National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007) - 2-Disc Collector's Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Disney || PG - 125 minutes - $34.99 || May 20, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-05-19


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writer(s): Jim Kouf and Oren Aviv & Charles Segars (characters), Gregory Poirier and The Wibberleys & Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (story), The Wibberleys (screenplay)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Helen Mirren


Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director and Co-Star Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes w/ Director Intros
  • Secrets of a Sequel
  • The Book of Secrets: On Location
  • The Treasure Reel: Bloopers & Outtakes
  • Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase
  • Underground Action
  • Evolution of a Golden City
  • Knights of the Golden Circle
  • Cover Story: Crafting the President's Book
  • Inside the Library of Congress


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is just the latest from Midis himself, Mr. Jerry Bruckheimer. The sequel to the hit adventure, raking in nearly $350 million worldwide, finds Ben Gates (Cage) trying to once again clear his family’s good name:

A man named Mitch Wilkinson (Harris) comes forward with proof that Gates’ Great Great Grandfather may have been a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, to do so he must solve a series of riddles/clues that takes him from Paris to London and back the U.S.A. During this globetrotting adventure, he breaks into Buckingham Palace, sneaks into the Oval Office and actually kidnaps The President (Greenwood) for a short time.

Much like its predecessor, Book of Secrets takes plenty of liberties with historical facts but for the sake of entertainment, it’s harmless, but the filmmakers take real history and mold it into a fantastic action-adventure that in many ways it is actually better than the original.

On a story level, this one isn’t that much different from National Treasure. You’ve got clues wrapped into historical artifacts with Gates going around to different locations with a nemesis close in pursuit of the same treasure. Now, as great of an actor as Sean Bean is, nabbing someone like Ed Harris was pure genius. Harris doesn’t have a lot to do here but he avoids some villain clichés and gives the film an extra presence to go along with the stars and supporting cast, which leads to...

The addition of Helen Mirren (The Queen) was an equally brilliant bit of casting as Ben’s mother who is also estranged from Patrick Gates going on 32 years. As with Ed Harris, Mirren’s casting was more impressive for her contribution to the ensemble rather than some terrific performance.

Returning for the ride are Diane Kruger as Ben’s (now) ex-squeeze, Abigail, Justin Bartha as his sidekick Riley Poole, Jon Voight as crusty old Patrick and Harvey Keitel as Agent Sedusky, the man in charge the first go-around of finding Ben Gates and recovering the Declaration of Independence. There’s not much to say about a supporting cast for a sequel other than that they strongly help Cage and the story. A movie can live or die because of supporting actors and here they complement each other very nicely and are a big reason why the movie is so entertaining.

I have already mentioned in a previous review, for Next I believe, about Nicolas Cage and his true acting ability, so I will only say that he’s classic Cage here. There’s some humor and action which he does very well. I think he gets into trouble when there’s a truly awful script because while some actors out there and transform a bad story and movie into a bearably average one, Nicolas Cage is not one of those people. It is a must to have an entertaining story and with Book of Secrets, he strikes gold.

Looking at not only Harris and Mirren but Keitel and Voight as well, you see the buildup of veteran actors who don’t really add much in terms of acting but instead lend a certain weight. We all know they can act their asses off, the most recent of them, Mirren, won an Academy Award for her stunning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in The Queen.

Also coming back for seconds is director Jon Turteltaub. It’s interesting to see what kind of influence Bruckheimer and his Hollywood empire has accomplished with two franchises. With Pirates of the Caribbean he took Gore Verbinski, a man known for only directing small-budget dramas (like The Weather Man, The Ring, The Mexican) and turns him into an action director in a matter of four years. Here again, Turteltaub, who previously directed 3 Ninjas, While You Were Sleeping (yes, that Sandra Bullock/Bill Pullman romantic comedy) and The Kid is now in charge of a franchise that has revitalized the imagination as well as the interest in history.

Speaking of Pirates of the Caribbean... writing partners Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were credited with the story along with “The Wibberleys” (screenplay credit). “The Wibberleys” also had a part for the original National Treasure.

