National Treasure (US - BD RA)
Having run out of Indiana Jones movies, Gabe moves on to middleing cash-ins...
Since his childhood, and because it runs in the family, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) has been obsessed with finding the legendary Knights Templar Treasure, the greatest fortune known to man. As he tries to find and decipher ancient riddles that will lead him to it, Gates is dogged by a one-time colleague turned ruthless enemy (Sean Bean). In a race against time, Gates must steal one of America s most sacred and guarded documents, the Declaration of Independence, or let it and a key clue to the mystery fall into dangerous hands.
National Treasure is a well-made, big budget cash-in on two key properties—the Indiana Jones series and The Da Vinci Code, which at the time was only a multi-million dollar book rather than a film. One might say there’s a touch of Tomb Raider and Mission Impossible in there too, but everyone knows that Lara Croft is just Indiana Jones with boobs, and that nobody cares about Ethan Hunt anymore. There is no shame in this, but there also isn’t much to get excited about either. At times the adventure seems so familiar that one may forget they aren’t watching a remake.
The PG rated film lacks any thematic bite, violent menace, or sexual tension, which sets it apart from more interesting Indiana Jones rip-offs. The lack of suspense is actually pretty shocking. The sidekick’s snappy humour and hero’s one-liners aren’t really funny. Cage looks like he’s about to pass out, or as if he’s taken one too many muscle relaxants, because there is more or less zero passion behind his performance. The supporting cast does what they can, but the script is much more interested in the intricacies of paranoid counter historical facts and gadgets than dialogue or character development. Again, I can’t find it in myself to call National Treasure a bad film, but it doesn’t have a lot going for to tell me otherwise.
There are times where the film’s consistently awkward trivia tracking becomes a massive hindrance. Occasionally I felt as if I was watching a live action version of Liberty’s Kids or The Magic School Bus, or that a ‘The More You Know’ rainbow was about to spring out of Nicolas Cage’s head. Perhaps the biggest letdown, though, is the limp noodle ending. There’s really no payoff, emotionally or thematically. The story simply meanders half effectively to the exact spot we knew it was going to end up, minus any sense of climax. It’s not even abrupt, really, it just sort of stops being a movie.
Would you like to count Christopher Plummer’s moustache hairs? Well here is your chance. This is a top tier high definition transfer, with pin needle sharp details, nearly zero compression noise, and some incandescent colours. The 1080p skin textures are incredibly lifelike, and the skin tones are almost entirely free of any unnatural hues or shading. Colours are sharply separated and pop where appropriate. Contrast is a bit soft, but edges are well cut and blacks as deep as my set allows. Some of the landscape long shots are pretty grainy, and the grain can be pretty thick (though the Washington D.C. skylines might just be rife with pollution).
Well, those Disney title fireworks just about made me crap my pants, time to turn down the system I suspect. Again, as per the norm on my Blu-ray reviews, I still don’t a have PCM track friendly sound set up (and again, I remind readers of my Paypal account). The standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track is just about perfect, and shows no obvious signs of compression. The dialogue is clear and audible even during intense action scenes without sounding artificially loud. The LFE track has really intense punch (hence my pant soiling during the title), and the surround channels are filled to the brim when needed. This isn’t the most aggressive track, and sometimes the stereo channels are delegated some iffy sound effects (like a hand crank in the centre of the screen), but I’ve got no complaints.
Jerry Bruckheimer favoured composer Trevor Rabin really sleepwalks through this score, effectively cribbing every one of his previous Bruckheimer bought scores in bits and pieces. The music is especially well mixed with the booming sound effects and shouting voices, but is still sounds an awful lot like Bad Boys II meets [/i]Armageddon[/i].
Disney is good enough to supply fans with a few extra reasons to buy this disc, besides the A/V upgrade. The bonus features begin with a good natured and wryly amusing commentary track featuring director John Turtletaub and actor Justin Bartha. The track is informative and fills the two-plus hour running time well. This is followed by another Blu-ray exclusive extra, a sort of game/series of featurettes called ‘Mission History’. The load times are a bit frustrating, but the inclusion of historical and scientific featurettes is great, though I think it would’ve worked better without the ‘game’ menu style. It’s actually quite a bit of information to digest, and it’s presented in high definition.
The rest of the extras can also be found on the original DVD release, and include deleted scenes, including an alternate ending (all with director’s commentary and introduction), an animatic version of the opening sequence, and a series of featurettes, trailers, and a trivia track.
The deleted scenes are not high definition or anamorphically enhanced. The scenes are extraneous and there deletion was a good decision. Obviously these aren’t all the deleted scenes, because Turtletaub tells us there’s almost two hours of deleted footage total.
The featurettes begin with a twelve minute look at encryption and codes called ‘Ciphers, Codes, and Codebreakers’, which after sitting through almost twenty hours of historic documentaries on the Young Indiana Jones collection seems a little too fast and furious to fully absorb. ‘Exploding Charlotte’ covers the making of the opening Arctic circle, which included blowing up a boat, in about six and a half minutes. ‘To Steal a National Treasure’ is a six-minute general behind the scenes EPK. ‘On the Set of History’ is six minutes of the cast and crew bragging about how cool it was to film the film on location. ‘On Location’ is eleven minutes of very excitedly edited mix of interviews and raw footage, which more or less covers the same ground as the last two featurettes. ‘Treasure Hunters Reveled’ and ‘The Templar Knights’ are semi-historical featurettes, and zip by very fast.
National Treasure is a fluffernutter sandwich—on the outside is bland white bread, and inside is a bunch of processed sugar, sweet and tasty, but full of empty calories. I don’t regret missing it for all these years, but don’t regret watching it either. The Blu-ray disc looks fantastic, one of the better I’ve seen since I got my player, and fans should be happy about the added extras.
* 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 2006
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trivia Game, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Sean Bean
Length: 131 minutes
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