enjoy it. Just try not to think a whole lot.