In this day and age being called Indiana Jones Lite is not necessarily a bad thing. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets brings back academic turned treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) to defend his family's honor and find some long lost treasure in the process. While the movie is not a spectacular, visionary piece of fiction, it is an entertaining ride that lets you have fun while following in Gates' footsteps.
National Treasure 2 starts off looking at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln then flashes forward to present day where Gates is giving a lecture on the assassination and examining John Wilkes Booth's famous diary. During the lecture Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) interrupts him and states that he has a missing page from the diary that proves one of Gates' ancestors was privy to the plot and may have been directly involved. This starts a globe-spanning adventure that has Gates and his friends trying to restore his family name and unveil a deep-seated conspiracy as they go.
Joining Gates in the adventure is his father Patrick (Jon Voight) who is even more distraught then Benjamin at the news that their ancestor could have been a traitor. The Gates family begins the journey to prove their family's innocence by working out a code on the back of the newly discovered page. Gates brings his technologically inclined friend Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and his estranged girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) back into the mix in order to help solve the mystery.
National Treasure 2 is unarguably a fun movie, but is full of enough cliches, convenient moments, and unquestioning acceptance that you just shake your head at some points. Ben Gates is more CSI Miami's (incredibly annoying) Horatio Caine than he is Indiana Jones. His character is obviously modeled after the iconic Indiana Jones (a teacher, historian, and adventurer) but he is always right, in a nearly inhuman way, and lets people know it much like CSI's Horatio. What I do like is that the movie recognizes this trait and that is why he and Abigail split; Ben Gates always knows what to do and never asks, but simply states what needs to be done.
Quibbles aside, the story is interesting and this chapter in the franchise takes us from America to Paris to London and back again and the set pieces work to add a larger than life feel to the movie that is fun to watch. Gates and crew pull off some amazing feats, from sneaking into the Queen's study to kidnapping the US president (sort of) and make you smile the whole time. I found that once I just sat back and turned my logic centers off (really, there are tons of ludicrous leaps of logic, convenient happenings, and quick acceptances of situations) the movie was really quite enjoyable.
The cast all have a great chemistry, work well together, and have some genuine funny moments. My favorite scene in the entire movie is when Patrick Gates is reunited with his ex-wife Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren) after not seeing each other (literally) for decades. The back and forth between them as they bicker is so well-executed I could believe they were actually an old married couple.
While National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is a standard movie as far as content goes, the visual aspects are nothing short of spectacular. Disney has always delivered amazing Blu-rays and this film is no exception. Presented as a 1080p, 2.35:1 framed transfer, it is stunning. Black levels are so important to movies, especially ones like this that transition from day to night and travel into underground settings. National Treasure 2 features spot on inky black levels and a present but understated grain that just adds to the cinematic feel. Clothing, skin tone, even writing on paper is so three-dimensional you almost feel like you can touch things at times.
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets travels around the world and the flawless transfer is able to flex its muscles when the crew is in locales like Mount Rushmore, Buckingham Palace, and Paris. Disney has made another high water mark transfer with this film and it is a testament to how great transfers like this can validate the Blu-ray format and actually improve the experience of the movie you are watching.
I have mentioned that Disney is a master at making quality Blu-rays and this applies nearly universally to their audio mixes as well. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets features the main audio format in the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround sound format and it is a treat to hear and experience. Other studios need to listen to this soundtrack to see how ambiance and background sound details need to be heard. At almost every stage of the movie there is some form of audio coming from the rear channels, whether it is dripping water, light music or people having low conversations — the world just feels alive.
Dialogue is very important in this film and every time Gates or his friends are discussing clues or details the dialog is crystal clear yet we still hear the world around them. The action sequences are loud without being overbearing, the bass is dynamic without booming too loudly, and the effects like squealing tires are as true to life as you can get. Just like the video implementation, a great audio mix really enhances the experience and this soundtrack is a perfect example of how audio should sound in a movie. Audio is also presented in English: Dolby Digital 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1.
"Wow" is all I can say when discussing the extras. With Blu-ray discs typically costing more than even special edition DVDs it is refreshing to see a package that offers so many extras. Even more compelling is that in this rare case they are all presented in 1080i HD resolution. While none of these are groundbreaking features they are entertaining and very watchable.
- "Book of History: Fact and Fiction" (BD Exclusive) – A great interactive feature that has us learning the real life history behind the movie, I am a big fan of pop-up interactive features and this one didn't disappoint. Being a Canadian, my US history is rusty, but my world history knowledge scored quite well.
- "Two Additional Deleted Scenes" (BD Exclusive) – The name says it all, these deleted scenes can only be seen on Blu-ray.
- "Deleted Scenes with Jon Turteltaub" – I always like when deleted scenes are introduced by the director and Jon Turteltaub's enthusiasm for the film is obvious and it really added to my respect for him to see how passionate he is.
- "Outtakes and Bloopers" – Your typical (but funny) blooper reel of gags and laughs, the thing that stood out for me is how professional Jon Voight always is, he never breaks stride even when everyone else collapses.
- "Audio Commentary with Turteltaub and Voight" – A standard audio commentary but nice in the fact that it is a frank look at the proceedings. There is dead air at times, but both participants add comments worth listening to during the track.
- "Secrets of a Sequel" – A quick chat with actors, producer and director on what filming sequels is like and the importance of carrying over all parties involved.
- "On Location" – Taking a look at all the major locales the movie was filmed in.
- "Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase" – A behind the scenes look at the hectic chase scene in London, the car was particularly cool with a stunt driver in a driving rig on top of the car.
- "Inside the Library of Congress" – The iconic library is examined and discussed.
- "Underground Action" – One of the key action environments is looked at and discussed.
- "Cover Story: Crafting the Presidents' Book" – Even though we only see the book for a short time this featurette shows the great care taken to make this book.
- "Evolution of a Golden City" – A look at the filmmakers' vision of the fabled city and how they could represent it in the film.
- "Knights of The Gold Circle" – A look at the real Knights of the Gold Circle whose goal was to continue the Civil War.
This is a a great crop of extras with some genuinely interesting content. The fact that it is all presented in 1080i really impressed me and made me want to watch all of the features because of their sheer quality.
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is an average movie that benefits from an amazing audio and video transfer that truly enhances the film. A large selection of interesting extra features makes the entire package worth purchasing.