Overall, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a fantastic adventure film that trumps the original by a good margin and is just an all around fun flick that the entire family can watch and enjoy. It is rated PG, which normally is a turn off for me as these kinds of movies tend to pander to the younger crowd (10 and under) but Book of Secrets still manages to give everyone something to love. With the option for a sequel left wide open and a sequel that exceeds the original in terms of box office, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing National Treasure 3 in a few years.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Disney has released Book of Secrets with a single-disc, Blu-Ray and 2-disc versions. Even though this “2-Disc Collector’s Edition” is about $8 more, I think it’s worth the cost.

DISC 1:
Along with a set of previews for other Disney projects, the DVD also contains a feature commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight. The director takes up a majority of the time with Voight sitting in near silence. But it wasn’t like he (Voight) was bored, but more into the movie itself. I do think this is once instance where a solo track would’ve been fine.

DISC 2:
Deleted Scenes (13:38) – Like the release for National Treasure 1, a selection of deleted scenes have been included with introductions for each by Turteltaub. He does a very good job at explaining why these were not included without just simply stating it was for pace (though that was why). As for the scenes, there are 5 here, one lasting over seven minutes: an alternate scene at Mount Rushmore which involves Harvey Keitel a lot more. However, I’m glad they stuck with the theatrical version as it moved the story along much better.

Secrets of a Sequel (6:50) – Filmmakers and the cast explain the process of making a sequel (more along with story, not Hollywood insider stuff). This is fairly fluff material but I can’t complain too much.

The Book of Secrets: On Location (9:45) – More comments from cast and crew on location in London, Paris, Washington D.C. and South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore). Again, this is a nice little featurette that takes the viewer inside the process of filming at locations where not many movies get to go, but this is also a one and done kind of featurette.

The Treasure Reel: Bloopers & Outtakes (5:02) – They’ve included a selection of line flubs and all around on-set zaniness. Some hate the outtakes feature, but no matter, I enjoy the ‘em.

Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase (9:41) – This was briefly covered in the “On Location” featurette but finds more a more extensive look here. It goes through how the chase sequence was shot and the logistics in shooing on a London street.

Underground Action (6:47) – This goes through the action sequences taking place during the final act and the devices used (one being a gimbal).

Evolution of a Golden City (10:19) – The massive set where the final act of the film takes place is examined taking the viewer through the set, how it was made and how important it was to the story to have a practical set vs. 100% CGI.

Knights of the Golden Circle (2:39) – Quite interesting, though all too short, featurette giving a history lesson on the Golden Circle, a group who actively tried to hurt the North during the Civil War and also wanted to create their own society built upon slave labor.

Cover Story: Crafting the President’s Book (4:30) – Merely a fun little featurette that starts off with cast and crew members talking about whether they believe a book like this could exist followed by how it was put together.

Inside the Library of Congress (8:39) – The final featurette studies the Library of Congress from a technical stance, meaning we get to see some of the inner workings, what they do and the important documents they have.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

National Treasure 2 is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.35 AR. From what I could tell, Disney has done an excellent transfer. Images are crisp, clear and clean with no noticeable edge enhancement and colors are, when applicable, are vibrant. A fine home theater experience.

Equally strong, the Dolby Digital 5.1 packs a punch balancing dialogue and action between the speakers. Some movies I would have to adjust the volume either to hear the dialogue or tone down any action sequences, here though, it was just right. The 5.1 track is also available in French and Spanish.



.::OVERALL::.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a fun experience from beginning to end. You have a great and fascinating story wrapped around some truth – albeit the use of the word “some” could be a stretch – plus an added bonus of a solid group of actors working well together, without them I don’t think it would be that good.

This “2-Disc Collector’s Edition” is a good start and at least they released now rather than wait a couple years before the release of National Treasure 3, but I have no doubt another one of these will be released when that time comes... This is a good set but so much more could be included.