Wednesday, 3 December 2008

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

Lowdown: A brainless take on the Da Vinci Code.
The first question one needs to answer when reviewing National Treasure 2, or NT2, is why. That is, why bother watching a film such as this, the very definition of mediocrity: A sequel film to a rather mediocre and very much stupid and senseless film, directed by John Turteltaub aka the master of mediocrity, and priding itself of a plot that is obviously more stupid than the soon to be ex president of the USA?
The answer is simple. NT2 promises to be an easy going roller coaster ride, a switch your brain off for a couple of hours ride that could entertain you in a dumb primitive way as you go about watching it. And guess what? NT2 delivers exactly that.
The plot is quite meaningless, but let's recount it for history's sake. Nicolas Cage is back as the treasure hunting historian, now accused of being a descendant of a family of traitors: his grand grand grand grandfather or whatever is said to have been one of the conspirators behind the assassination of president Lincoln. Cage cannot accept this; in his words, he is what his ancestors have made him (a very, very silly notion that would degenerate all contemporary Germans to the sewers for a start; then again, looking for sense in NT2 is like looking for honesty in a politician). So he goes about trying to prove his ancestor's innocence by finding a treasure using a book with some elusive Da Vinci Code like clues with the help of his prequel friends. True to the Da Vinci Code style, an adventure follows another as villains seek the same treasure for themselves. They seek it here, they seek it there, they seek it in Paris, they seek it in London, they seek it all over the USA, and eventually it comes down to Cage having to kidnap the American president to put his hands on the treasure.
There is not much sense in NT2, as you might have guessed already. The various answers to the various clues are really thin and ambiguous, and towards the end they're not even explained altogether (the director explains in the commentaries that they cut twenty minutes of explanations to improve the film's flow). It is obvious no one really cares about the explanations just as it is obvious these are but a link to the next adventure; it is also obvious that while the filmmakers and the actors did not care much about the sense, they did have fun making this film.
Eventually, the question NT2 raises is - why? Why did actors such as Helen Mirren, Ed Harris and Harvey Keitel choose to play in a film of NT2's quality? I can't offer a verified explanation; maybe they wanted to add the element of silliness to their CVs, or maybe they got such a big fat check they didn't care.
Interesting scene (1): Cage meets the president, who is nothing like George W; he seems nice and smart. I wonder who they based the character on.
Interesting scene (2): The ultimate treasure, the city of gold (El Dorado), happens to be in the USA. Interestingly enough, this is the same treasure city that starred in the latest Indiana Jones, only that there it was located in South America.
Technical assessment: This second Blu-ray disc we got to watch was quite different to the first. The picture was so high contrast that there was not much of a difference in quality from what you get out of an upscaling DVD player. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was also fairly undistinguished: although it offered all the sound effects you would expect of a Hollywoodian action film, it was very much less than inspiring in its originality and fidelity.
Overall: Stupid fun, 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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