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
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National Treasure 2: Better Than One?
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
- Ben Gates is at it again, chasing clues across the globe to eradicate the shame associated with his family line. This time he must cleanse the legacy of his great-great grandfather who has just been implicated as one of the co-conspirators of the Lincoln assassination in some missing page of the John Wilkes Booth diary.
Showcasing the talents of original cast members Jon Voight (Patrick Gates), Diane Kruger (Abigail Chase), and Justin Bartha (Riley Poole) and new cast members Ed Harris (Mitch) and Helen Mirren (as Emily), this Bruckheimer/Turteltaub adventure flick seeks to re-create the historical romance adventure that made National Treasure a surprise hit with both national and international audiences.
The question with any sequel is does it offer the same kind of formula as the first film, but with a new twist? It’s that balance between the same-yet-different that can be tricky to do well. Either the film soars to new heights or it disappointingly fizzles.
So, which is it for Book of Secrets? Does it pass the test?
OK, because people are bound to ask, I will get this out upfront: the sequel gets its title from a mythical piece of literature. An urban legend suggests the presidential office for years has held under lock and key a special book of secrets that tells the truth behind all kinds of hush-hush conspiracies like the John F. Kennedy assassination and Roswell.
Now, on to more important matters.
Like the first movie, Book of Secrets is a historical treasure hunt, but this time it expands its borders beyond the United States into the international locales of London and Paris, providing more intrigue than the first for travel buffs. I mean, really, who doesn’t enjoy seeing Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower on the big screen?
While it does take the characters more places, Secrets still manages to pinpoint key American historical tidbits as in the original thriller, which should make families interested in educating their children happy. For instance, you will find out where the saying “His name is mud” comes from, facts about two specially crafted desks fashioned from a ship that today reside in two very famous political locations, notes about the missing pages of the John Wilkes Booth diary, and some historical trivia you might not know about the Statue of Liberty. If nothing else, it will get your kid surfing Google or Wikipedia.
“There were so many things we uncovered, at least the writers made us aware of, about our history that you learn. They were all fun things to educate me, and by educating me, I am educating an audience,” noted the film’s producer Jerry Bruckheimer in a press junket for the film.
Voight agreed, saying, “After the first movie, people went to go look at the Liberty Bell, and this one will encourage interest in the Library of Congress.”
But even if you aren’t particularly keen on American history, you might still enjoy the action sequences, particularly the London car chase scene and the monstrous and elaborate sets. To me, it kind of harkens back to Indiana Jones. In fact, during the film junket, I asked director Jon Turteltaub if that parallel was intentional.
Turteltaub told the press, starting by speaking about the first film: “When we set out, we didn’t quite think Indiana Jones. . .then as it [National Treasure] became more about treasure, those connections started to be made by other people. . . . We are trying to go out of our way to not step on the same territory: one, because it is just boring to do that, and two because we will always be negatively compared because those movies are as great as movies can get, so why put yourself in that position?”
Still, the tribute to the original archeological treasure-seeker can’t be missed: a historian father-son duo gets involved in finding hidden treasure and must recover valuable golden items and escape the gargantuan cavernous set, all the while trying to stop the enemies from taking it illegitimately. Sounds a bit like Indiana Jones: Last Crusade. Watch it and see if you agree with me.
Additionally, Book of Secrets has an extra layer, familial treasures. The action/adventure is flung against the backdrop of two major romantic conflicts: Ben and his now-ex-girlfriend, Abigail, and Patrick and his ex-wife, Emily. Can the Gates boys recover both the hidden treasures of their hearts and the hidden treasures locked in the bowels of some historical landmark?
Personally, I had mixed feelings about the addition of romantic conflict. Sometimes it truly added to the film, bringing needed interest and humor. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Jon Voight and Helen Mirren, who are both consummate professionals. At other times, I found the conflict distracting and annoying, particularly the sometimes juvenile tiffs between Ben Gates and Abigail Chase. But the added elements did bring further plot developments, which did deepen the film’s characters.
I have to admit, between the two films, I enjoyed the first one best. Sometimes it is just hard to beat the original. Of course, I have had the privilege of seeing the original several more times, and each time, I have gotten to like the film better. Given the chance, I might say the same about this second film.
Since both films have in common the same lighthearted, historically driven, treasure-seeking adventure thriller and a talented cast and crew, I am guessing Book of Secrets will be a boon at the box office, too.
I liked how Justin Bartha summarized the main thrust of Book of Secrets. He said, “It is an action/adventure movie, but it is a character-based film. If you look at the heart of it, it is about these great characters and how they relate to each other.”
Clearing the Family Name... Again
National Treasure 2: A Franchise in the Making?
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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