I loved the first National Treasure, which is essentially a more history-focused, clean, and modern version of Indiana Jones, with Nicholas Cage in one of his best roles as living encyclopedia Benjamin Gates. I was eager to see the sequel, and, for all intents and purposes, it delivered everything I was hoping for: historical insight, conspiracy theories no one takes seriously, Bruckheimer-esque action sequences, plainspoken humor, and an all-around enjoyable film experience. Almost everything that made the first film great and immensely watchable is present in Book of Secrets…almost.
The one thing that National Treasure 2 lacks is a good reason for the treasure hunt. The filmmakers needed to have a cause for Ben to begin his risky profession again, and they made some unfortunate leaps in logic to make it all work. I understand Ben’s desire to clear his great-great-grandfather’s name, but how exactly does finding the treasure do that? Likewise, after he’s kidnapped the President, he is told that he must uncover the treasure to clear his own name, but, as stated by Sadusky (still a laid-back Harvey Keitel), how does that erase his federal crime? If the President could just wipe his slate clean with his revised story at the end, why didn’t he just do that to begin with instead of pinning everything on the treasure? The actual treasure hunt is educational and riveting, but the setup that keeps urging its importance is full of holes. Also, Ed Harris as Mitch is a lesser villain, compared with the first film’s Ian, played by Sean Bean; whereas Ian wanted the hoard itself and was actually smart enough to find clues and possibly the treasure on his own, Mitch lets Ben do all the work and desires merely the credit for finding the trove.
Like with Home Alone 2, it sounds like all I’m doing is criticizing this sequel, but I really do enjoy it. The familiar actors, including Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, and Jon Voight, plus new addition Helen Mirren, seem to be having fun right along with their characters, such as during a psych-out reminiscent of the electric fence scene in Jurassic Park. The action is expertly done, including a rather drawn-out car chase, another farewell-to-bumpers chase scene, and an astounding balancing set piece that reminded me of the Oscar-winning German animated short film Balance from 1989. I also enjoy the historical locations, including the Library of Congress and Mount Rushmore; I’ve visited the latter myself, as well as Sylvan Lake, and I always smile when the film indicates the lake is behind Mount Rushmore. (It’s nearby, but not that close.)
Overall, National Treasure 2 is another entertaining history lesson. Whether or not we ever find out what was on page 47 in a hoped-for third National Treasure, at least the existing two will continue to entertain history geeks like me.Best line: (Ben, answering why the President should help him) “And because you’re the President of the United States, sir. Whether by innate character or the oath you took to defend the Constitution or the weight of history that falls upon you, I believe you to be an honorable man, sir.” (The President, played by Bruce Greenwood) “Gates, people don’t believe that stuff anymore.” (Ben) “They want to believe it.”
Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 7 Entertainment: 10 Visual Effects: 9 Originality: 7 Watchability: 10 TOTAL: 49 out of 60
Next: #130 – Alien
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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