National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets – 2-Disc Gold Collector's Edition – DVD Review

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Available at Amazon.com

Sequels aren’t always what we expect them to be. Sometimes they can be somewhat decent and enjoyable, but not quite as good as we had hoped. Most of the time they are just downright horrible and end up not even being worth whatever money spent to see them. If the sequel couldn’t get the actors back for their original roles then you might as well just totally forget about any validity the film would have of trying to be a decent flick. Very rarely will a sequel outdo its predecessor and rise to the top of the film series to become the best one. National Treasure 2 didn’t quite pass up the first film, but it did a lot of things right to at least be a good one.

Benjamin Gates proved that the Gates’ family name would not go down in history as simple treasure hunters when he proved there was an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence leading to the Knights Of The Templar treasure. Now seen as a world traveler and historian full of vast knowledge, Gates gives speeches and holds seminars for many to learn about the true history of the Templar Knights. That is until a man known as Wilkinson shows up providing fact that the legacy of the Gates’ family is indeed tarnished. A man known as Thomas Gates was a part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln and Wilkinson has evidence to prove it.

Wilkinson has a page out of the diary of one John Wilkes Booth and it includes the names of the co-conspirators that worked together to assassinate the President and keep the Civil War going. Benjamin Gates believes his ancestor is innocent and makes it his goal to prove so. Along with his close friend and associate Riley Poole, his estranged girlfriend Abigail Chase, and his divorced parents, Gates begin tracking down clues that could lead him not only to the truth but a long lost city of gold. Their trek takes them all around the world, but it is not an easy one as Wilkinson is hot on their tail and wants all the fame and fortune for himself.

Oh, sorry if I forgot to mention but along the way, Gates and his friends must organize the kidnapping of the President of the United States in order to get a hold of the rumored “President’s Book” that holds key information they need. That feat seems impossible, but not one that Benjamin Gates is willing to give up on without trying.

Book Of Secrets did many things right that most sequels do incredibly wrong. First things first, they got all of the actors back that were in the first film. I can’t possibly harp on that enough of just how important it is! A very successful franchise such as this just wouldn’t even be a franchise if someone else were to play Benjamin Gates besides Nicolas Cage, or if Riley Poole was replaced with some other helper/new guy or something. Having all the actors come back to fill in their roles made the film a success from the start before I even saw the first minute of it.

The next thing it did very well was that it showed continuity from the first film while still managing to be its own entity. Little things were mentioned or shown from the first film like Riley’s Ferrari, Gates giving a speech on his ancestors with stuff shown in part one, and other little instances. But this was a brand new plot that relied not one bit on the plot from the first film, and that is awesome. Never were there any connections which made clues from part one mean something in part two. That would just get way too confusing and turn a lot of people off. Nothing worse when you’re trying to have a big hit film then to make your audience feel dumb.

Book Of Secrets doesn’t have the same intensity or originality that National Treasure had, but it still gets the job done. It is quite often impossible to duplicate the success and same feel in a sequel that was achieved with the first film. Still, Book Of Secrets keeps us guessing and trying to figure out things in real time with the characters on screen. There is action and drama. Comedy and romance. And a lot of adventure that makes for an exciting film that causes you to use a little brain power in order to follow along. I am not fond of those films which make me feel like I’m back in physics class, but I’m all for those which don’t just throw things at me and at least make me think a bit.

The film is shown in 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks absolutely gorgeous. There is a great amount of detail in this film so the picture needed as close to perfect as possible in order for everything to be seen clearly by the viewing audience. Well, they succeeded and did a wonderful job.

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also is great in the way it adds to the intrigue and overall goose-bumpy feeling brought about by all the history shown. All dialogue can be heard clearly and loudly while the excellent musical score brings the wondrous backgrounds and historical artifacts to even more life.

Audio Commentary – Director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight join together for the commentary track which could have just been Turteltaub all by himself since Voight barely speaks. The director goes on about behind the scenes stuff and compares a lot of what is real to what was created for clues and such in the film. It is interesting and has a lot of good information, but it wasn’t the most riveting commentary track in the world.

