New on DVD for all you Benjamin Franklin Gates wanna-be’s is the 2-Disc Collectors edition of the surprisingly successful and just sequeled National Treasure. Why they made a sequel to this, I’ll never know. Well I do know, the first was profitable. So yeah. Anyway.
National Treasure follows the adventure of Ben Gates, historian and treasure hunter, along with his pal and little buddy Riley, a semi-genius type of stoner. His father (John Voight) has long ago abandoned the family treasure hunting legacy, but that doesn’t stop him from getting swept in things as well. Rounding out the good guys are the beautiful Diane Kruger and all around cool guy Harvey Keitel. The requisite smarmy British villain is the scene stealing Sean Bean, who is given little to do, but it’s nice to see him.
Family lore has it that a great great great (great) relative of the Gates’ was told of a secret Freemason treasure hidden somewhere in the colonial United States to be hidden from the British during the Revolution. An elaborate series of seemingly difficult but easily solved clues are found and what took 180 years to build up to unravels over the course of a 2 hour runtime. Ian (Bean) seeks to own the treasure for its wealth while Gates wishes to bring honor back to his “kooky” family and drink from the fountain of knowledge. Kruger’s Abigail Chase just wants to save the Declaration of Independence from greasy fingers and grubby hands. The elaborate code revolves around a hidden map on the back of the Declaration that can only be viewed with a clever combination of lemons, blow dryers, and Ben Franklin’s first ever pair of 3D glasses.
I’m not entirely certain why this film made so much money, I guess because it turned the right key to get your brain turned off. I found the very beginning to be utterly laughable as Ben Gates solves a tricky riddle over the span of about 30 seconds. Guess he’s that smart. The “climactic” fall down a hidden stairwell type place, full of rickety old boards, looks as exciting as it sounds. This is no Indiana Jones, despite clearly wishing it was, albeit a bit smarter. But it really doesn’t fire on all pistons and instead you’re “treated” to a fairly uneventful string of events. It’s not hateworthy, nor praiseworthy, and for a 2 hour run time it seems as though not much happens (especially character wise) even though seemingly “impossible” clues are put together near instantaneously not only Cage, but also by Bean. Where did these guys go to college?
The DVD, however, is a different kind of animal. Disney pulled out most of the stops on this one and actually created a pretty entertaining little package. For starts, we get a sweet embossed slip cover that is nice and shiny. The two discs feature a plethora of features including an alternate ending (that was kind of weak), deleted scenes (boring), opening scene animatic (eh), and some commentary. Also on the disc is a good feature on location shooting, a short bit of info on the Knights Templar, and a look at treasure hunters.
Disc 2 features some new bonus features that include even more deleted scenes (the original cut was 4 hours) and the following featurettes: “Ciphers, Codes & Codebreakers,” “On the Set of American History,” “To Steal a National Treasure,” and “Exploding Charlotte.”
So all in all you get a lot of features to work through – but that’s not the fun part. One of the features I haven’t mentioned yet is “Riley’s Decode This,” a 3 puzzle challenge. Now, it’s not very challenging, but it is kind of cool. The way it works is you first must watch the 4 featurettes on the first disc, and in each one is a clue. Write down all the clues and then unscramble the letters to make a code-word that unlocks more featurettes and Riley’s feature. In Riley’s feature you go over some basic history of codes and then get a chance to try out a few of them, which when done successfully gives you a “Master Code.” This code will unlock all of the special features on the disc. Easy, I wish it were harder, but definitely cool and unique. Now make sure to write them all down, because everytime you stop the disc, the memory is erased and you have to enter it all again. Also, you have to watch all the featurettes during the same power cycle or else it will repeat the codes to you.
Of course, I could give you all the codes right now, but I won’t. The first code is cleverly inserted into this review several times. Or you could just watch the features.
So all in all this is a completely average and relatively emotionless film that lacks excitement but offers up the occasional laugh or tantalizing glimpse of Diane Kruger’s cleavage. If you’re a fan of the film, this DVD is definitely for you, it looks and sounds good, offers a lot of insight into the production and has the cool code feature. Director Jon Turteltaub comments on almost every feature and gives you at the very list a nice intro to the piece. However, if you’re not a big fan of the movie, the DVD isn’t so amazing that should make you run out and get it – unless you’re money bags and want to play around with the interactivity, which is admittedly cool, especially for a standard definition release.
Movie Grade: C
DVD Grade: A-