I quite liked the first National Treasure Movie. So much so that I watch its every re-run on TV, read up on the Knights Templar and Freemasons, and have even brought a book about the Templar Treasure! When I first caught sights of National Treasure – Book of Secrets trailer, I was oh-so-excited! I mean, who doesn’t like Treasure hunts? And this time it was a Book instead of the Declaration of Independence that had all the clues (or, clues to other clues). But I hit two roadblocks – firstly, it didn’t release in Hyderabad on its scheduled India release date and secondly, the reviews were mixed. The first one was kinda solved when the movie did release in Hyderabad yesterday! So it was with heightened trepidation that I headed out to see it…
And initially, I was disappointed. It was almost the exact same movie as the first! There was the treasure (A hidden City of Gold), the treasure hunters (Nicholas Cage, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger & Helen Mirren), the Governmental Agencies hounding them (Harvey Kietel from the FBI), the bad guys (Ed Harris), a hackneyed motive (clearing up the name of Cage’s ancestor Thomas Gates from the Lincoln Assassination conspiracy) and even the cliched clues (etchings on the Statue of Liberty, hidden planks in bureaus, and the all important Book of Secrets!). It was just like another episode in the treasure hunting escapades of the Gates’ Family! But later on, I realized, Of course this is what it would be all about – yet another treasure with clues right in front of one’s eyes! Its the journey to the treasure that is the essence of the movie, much more than the actual treasure itself! And when watched from this new viewpoint, the movie appeared much more exciting than the first one😛
I won’t ad lib the story but suffice it to say that to clear the name of his ancestor Thomas Gates from being one of the conspirators in the assassination of Lincoln, Benjamin Gates (Nicholas Cage) has to find some treasure and he enlists the help of friend Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and now-estranged-girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). Ben’s Dad (Jon Voight) and Mom (Helen Mirren) also join the chase and they’re pursued by ex-mercenary Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), himself a family-name-glory-seeker. The go about solving cryptic ciphers, some in-your-face clues and some well-hidden clues whilst effortlessly breaking into the Buckingham Palace, the Oval Office and even kidnapping the US President! The treasure is indeed found at the end but not before a long-drawn and rigmarole-ish climax set deep within the Rushmore Mountain.
Almost all of the primary cast return in this second installment – the newer ones being Mirren and Harris and the characters are as well-etched as in the first part. Cage somewhat overdoes the ‘genius’ part, especially in deciphering some cryptic clues immediately after hearing them. Justin improves on the first outing and fine-tunes his funny lines and cranks up his sidekick role a notch. Diane does look hot in some scenes but has a lesser input to provide this time around. Ed Harris isn’t as menacing as Sean Bean but the climax reveals his true intentions. Some of the goings-on are seemingly too impossible and viewers have to forget about stuff like practicality and common sense! Though they are well-planned and well-executed on-screen, breaking into Buckingham Palace & the Oval Office, hacking into the security network from a toilet and kidnapping the US President and keep the police at bay for as long a time as it was done, does look so fantastic and highly impossible! But keep aside those notions, and you’ve got some pretty good entertainment for the two hours. Another Major gripe of mine was the fact that the actual Book of Secrets occupied only a teeny portion of the screenplay and moreover, only a part of a secret was unveiled from that book. Better should’ve called it National Treasure: City of Gold or better still, simply National Treasure 2.
P.S: Poole’s witty liner shown in the trailers – “So let’s recap: We’ve broken into Buckingham Palace, and the Oval Office, stolen a page from the President’s super-secret book, and actually kidnapped the President of the United States. What are we gonna do next, short-sheet the Pope’s bed?” was edited out of the movie😦