National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

by Lisa Perkis, staff writer

The Movie

With the great success of the original National Treasure, a sequel was inevitable. Treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates is indeed back—and this time it’s personal. When his great-grandfather is implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Ben (Nicholas Cage) is determined to clear his family’s name, even if it means bringing together his divorced parents (Jon Voight and Helen Mirren). One would think that the movie would be filled with interesting facts and intrigue about Abraham Lincoln and the assassination, right? Wrong. After a very interesting 20 minutes of film, the plot veers off into clues and situations that have nothing to do with Lincoln. What does a lost city of gold under Mount Rushmore have to do with the Lincoln assassination? I doubt many people made the connection when they saw the movie in the theatre. Watch the film a few times on DVD and you might begin to understand the muddled story line. 

I enjoyed the first movie in the franchise, and all the original players are back with a few additions. Ed Harris plays the bad guy very convincingly, Helen Mirren has some nice moments with Jon Voight, and Bruce Greenwood makes a convincing President. In fact, the entire cast plays off each other with a lot of familiarity and good humor. As long as you don’t think about the plot, the movie is actually enjoyable.

The Goodies

Audio commentary with Director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight – Jon Turteltaub does most of the talking during this audio commentary, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s very apparent that the man loves everything about making movies and can speak to every little detail of how the film was made. He also tries to defend the convoluted plot in many instances by explaining what we should already know by just watching the film and then saying things like “See? That makes perfect sense!” It does make sense after watching the film a few times and listening to the commentary, but a movie not need Cliff Notes to be understood.

Disc 2 bonus features

Deleted scenes with introductions by Jon Turteltaub – The most interesting part of the deleted scenes is the inclusion of a sequence that was deemed too complicated to make it into the final film. The scenes occur right before Gates and his team plus baddie head into the tunnels of Rushmore. Instead of being too complicated, I feel it would have helped give more sense to how all the characters ended up together at Rushmore. There are a few other short scenes that were cut, and all introduced and explained by Turteltaub, who has an engaging personality and clearly loves the National Treasure franchise.

The Treasure Reel (bloopers and outtakes) – Overly processed blooper reels annoy me, and this one is pretty Velveeta-like. Nothing super unexpected or particularly hilarious, but it looks like the cast and crew enjoyed themselves making the movie.

Secrets of a Sequel – The key words to most of these extra features include “bigger” and “more exciting,” especially during this featurette. Watching this extra gives some hints as to why the sequel did not measure up to the original movie. Most of the emphasis seemed to be on the location shots and less on the script, which was not finished when filming began and was adjusted many times during the production. In one telling segment, Turteltaub is trying to explain to the actors the plot so they can understand how to deliver their lines in the coming scene. The explanation is so muddled Turteltaub gets confused while the actors just look at each other with raised eyebrows and at least one mutters, “I don’t get it.” Neither do we, guys. 

The Book of Secrets: On Location – As mentioned above, most of the emphasis on National Treasure 2 is in the beautiful locations. London, Paris, South Dakota, and Washington DC look great. Some interesting scenes of the production teams trying to work with British security while filming near Buckingham Palace. Some of the scenes overlap with the street stunts section of the bonus features.

Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase – This is a very interesting look at the process of setting up a chase sequence in a busy metropolitan city. The production team had to stage every twist and turn of the chase in a remote location, then transfer it to the streets of London for the limited time they had access to the location.

Inside the Library of Congress – This featurette plays more like a love letter to the Library of Congress than a segment on how they filmed in the location, but I didn’t mind. The Library of Congress is one of the most important treasures in our country and they make sure we know it, with beautiful shots of the interior and amazing facts about the collection it houses.

Underground Action – The last 45 minutes of the film are chock-full of action sequences, and this featurette focuses on the platform stunt where the actors had to position themselves at each corner of a large platform to keep from plummeting to the floor below. If you enjoy the technical and engineering aspects of stunts and special effects you will enjoy the amazing lengths the production team goes to to design the moving platform used in the final minutes of the film.

Cover Story: Crafting the Presidents’ Book – Short but interesting featurette about how the production team crafted the Book of Secrets by researching handwriting and history about each president and adding what they speculated would be their “secret” to add to the book

Evolution of a Golden City – Technical featurette showing the process the designers went to in making the lost city of gold which was not under Mount Rushmore but on a soundstage at Universal. Another one of those well done behind the scenes segments that pay tribute to the production team.

Knights of the Golden Circle – Another short section giving some background to the “KGC” and their connection to the Civil War and the reconstruction. Some pretty iffy “historians” are interviewed insisting that the KGC has untold millions hidden away in gold from the Civil War era just waiting to be discovered. Um, Okay.

Blu-ray disc bonus features include everything from the DVD plus two extra goodies:

Book of History: The Fact and Fiction of NT2, which is a popup history quiz as you are watching the film, and two additional deleted scenes. 

Audio, Video and Interface

A lush edition in every way, the interface is very detailed and mood-setting. Disc two is especially nice, with golden steps listing the features that turn with a cool grinding sound when the next set of features are accessed. The movie is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and looks crisp and colorful. The scenes on location look appropriately awe-inspiring. The sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and takes good advantage of all the explosions and car crashes during the chase sequences.

The Final Evaluation

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Two Disc Collector’s Edition is a very comprehensive and polished look at the film, from the audio commentary to the many production featurettes. It’s a shame that the movie is not as stellar as the bonus features. However, if you are willing to overlook the gaping plot holes, National Treasure 2 might fill some downtime in between reruns of Lost and The Office this summer.

DVD details

  • Release date: May 20, 2008
  • Dolby Digital Surround sound
  • Widescreen 2:35.1 Enhanced
  • Retail Price: $29.99; Blue-ray disc $34.99