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DVD Review HTF DVD Review: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets




Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Year: 2007
US Rating: PG - For Violence and Action
Film Length: 125 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: Optional French and Spanish




US Release Date: May 20, 2008

The Film - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

“The past is filled with incredible mysteries. The clues to solving them are all around, hidden in plain sight. But this story begins with the most famous assassination in history. Abraham Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth, kept a diary. A diary that was found the night Booth was killed, with 18 pages missing. Concealed in those pages is the key to something much, much bigger. A conspiracy that crosses the globe, and a discovery that the world isn't ready to believe.”


Back in 2005, Jerry Bruckheimer’s hit making producer instincts, in conjunction with the somewhat unlikely Jon Turtletaub in the director’s chair set about to give movie goers a treasure hunting action movie worthy of the times. What the world got was National Treasure, a terrifically fun, flawed action adventure film starring Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, a proud, patriotic and brilliant student of history. As Bruckheimer has the knack of doing, with the adventuresome and funny family film, he launched another film franchise with National Treasure two reaping in greater box office rewards and 2 more sequels are already planned.

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets begins just a few days after the victorious end of the civil war for the northern states and the defeat of the confederacy. It is the eve of Lincoln’s assassination and a descendent of the Gates family is shown to be a cog in the wheel of the terrible events that unfolded at the Ford theater as the ‘Knights of the Golden Circle (The KGC), sour from the South’s loss in the Civil War, enact their treacherous plan . In present day, as Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) recalls the story of his great, great grandfathers heroism on that fateful night, a mysterious figure sully’s the Gates name by, implicating the long past relative in the conspiracy surrounding the assassination. Now, in order to restore and protect the family name, Ben Gates, his father (Jon Voight), his treasure hunting best friend Riley (Justin Bartha) and his estranged girlfriend (Diane Kruger) must follow clues that take them half the way around the world and back again in search of the long fabled Lost City of Gold and the proof that the Gates’ are not decedents of a traitor. They of course must do this with the threat of competing hunters, who seek the ultimate prize of gold, and by breaking into and sneaking out of all manner of well guarded and impossible situations.

National Treasure 2 is a smaller story than its predecessor but told in a much grander way. The globetrotting story and frequent set-pieces feel much grander and unspool with energy throughout the film, which barely takes a breath. The twist and turns of the plot are entertaining, even if they lack the freshness from the original. Most of the movie follows in the same footsteps as the first film, all the way to the rickety setting for the final set-piece. But the film has a lot more fun up its sleeve and aims for a more comfortable level of absurdity in its action that infects with its fun. This will no doubt disappoint movie lovers who, quite rightly, complain that too many sequels simply pile on bigger and bolder action sequences to up the ante. But here, the movie is too playful and family friendly to matter as much.

This is the Nicolas Cage that really lights up the big screen. His project choices over the recent past seems to have been extremely hit and miss, with doozies like the ridiculous The Wicker Man and last year’s atrocious Ghost Rider staining his filmography. But when he finds a character that he enjoys playing and a cast of actors that help make more of an ensemble piece, the movie tends succeed. He enjoys enjoyable banter with Jon Voight, who portrays his father, Patrick, and with Justin Bartha playing his comedic best friend side kick, Riley Poole. Justin provides the laughs throughout the film exactly where they are needed, lightening dramatic moments so that the film remains in the hallowed middle ground of family entertainment. Diane Kruger is beautiful as Abigail Chase, strong, smart and equally adventurous as the Gates family and really has found her stride in this sequel. Like all good sequels, all the players are here; even Harvey Keitel is back having fun as the F.B.I man who knows far more than you’d think. New to National Treasure 2 are Ed Harris as the feature’s foe and Helen Mirren as the Gates matriarch. For his part, Ed Harris as the confederate descendant, Mitch Wilkinson, is expectedly good, filling out the shoes of the menacing adversary nicely. Helen Mirren is another fine addition to the cast, with a sharp tongue and motherly instincts, she and Jon Voight are never better than when they are in a scene together.

Comparisons to the Indiana Jones tales would be misguided, since the idea behind National Treasure is not to seek historic artifacts with cavalier explorations, swinging around heriocally and fighting to save the day. The approach is, rather, to be a battle of wits against more traditional bad guys and solve cryptic clues buried in recognizable landmarks, tweaking history here and there, and sewing in threads of fantastic little notions that appeal to us with their ludicrous ability to almost be real. Because it does not have loftier aims and wants only to be outrageous, clue-hunting fun with unlikely, Mission: Impossible style infiltrations of highly guarded locations and C.S.I inspired high-tech forensic examinations of historical artifacts, it succeeds in being a fun, clever and highly entertaining experience.

