Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. All rights reserved.
December 21, 2007
Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood
Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Phenomenon)
Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub
Gregory Poirier and the Wibberleys & Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Clearing the Family Name... Again
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
- A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold (Proverbs 22:1, NASB).
You can’t argue with that kind of wise statement taken from the Bible. But what if there was a way to get both riches and a good reputation?
Welcome to the world of Benjamin Franklin Gates in another National Treasure adventure called Book of Secrets. The self-proclaimed ‘treasure protector’ rejoins techno-wizard Riley Poole, charming love interest Abigail Chase, and history professor/father Patrick Gates on another search to raise the Gates’ name from the ashes of ill repute.
Apparently, missing pages of the John Wilkes Booth diary list one of Ben’s ancestors as a co-conspirator in the plot to assassinate Lincoln, sending the adventuresome crew to historical landmarks both in the United States and abroad to find the clues that will not only unshackle the family name once again, but also unlock the mystery of more hidden treasure—a legendary City of Gold.
From Shame to Fame
In the first National Treasure, the Gates name was thickly mired in shame because the supposed Knights Templar treasure, which was the life pursuit of history professor Patrick Gates for some 20 years and is the same passion of his son, Ben, a treasure seeker steeped in American History, had not been recovered. That fact had made the Gates boys the laughing stock of the academic world.
So deeply did that sense of shame remain, that Ben Gates, after finding the ship that he believed held the key to the treasure, proclaimed to his soon-to-be arch rival, Ian, “I’m just glad I’m not as crazy as everyone says or said my dad was or my granddad or my great granddad.”
Then, later when Ben appeared at the door of his estranged father seeking refuge after stealing the Declaration of Independence, he was met with unwelcome sarcasm. When Ben asked for the Silence Dogood letters, Patrick Gates retorted, “I know, I am the family kook,” and was initially reticent to help his son. Seeing his father’s angst, Ben commented, “Maybe that’s the real Gates family legacy—sons who disappoint their fathers.”
Eventually, Patrick Gates joined his son to uncover the mystery and locate the treasure. Proud of his son’s accomplishments, Patrick Gates said passionately, “You did it, Ben, for all of us—your grandfather and all of us! And I’ve never been so happy to be proved wrong.”
Thus, our hero got redeemed. The Gates’ slate was wiped clean, and the family went from “crazy” to very wealthy historical geniuses.
But now it’s time for round two. The Gates ancestral line has been accused of being involved in a plot to kill President Lincoln. Ben Gates is called upon once again to salvage the family reputation from the wreckage in the sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets
In this second film, there is not the same degree of desperation to rectify the accusations like there was in the original movie. As Nicolas Cage said in a press junket for the film, speaking about his role of Ben Gates, “I think the weight has been taken off the character. He has been accepted academically. He is not considered a whacko anymore from the first movie.”
However, we can still see the passion Ben has to reclaim his family’s rightful standing in the history books as being one of honor and integrity, not as unpatriotic murderers.
“He [Ben Gates] really believes in a chivalrous way that everything he is is on account of his ancestors,” noted Cage. “They are not dead to him. They are still there with him, and he is honoring them.”
And so begins a new adventure, one that will redeem the family again and prove to be monetarily satisfying as well.
As the movie tagline prompts, "A man only has one lifetime, but history can remember you forever."
Restoring Our Reputation
What compels us to want to watch these self-vindicating thrillers? What is it in us that enjoys watching our heroes set the record straight?
I think there is something universal in the character of Ben Gates. We can relate to this man and his family who have been unjustly snubbed, because more than likely we have experienced much the same on a smaller scale. Just recall the name-calling episodes we endured on the playground as children. We have often lived driven lives as Ben has done to overcome those painful insults. And now, we want to leave a legacy of valor.
It is natural when we are insulted, when our reputation is questioned, to fight back and prove everyone wrong. We roll up our sleeves as if to say, ‘I’ll show them!’ and off we go fighting the fight to redeem ourselves.
Regaining honor is not in itself a bad thing, but when it becomes an obsession, when it becomes an identity definer, we must ask ourselves, will we ever get to the point where we can simply rest in knowing who we are, no matter what dirt gets dug up about our relatives, no matter what mud gets slung at us personally?
Jesus, in the height of being unjustly vilified as a fraud before His death on the Cross, is a perfect example of a better way: “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer” (Matthew 27:12, NASB).
Jesus had ultimate authority to put those men in their place. He had the complete right to stand up for Himself and shout, “Hey, do you know who My Father is? Do you know who I am? How dare you blaspheme the name of God!” Instead, He remained silent.
Why? Because He knew who He was. And it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. He was not defined by His peers. He was not defined by His ancestors. He was only defined by the relationship He had with God, and that relationship with secure. He was at complete peace with Himself.
I think in this example there is a lesson for all of us to learn. As much as it is right to admire someone for righting wrongs, eventually, there will come a point when that same individual must let go of the offense. We can’t beat a dead horse any longer. We need not keep exhausting ourselves to regain approval, especially if we have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we have chosen to make Him our Lord and Savior, it isn’t about us anyway. We are hidden in Him and now our reputation rests with Him.
When people insult us, we don’t need to go on a campaign to save our name from ill repute. Jesus already did all that. Through the Cross, He rescued our reputation as sinners separated from God and deserving of His wrath so that we could become known as His friends, His children, co-heirs with Christ, the priesthood of believers. How’s that for a redeemed reputation?
No amount of approval from others or wealth, fame, or notoriety could ever supersede everything God has already done for us.
For, as the Bible tells us, “…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19, NASB).
Instead of trusting our own great intelligence, instead of trusting in our possessions or our wealth, we need only rest in our relationship with Jesus to see us through. He will vindicate us: “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11, NIV).
National Treasure 2: A Franchise in the Making?
National Treasure 2: Better Than One?
For more about National Treasure: Book of Secrets , visit the official Movie Site.
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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