In 2004 we were introduced to the highly successful National Treasure, directed by Jon Turteltaub, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Nicholas Cage in the lead role. Of course, seeing as this movie made such a killing at the box office and Mr Bruckheimer loves dealing in franchises with maximum revenue, we were destined for a follow-up, which is exactly what we got this year with National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
Again directed by Jon Turteltaub (whom I first discovered through the hilarious Cool Runnings featuring Jamaica’s first ever bobsleigh team) and pretty much starring the whole original cast of Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger and Jon Voight, it also adds some new heavyweight acting clout in the form of Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel and Bruce Greenwood. It plays off in a pretty similar fashion to what the first one did, basically leading the team on a wild goose chase around the world while uncovering and solving various clues all in order to find some or other treasure which has some or other significance to the main character. Simple, predictable and highly enjoyable.
The story of National Treasure: Book of Secrets starts off by revealing that things didn’t turn out all that rosy after the first movie. Famed treasure hunter Ben Gates has been kicked out of the house by Abigail Chase while Riley Poole has written a book but is pretty much sitting in debt after a visit from the IRS and some creative accounting.
The real story however only starts once a certain Mr. Mitch Wilkinson comes forward with some compelling evidence that implicates Ben’s great grandfather in the assassination of President Lincoln. Determined to clear his great grandfather’s good name, Ben embarks upon a quest to solve the riddle contained in the evidence and in so doing will be led down a wild adventure that will see him breaking into Buckingham Palace, kidnapping the President of the United States and even locating the famed lost City of Gold.
The story feels very, very similar to that of the first movie, so if you enjoyed National Treasure the first time around, you will more than likely find this incarnation just as thrilling. We get treated to a lot of clever and well-researched writing in the form of the various clues and puzzles that need to be solved and at the same time get to witness some great action sequences and well as some tense and dramatic – moments towards the end of the movie. Of course, all this is slathered in a good dose of humour and one-liners, more often than not delivered by the comic relief, Riley.
The script takes us to a number of locations, including England, France and the United States and this is partly what made the first movie such a success. By not restricting the action and puzzle hunting to just one locale keeps the audience interested and entertained. However, it was a little disconcerting to see how the movie treated the French and English cultures, but then again, I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less from an American made movie.
This is a big budget movie and you can see it in the various special effects, stages and props throughout the movie. The actors as well are just about all heavy-hitters in Hollywood and the acting quality shines through. These are believable characters which you can quickly follow and support, even though the movie never treads down an overly dramatic or emotional path except perhaps towards the end of the movie.
The composer for the movie is South African born Trevor Charles Rabin probably best known as a guitarist and songwriter for the British progressive rock band Yes and since then as his prolific work as a film composer. The soundtrack for the movie is well written and suits the movie well, though it tends to stay in the background and never threatens to overpower or impose on the tone being set during any one of the scenes.
Interestingly enough, while the original National Treasure seemed to pretty much end in a fashion that indicated that this was going to be a once off shot, National Treasure: Book of Secrets deliberately sets us up for a follow-up movie and we can be pretty sure that Mr. Cage and the rest of the gang will be turning up for another treasure hunt sometime in the future. I just hope that next time around they might mess with the now tried and tested formula just a little bit!
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is as good as the first movie (probably because it is almost exactly like the first one!) and won’t fail to entertain any fans of the original. It is a dose of high adventure with tons of great puzzles and action sequences that will keep you awake and watching for its entire duration, even if it does begin to feel a little stretched out towards the end. Even if it isn’t a particularly emotional rewarding movie to watch, it is a great popcorn action flick and probably shouldn’t be missed.