Sunday, May 4, 2008

National Treasure: Book of Secrets


Big, moderately dumb, middle-brow, loud, fun action adventure with a little bit of heart. That's how I'd describe the film National Treasure. This weekend I was able to catch the 2007 sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and here's my thoughts on it.

Ben Gates and his dad, Patrick, are national heroes for finding the treasure from the first film. They give a speech on how their ancestor, Thomas Gates, sacrificed his life to prevent some radical Southern political group from finding a great and mysterious treasure. But the evil Ed Harris with a slipping Southern accent exposes Thomas as a co-conspirator in the Lincoln assassination. So they pack up Abigail, the love interest from the first film, Riley, the sassy and sarcastic assistant and Emily, Ben's mom and Native American expert, and go out of their way to clear Thomas' name and find the big treasure, which may or may not be a city of gold.

Big, loud, and moderately dumb are still words I'd use to describe the sequel. For a movie that's over two hours long, it moves at a pace faster than Jason Bourne running through the streets of Morocco. There's not a scene in the movie that lasts longer than five minutes without a cut to another location. Everything is fast-paced and nothing isn't explained to the audience.

I have a whole bunch of problems with the script and the plot. First of all, what's with this Book of Secrets nonsense? The idea is that there's a book for presidents by presidents that contain all of the United States' secrets, including Watergate, JFK and Area 51. Okay. Let's think about this. There's a physical book that contains the solution to some of the greatest mysteries in the modern world, and the presidents are just going to sit on it. Even though there's two opposing political parties that have each shared the Oval Office. You're telling me that a Republican wouldn't expose the secrets of a Democratic president or vice versa just to further their own career? Also, what is the actual purpose of holding all these secrets in physical form? Why? To what end, if not to further one's career? On top of all that, isn't it more likely that the most awesome secrets would be held many security levels above the president? My reasoning being is the black ops, the blackest of all ops and what the FBI and the CIA hide from their own governing bodies. Would those go in the book? Does the president know everything?

Also, Riley should know things. He's the assistant to Ben Gates, one of the country's greatest treasure hunters and he didn't know that there's a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris? Everybody knows that. There's just all these little things he would have picked up if he was hanging around historians all the time. Like, he doesn't know how a library catalogue system works? Come on!

There was just so much that pulled me from the film, from the logical inconsistencies to the terrible score. What a boring score.

Action scenes weren't filmed very well, especially the climax of the film. Many a time I would wonder what I'm even looking at. Something would happen other than a character spouting exposition and I'd be confused. For example, there's this bit where the trap is a large square perched over an abyss, and only the perfectly spread out weight of all four main characters on the four corners stops it from going into the abyss. But when the thing finally does, not only do I not get to see the thing fall into the abyss, I'm not even sure it happened. There's a bunch of cuts, and blam, we're onto another setpiece. The direction was incoherent at best when it came to the action scenes. Don't even get me started on the most boring car chase sequence known to man.

There were some highlights to the film. Again, the Riley character is the most interesting (and good-looking) of all the characters. Every line he delivered was interesting. The actor, Justin Bartha, is criminally under-employed. Get him working, Hollywood. He's like a younger, more attractive Kevin Smith (as an actor, that is).

Really, this was just as good and just as bad as the original film. I enjoyed the first one 'cause it was dumb and loud and fun. It was Indiana Jones but less smart and... well... awesome. This sequel has entertained me for two hours, so what more can I ask. It also riled me up bigtime for f*%&ing Indiana Jones 4, which hits worldwide on May 22, by the by, which I'm sure will kick the crap out of National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

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