December 08, 2008

Review of National Treasure 2

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is another movie in the Indiana Jones vein. It runs roughshod over Native history and culture as it tries to deliver thrills. Let's take a look.

National Treasure: Book of SecretsA slight improvement over its agreeable forebearer, National Treasure: Book of Secrets follows Nicolas Cage's Ben Gates as he attempts to clear his family's name after his great-great-grandfather is accused of orchestrating Lincoln's assassination--an endeavor that reteams Gates with sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), love interest Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), and father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight). Screenwriters Marianne and Cormac Wibberley have infused National Treasure: Book of Secrets with a larger-than-life sensibility that's reflected in Jon Turteltaub's exceedingly slick directorial choices, as the film is rife with precisely the kind of elements that one has come to expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer production (i.e., outlandish action set-pieces, a steady undercurrent of comic relief, etc). As anticipated, there's admittedly a slight degree of repetition to the movie's propulsive storyline--Gates and his cohorts discover a clue, travel to some exotic locale, encounter resistance, and finally uncover another clue--yet, thanks to the preponderance of increasingly over-the-top destinations (i.e., from the Oval Office to the Library of Congress to Mount Rushmore), this never becomes quite as problematic as one might've feared. Cage's undeniably charismatic work is matched by the surprisingly adept supporting cast (which includes--among others--Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, and Helen Mirren), and it does seem clear that it's his energetic and downright enthusiastic performance that holds the viewer's interest even through a few less-than-enthralling sequences. And although the film does suffer from a climax that's just a little too similar to that of its predecessor's (i.e., all the characters converge on a dark, booby-trap laden cavern), National Treasure: Book of Secrets effortlessly establishes (and sustains) the kind of fun and ludicrously broad atmosphere that should've been present with the recent Da Vinci Code adaptation.National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets [Blu-ray] (2007)Less engrossing than its 2004 predecessor National Treasure, Jon Turteltaub’s busy sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets is nevertheless a colorful and witty adventure, another race against overwhelming odds for the answer to a historical riddle. Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), the treasure hunter who feverishly sought, in the first film, the whereabouts of a war chest hidden by America’s forefathers, is now charged with protecting family honor. When a rival (Ed Harris) offers alleged proof that Gates’ ancestor, Thomas Gates, was not a Civil War-era hero but a participant in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Ben and his father (Jon Voight) and crew (Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger) hopscotch through Paris, London, Washington DC, and South Dakota to gather evidence refuting the claim. The film is most fun when the hunt, as in National Treasure, squeezes Ben into such impossible situations as examining twin desks in the queen’s chambers in Buckingham Palace and the White House’s Oval Office, or kidnapping an American president (Bruce Greenwood) for a few minutes of frank talk.Rob's review:  These reviews basically characterize National Treasure: Book of Secrets correctly. The first two-thirds of the movie is a fun joyride--a cross between Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible. Only when it reaches Mt. Rushmore does it plunge into nonsense like its characters plunging into darkness.

The movie has a Mesoamerican plot woven through it even though no Natives appear. I suspect most critics didn't think much or care about this plot. But as we'll see, the Native elements are badly done. They don't detract from the story until the end, but they're stupid and stereotypical.

The reviews don't agree whether National Treasure: Book of Secrets is better or worse than its predecessor. Despite its flaws from a Native perspective, I'd say it's better. It's about as good as The Da Vinci Code--which is better than the first reviewer gives it credit for.

I give National Treasure a 7.0 of 10 and National Treasure: Book of Secrets an 8.0 of 10. Both movies suffer because of their clichéd climaxes: adventurers trying to survive in an underground complex as it collapses around them. Ho-hum...isn't that how every movie about people exploring lost ruins ends?

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

1 comment:

DineBoo said...

I've always found that the movies dragged on a bit too long, but they're okay for a 'nothing else is on' type movie.

As my husband, a Navajo, said in reference to the end of the movie:

"If there was gold in Mt. Rushmore, jons would have found it by now."

Love the blog,