December 18, 2007


Making History Exciting: The sequel to the hugely popular National Treasure, like the original, brings history alive for kids and families—and star actor Nicolas Cage likes being a part of that. (Peter T. Chattaway, 12/18/07, Christianity Today)

National Treasure surprised audiences and industry observers alike when it came out three years ago. Originally produced for Disney's adult-oriented Touchstone label, it was released under the Walt Disney banner after its family-friendly thrills earned a PG rating, and its box-office success—it quickly became Nicolas Cage's top-grossing movie ever, beating the R-rated The Rock—marked the beginning of a movement at Disney back to films that are fit for the whole family, and not just for the kids. [...]

The first film revolved around a series of clues hidden in the documents and artifacts left behind by America's founding fathers in the 18th century. The second film turns to the 19th century and involves the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln—and Cage says he agreed to make the sequel partly because, "right off the bat, that's more interesting for me, historically, personally."

Cage says he thinks of each film in the National Treasure series as a self-contained historical mystery, and of his character, Benjamin Gates, as an "archaeological version" of detectives like Sherlock Holmes. Plus, he says, the films are "wonderfully positive" because the hero succeeds without using a gun, and because they can "inspire especially the youngsters to look into their history books."

What's more, he says, the films might also inspire people to have greater respect for their ancestors. "In a lot of so-called primitive cultures, there's a tremendous respect for our ancestors, that we don't see as much, for whatever the reason, in modern American culture," says Cage. "And with Ben, I wanted to make it clear that … he really believes in a chivalrous way that everything he is, is on account of his ancestors, and they're not dead to him. So they're still there with him and he's honoring them—and I think I try to embrace that in my own life."

In the first film, Benjamin Gates stole the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it; in the new one, he must somehow get access to the President of the United States (played by Bruce Greenwood) in order to obtain certain extremely top-secret information. Through it all, he maintains his respect for the man and the office he represents—and he says other people want to believe in the President, too.

There were plenty of problems with, and plot holes in, the first one, but that reverence for the Founders really shone through and, along with the action, made up for any deficiencies. Plus, Mr. Cage is just a likable screen presence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 18, 2007 4:05 PM

I thought the plot premise was absurd but otherwise it was a really entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

I remember watching Ebert and Roeper trash the film: Roeper called it "bad on so many levels" and Ebert (I think it was him) asked why the Founders would have hidden all that treasure when they needed money to fight the British.

I wanted to tell them: Guys, you're film critics. It's a film.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 19, 2007 12:40 AM