National Treasure (2 Disc Collector's Edition) – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director

John Turteltaub

Cast

Nicolas Cage ………. Ben Gates
Diane Kruger ………. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha ………. Riley Poole
Sean Bean ………. Ian Howe
Jon Voight ………. Patrick Gates
Harvey Keitel ………. Sadusky
Christopher Plummer ………. John Adams Gates
David Dayan Fisher ………. Shaw
Stewart Finlay-McLennan ………. Powell
Oleg Taktarov ………. Shippen

The Movie

In the last decade the total amount of creativity and original work has gone down substantially as the sheer amount of ideas available for cinematic work has seemingly been exhausted. Disney, which has salvaged a lot of its classic work for a volume of direct to DVD sequels, somehow managed to create two franchises that recreated some of the magic of the prior decades. Pirates of the Caribbean has been likened to a reincarnation of Star Wars in terms of feeling like an “event” movie, drawing some of the highest box office draws in years while creating recognizable characters in the same way that made Star Wars a part of the American fabric. The other is National Treasure, which some liken to the Indiana Jones series that made Harrison Ford a permanent member of Hollywood’s elite box office draws. With the release of National Treasure: Book of Secrets looming, Disney has released a new two disc special edition of the original historically themed adventure.

National Treasure follows Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), a man whose family has been in pursuit of a mythic Freemason treasure for many generations. Accompanied by his assistant Riley (Justin Bartha), Gates follows clues laid out before him that he thinks will lead him to a treasure of the ages. Pursued by Ian Howe (Sean Bean), a man of ill repute who initially worked with Gates to find the treasure, and joined in their quest by a historical researcher (Diana Kruger) and Gates’ father Patrick (Jon Voight), Gates gets involved with stealing the Declaration of Independence in his treasure quest. What starts out as a quest for a treasure of ungodly proportions for Gates becomes a battle of life and death. And for Cage it has become perhaps his first true franchise vehicle in between dramatic roles.

The film is one of action, not acting, so there isn’t a terrific performance to be found. There are plenty of workmanlike performances around, but this isn’t a film to watch for its actors. The film’s action sequences, consisting of mainly chase scenes, are the sort of white-knuckle moments that make up a good action film. Cage is at the best he’s been in some time for the action sequences; he hasn’t pushed himself this hard in terms of the stunts his character (and stuntman) perform as well as the character is a lot different than the usual characters he portrays in dramatic roles as well as his action stuffs as well. Ben Gates isn’t a man who has some endearing personality quark or has major issues; he’s a man bound to find what others missed and redeem his family’s honor.

John Turteltaub also invests the film with a certain amount of doubt as well; throughout the film we’re left to doubt whether Gates will find the treasure alluding him and even if he’ll survive the proceedings.

It’s an interesting choice of roles for Cage, a man for whom an action film is generally a single shot. While National Treasure has the same sort of feel as his other action classics, like The Rock or Con Air, there’s a franchise feeling in the air for Cage. While its ability to be a franchise will ultimately be decided by Book of Secrets, National Treasure is another top notch action film for a man not known as one of Hollywood’s designated action heroes (but should be).

A/V QUALITY CONTROL

Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format with a widescreen presentation, Disney has revamped the film’s already superb audio/visual presentation from the previous release and upgraded it a notch. The color is a bit sharper and the sound a bit better as well, but nothing extraordinarily advantageous from the first.z

The Extras

Bonus Treasure Hunt is a heading with all of the special features for the first disc of the DVD. There’s National Treasure on Location, an 11 minute making of piece. Turteltaub was lured into the project because of how it encompassed several genres and Bruckheimer, who liked the script, came on board to produce the film and wanted to give his expertise on how to make into the sort of blockbuster it could be. There’s also several Deleted Scenes, introduced by Turteltaub who deleted them mainly for length (the first cut of the film was four hours) and come complete with his commentary on them. There’s an Opening Scene Animatic, the digital representation of the traditional storyboard, as well as an Alternate Ending on the first disc under this category as well. The alternate ending seems to be a bit more in setting up a sequel than the original one, which is more conclusive. Watching all of these gets a “secret code,” which decoding allows you access to even more special features. The first is Treasure Hunters Revealed, a piece about actual treasure hunters and their motivations. It’s an interesting piece about the people who treasure hunt for real, as opposed to the ones who do it cinematically. Riley Poole’s Decode This is a short piece, narrated by Bartha in character, which leads into a puzzle game. The Templar Knights is a piece about the knights.

The second disc contains more Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary and an introduction as well. Turteltaub admits a lot of the deleted scenes were more about pacing and storytelling, which benefits from its relentless pace and tight story. Ciphers, Codes, and Codebreakers is a look at cryptology, a look at the art of codes and secrets. It’s an interesting and quick look at the history of the cipher and the art of code-breaking. Exploding Charlotte is quick piece on how they set up the film’s big explosion to start the film while To Steal a National Treasure focuses on the film’s theft of the Declaration of Independence and how they were able to pull it off. Hiring security experts and bringing out a plausible scenario from them, the piece focuses on how the National Archives assisted them and allowed them to shoot in certain parts of the building. The rest was recreated in the studio. On the set of American History focuses on how Turteltaub strived to make the film accurate historically by using the actual locations, as opposed to Hollywood mockups.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for National Treasure (2 Disc Collector’s Edition)
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8.5
THE VIDEO

9.5
THE AUDIO

9.5
THE EXTRAS

6.0
REPLAY VALUE

8.0
OVERALL
7.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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