Deleted Scenes – There are five deleted scenes including a long seven minute clip that Turteltaub explains was just too long for the film. It was over the top and very good he says, but it needed to be shortened down and they found a way to tell that entire portion of the film in a short two minute clip. While the film still is good and this scene is rather much, I still enjoyed it and wish they would have left it in. The other scenes don’t really do much for the film if they would have been left in or by taking them out.

Secrets Of A Sequel – Turteltaub, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and members of the cast discuss how it was coming back to do a sequel and stepping back into the shoes of their characters. This feature which clocks in at just less than seven minutes is interesting, but nothing earth shattering.

The Book Of Secrets: On Location – Cast and crew talk about what it was like filming on locations in England, Canada, and new places in America in this nine minute and forty-six second featurette. They give their feelings on what it was like to visit these places and bring about the history in each of them. Turteltaub even gives little trivia tidbits about some of the locations.

The Treasure Reel – Here are five minutes of bloopers and outtakes which are pretty damn funny. They are mostly flubbed lines, mess-ups, and a whole lot of laughing which is normal for most gag reels, but these are at least funny for those at home as well as on the set. It is even funnier seeing a serious actor like Ed Harris screw up and just crack up laughing.

Street Stunts – This nine minute and forty-one second feature dissects the entire car chase scene in London and everything that went into making it. One of the cooler parts of this feature is that the stunt people are actually talked to and not just the cast and crew. They go over their parts of the scene and how they felt during the entire chase and the training they went through for it. A small snippet is even included here that was taken out of the finished product in the film.

Underground Action – This six minute and forty-seven second feature goes into great detail about the set design with comments from the cast and crew. Kind of neat, but nothing much to it and rather basic.

Evolution Of A Golden City – Here is a bit of an extension on the featurette about the set design except it focuses on the city of gold which was obviously the hardest set to put together. Cast and crew talk about how difficult it was making it come to life and really trying to focus on it being “real.” The set designers then discuss how they had to put little pieces in here and there to make it look as realistic as possible and as old as possible considering it has been hidden away for centuries. This feature runs ten minutes and nineteen seconds.

Knights of The Golden Circle – Members of the cast and crew, the writers, and even some historians speak up here to talk about the real Knights of The Golden Circle (the KGC). This feature only runs for two minutes and thirty-nine seconds but it is extremely informative and actually makes me want to research for more information on the KGC.

Crafting The President’s Book – Cast and crew go over what it would be like if there really was a “President’s Book” that has a lot of hidden knowledge which only the Presidents have access to. They then go over creating the prop from the film and what they thought to put into it. This feature runs four minutes and thirty-two seconds.

Inside The Library Of Congress – The cast chime in here on this eight minute and forty-one second piece, but it is mostly the staff members of the Library Of Congress taking us on a tour of the famed building. Very cool.

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Okay, so the sequel didn’t live up to the hype and actually took on more of a commercial feel then the first one did, but it was still very enjoyable. It paved the way through a whole new story and opened up doors for yet a third film that is sure to be just as interesting. Maybe it is because I find history and the mysteries behind all of it so fascinating that I enjoy this franchise so much, but anyone can really still get behind it and have fun with it. This two-disc set really makes it worthwhile too because there are a ton of special features that not only reveal new secrets, but show a lot of really cool stuff. Ninety percent of them are fun to watch and short enough to keep you from growing bored with them. If only the commentary track would have been as good as the one off the DVD for the first film, then this set would be close to perfection, but just a slight hair off. For those of you that enjoyed the excursion of Benjamin Gates and Mr. Riley Poole in National Treasure, you’re bound to enjoy their next journey in Book Of Secrets.

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Walt Disney Video presents National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets – 2-Disc Gold Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Jon Turteltaub. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood. Written by: The Wibberleys. Running time: 125 minutes on 2 discs. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: May 20, 2008. Available at Amazon.com