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DVD Review: National Treasure – Two-Disc Collectors Edition

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Just in time to coincide with the theatrical release of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Disney has re-released National Treasure in a new two-disc collectors edition.

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) has heard the legend all his life of a treasure beyond anyone's dreams. It was supposedly hidden by the Founding Fathers and they left clues along the way to point to the treasure's location. Gates' own family has a special connection to the treasure and this is what motivates him to continue his quest.

He teams up with a shady financier by the name of Ian Howe (Sean Bean). Together they've gone to the Antarctic to follow up on the only clue Gates has to the treasure: a ship lost in the ice named Charlotte. The discovery of the clue there leads them to conclude that the next clue is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Howe decides that their best option is to steal it.

Gates is totally against the plan and that's where they part ways. Gates tries to inform the authorities but no one takes him seriously. This leaves him with only one choice: in order to protect the Declaration of Independence he has to steal it himself. There's also no telling what he will find once he inspects it if he ever gets the chance. It quickly becomes a race to decipher the clues and find the mysterious treasure if it exists at all.

The film was a runaway success in its original theatrical and DVD release. It's no surprise, consider the fast-paced action of the film. At first blush, the idea of stealing the Declaration of Independence may seem implausible but the filmmakers manage to make it completely believable.

For the new edition of the DVD, Disney located additional deleted scenes not included in the first release (including commentary from director Jon Turtletaub). They added for new featurettes that greatly expands on the original offering.

"Ciphers, Codes and Codebreakers" provides a fascinating look into the history of cryptography and the role it has played in conflicts throughout history.

"On the Set of American History" focuses on the numerous locations used as part of the film. To the filmmakers' credit, they understood that the viewing experience would be enhanced by having the movie take place at real historical sites. They also explain how they managed to film at those sites.

"To Steal A National Treasure" takes you inside the production process behind the main caper of the film: stealing the Declaration of Independence from National Archives. They also take you through the set production as they recreate the rotunda from the Archives. We just visited the archives over the summer and were amazed at the degree of accuracy with which they were able to recreate the actual site.

"Exploding Charlotte" shows how they pulled off one of the biggest moments of the movie: blowing up an old wooden ship. This feature takes the crew to Park City, Utah where the sequence is filmed as well as behind the scenes of the interior shots which were filmed inside a cold storage unit in Los Angeles.

Disney has produced a high quality DVD set and continues to raise the bar for everyone else. They understand better than any studio the added value that comes from including bonus features on their DVDs. With their extensive archives, we can expect that future offerings will have similar features. This DVD is truly the edition that fans of the movie will want to own.

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  • Professional_Archivist

    Archivists like Abigail Chase in National Treasure are people who work with original documents on a daily baisis. Archivists read, organize, preserve, and make available “treasures” most people rarely see. Massive digitization projects underway at archives and libraries around the world are now making images of these unique papers available to the public through the internet.

    Anyone interested in learning more about the archival profession should check out sites like archivopedia.com. There you can search for historical documents and finding guides in the National Archives and other repositories, link to professional and educational organizations that deal with primary sources, use a free online encyclopedia of archival terms, read blogs of professional archivists to glimpse “behind the scenes” of archivists’ lives, and read about primary source documents making news headlines. You can even chat with an archivist about using primary sources to help with history homework assignments.

    Archives aren’t just dusty papers in a basement or some warehouse. They are history. National Treasure is a wonderful example of making historic documents and their stories come to life.

    –A professional archivist