National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (US - BD RA)
Gabe goes on another treasure quest, though a good movie still eludes us...
Treasure seeker Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) returns to the hunt after his family’s honour is put into question by rival Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), who offers alleged proof that Gates’ ancestor, Thomas Gates, was not a Civil War-era hero, but an Abraham Lincoln assassination participant. Ben employs the help of his father (Jon Voight), side kick (Justin Bartha) and estranged girlfriend (Diane Kruger) in his journey, which leads him all over the world, and to the eventual conclusion that he must kidnap the President of the United States.
Book of Secrets is almost instantaneously a better film then the first National Treasure simply based on the visually rich opening sequence. Turtletaub seems to have taken a few lessons from Jerry Bruckheimer’s other Disney cohort Gore Verbinski, and created a much more lush environment for his sub-Indiana Jones hero to roam. If there’s one thing the Pirates of the Caribbean films got right it was atmosphere. Book of Secrets opens with the kind of ‘historic flashback’ the first film really could’ve used, and broadens the oh so two-dimensional canvas.
Following this sequence, things kind of devolve back to mediocre for the National Treasure crew. Book of Secrets suffers acute sequel-itus. The film begins with the characters exactly where we left them, only with a few convenient negatives tossed in to ‘make things more interesting’. The hero lovers are having coupling trouble, the sidekick needs money again, and is feeling more inadequate than ever. Everyone that fought their way through adversity last time seems to be back in the same predicaments, more or less. The writers take a cue from the first Final Destination sequel, and upped the ante on the elements that worked best for the first film on the most basic entertainment level—namely the puzzles and car chases. Though I’d prefer a more intriguing narrative, I’m willing to take these visceral pleasures where I can get them. A dopey but fun movie is always better then a dopey and boring movie.
Nic Cage chews up a bit of scenery this time, which is a step up from part one, though his haircut is pretty distracting. The rest of the actors step it up a bit too, with the exception of Harvey Keitel and Ed Harris. Keitel channels Donald Sutherland from Oliver Stone’s JFK and looks like he’s about ready for his nap for most of his scenes, while Harris appears to have been digitally composited from about fifteen other ‘bad guy’ roles. Despite the case of same-ol’ same-ol’, the dialogue and humour kicks it up a notch, to the point that I actually laughed a couple of times, especially at Cage, though not, unfortunately at his comic relief.
The National Treasure transfer was top tier, and this one is another story higher. Turtletaub takes a more stylized approach to Book of Secrets. The whole film is more colourful, and the lighting is quite a bit more extreme, almost dancing into the realms of coloured film noir. The details are lifelike with minimal edge enhancement, and there’s basically no compression noise. All 1080p is fully utilized, skin tones are supernatural, colours are separated, and quite vibrant. Edges are sharp, and as part of the more ‘noir’ look, contrasting blacks and whites are laser sliced. The transfer is basically problem free (even the grain is super fine).
Dolby Digital TrueHD is something I can actually listen to on my system, unlike the original films uncompressed PCM track. This track isn’t fist wavingly aggressive, but for the material you’ll be hard pressed to find a better audio track. The spatial representation of the track is wonderful. When on the streets of Paris, London, or D.C. the surround channels tremble lightly with the sounds of commerce and the dialogue is never lose in the shuffle or tuned to loudly. The stereo speakers are pretty much constantly throbbing with musical score, which is still pretty typical of the genre overall, but with a handful of surprises, and an overall better tempo.
This single Blu-ray disc collection is rather par for the Disney course, but houses a few pleasant surprises, and a few Blu-ray exclusive extras. Everything begins with a good humour commentary from director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight. Turteltaub is quite talky, and obviously excited not only by the process of making the movie, but by the series’ obsession with historical factoids and conspiracy. Voight, who’s never been the best commentator, tosses up a few interesting remarks, but this is mostly Turteltaub’s track. I admit a slight increase in my respect for the film based on the historical accuracy the filmmakers strived for overall.
Unfortunately, the first of the Blu-ray exclusive extras, a pop up quiz track called ‘Book of History’ would not work on my player, though thankfully the menu system simply told me this rather than allowing me to try and fail several times. If your player has ‘Bonus View’ capabilities you may be in for a fine time.
There are seven deleted and extended scenes, each complete with their own director introduction, and each presented in full HD with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The first scene actually changes up the whole last act of the film a bit, and is really more of an alternate scene rather than a deleted one. The other six scenes, two of which are not on the DVD release (I’m not sure which two), are more traditional cuts, deleted for pacing and tonal reasons. In all they run somewhere around twenty minutes and thirty seconds. This is followed by a five-minute blooper reel.
The disc’s featurettes begin with ‘Secrets of a Sequel’, which is you basic EPK. ‘On Location’ is a companion piece to the similar featurette on the original film’s disc. The big deal this time around is the world-wide appeal of the locations, rather than places around Washington D.C. alone the last time around. ‘Street Stunts’ is a glance at the making of the film’s big London car chase. ‘Inside the Library of Congress’ speaks for itself, and is filled with cast and crew basically agreeing with each other that the Library of Congress is totally boss. ‘Underground Action’ is a look at the sets and action of the film’s last act. ‘Cover Story’, which concerns the mythical ‘Book of Secrets’, is more of the same, as is ‘Evolution of a Golden City’ and ‘Knights of the Golden Circle’.
These featurettes are all pretty fluffy, almost exclusively made to sell the film, and are all too brief and filled with film footage to really teach the viewer anything. Most of them run somewhere between eight and ten minutes, though the most interesting one, ‘Knights of the Golden Circle’, only runs about two and a half minutes. Really this is a missed opportunity because the film is so historically centred, and ripe for decently staged documentaries. The disc spins out with the usual Disney trailers.
This is one very impressive looking disc, and it doesn’t sound too bad either. The film itself is, in my opinion, a little more entertaining than the first National Treasure, but overall isn’t particularly great either. This Blu-ray release carries two extra deleted scenes and a Blu-ray trivia game that you can’t find on the DVD release, but odds are your player will have trouble working the game.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 20th May 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trivia Game, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Ed HArris, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren
Length: 125 minutes
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