Some unevenness in the storytelling and changes from the first film that appear simply to fuel sub-plots aside, the playful script and exciting action make Book of Secrets a good time at the movies.





The Video - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

National Treasure 2 is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. Disney delivers again with a lovely, clean image filled with fine details and impressive sharpness. The lighting throughout National Treasure 2 is very good indeed. The low lit scenes as the film opens and during the final act are presented with nice clarity and are spotless. The outdoor scenes are superbly crisp and I found no evidence of edge enhancement or other unnecessary distortions. The colors pop at times with a fresh sparkling scenes – this is good stuff.


The Sound - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is solid. It isn’t excessive or even peak in all the major action sequences, but the surrounds and bass really come alive. Stand out moments include the incredible car chase through the maze of London streets and the exploration of Mt Rushmore. The active and lively surrounds filled with Trevor Rabin’s percussion laden score, hi-tech gadgets and squealing tires, really deliver the goods. The sound quality for this 2 disc special edition will more than satisfy your ears.



The Extra's - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:

Disc One:

Audio Commentary with Director Jon Turtletaub and Actor Jon Voight – Director Jon Turtletaub shares many interesting facts, not just about the production, but about the history that inspired the story. He imparts numerous pieces of information that peel away for the listener what was reel within the very fictional tale of National Treasure 2. There is a good, conversational dynamic between Turtletaub and Jon Voight. They speak highly of the actors in the film and of the experience of making the highly successful sequel.



Disc Two:

Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Jon Turtletaub - (12:37) – The deleted chapter is an interesting alternative segment of the film for how they move into the finale. What is shown here as a seven minute sequence was re-shot and condensed into just two minutes – which works much better. The additional four deleted scenes all work alone here, but were better left on the cutting room floor.

The Treasure Reel – Bloopers & Outtakes - (5:01) – A very funny compilation of line flubs, missed cues and fun on set.

Secrets of a Sequel - (6:50) – This is a short, but pretty honest look at some behind the scenes footage including comments from Nicolas Cage, Jon Turtletaub, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Voight and others. They celebrate the fact that the film began shooting with an unfinished script and believe that it may have served the film and story. They may be right!

Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase – I really enjoyed this look at the complicated and elaborate London car and lorry chase scene. The sequence was one of my favorites in the film and hearing all those trusty British accents coming from the stunt drivers calmly explaining how hard it all was is a real treat. The examination of the various elements that went into the sequence, from the special truck, kegs, taxi’s and choreographed driving was very interesting.

The Book of Secrets: On Location – Opening up the sequel to international locations really expanded the scope and scale of the movie. This feature shares some of the difficulties in the process of securing locations and the pleasures of shooting in London and Paris.

Inside the Library of Congress - (10:00) – This look inside the inner workings of the Library of Congress and the remarkable collections it holds is fascinating and should inspire anyone to want to go there and experience it for themselves.

Underground Action - (6:46) – The cave settings in South Dakota get a showcase here as we peak inside at the creation of the trap doors and the exciting balancing platform used in one of the film’s major set pieces (created and controlled by a Waldo and Gimble).

Cover Story: Crafting the President’s Book - (4:30) – A quick look at the intricate work that went into the design and pages of the ‘Book of Secrets’ itself.

Evolution of a Golden City - (10:18) – An exciting look at the superb set design and building of the Lost City of Gold. Marrying traditional sets with CGI’s is, to me, the best way to help suspend our disbelief in movies and National Treasure 2 succeeds here.

Knights of the Golden Circle - (2:38) – A peak at the real questions and proposed history surrounding the mysterious KGC.




Final Thoughts

Point for point, predicament for predicament, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets follows essentially the same path as the first film, feeling a little like Déjà vu at times, but the kinetic pacing and outrageous path of clues rolls you up in the fun and doesn’t let you go.

As the story hops in and out of chases, infiltrations and kidnapping action, it enjoys itself so much and produces enough laughs and excitement along the way to make National Treasure 2 a surprisingly good follow up that shrinks the plot but opens up the story to get great action across the globe.




Overall Score - :star::star::star::star: out of :star::star::star::star::star:


Note: Also - check out Matt Hough's review of the Blu Ray release of this title here: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets on Blu Ray Review.


Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
 

David_Blackwell

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 30, 2004
Messages
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don't forget the four easter eggs hidden in the bonus features menu (one in the dleeted scenes menu). The easter eggs don't add much, but they provide something to find.
 

PatH

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Messages
323
Is the Goofy cartoon that was with it in the theater on here?:frowning:

PatH
 

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