Written by Musgo Del Jefe
I'm at a crossroads. Is it possible to really like a movie but not have anything substantially positive to say about it? Some movies, it appears, are not wholly a sum of their parts. National Treasure (2004) has been released again to DVD, this time on a 2-Disc Collector's Edition. I knew I had enjoyed the movie on its first DVD release in 2005 but couldn't remember why as I sat down with this new release.
To start, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production. His previous collaborations with Nicolas Cage (The Rock and Con Air) had both been entertaining but lackluster performances for an actor that once gave us Leaving Las Vegas. I like Bruckheimer's television productions (CSI and The Amazing Race) and he hit the sweet spot with Pirates Of The Caribbean but his resume is filled with more style than substance.
The film starts with one of the plot devices that will instantly take all the momentum out of a movie. The movie starts in a flashback to 1977 and almost immediately flashes back within the flashback to 1832. If starting an action-adventure film is like starting a race, this is the equivalent of running five minutes in the wrong direction before turning around to start running in the correct direction. There's quite a bit of history to be conveyed to solve the clues to this treasure hunt, but most of them are explained without flashback (like the prop of the $100 bill in Philadelphia). This device only accomplishes two minor points. First, we here the "Charlotte" clue that perplexes treasure hunters for 172 years. Well, it's only a mystery for the viewer until the next scene after the credits when we discover that "Charlotte" is a ship. Secondly, the initial flashback to 1977 sets up Benjamin Gates' (Nicolas Cage) passion for hunting this treasure based on a story from his grandfather. This scene would serve as a better marker when he arrives at his father's (Jon Voight) house after stealing the Declaration. There's already a characterization there of the doubting father vs. the faithful grandfather. And it would help explain Dr. Abigail's (Diane Kruger) turn to see him as a romantic figure.