- Directed by Jon Turteltaub
- December 21, 2007
Benjamin Gates must prove an ancestor’s innocence in plotting the assassination of John Wilkes Booth.
What National Treasure: Book of Secrets does is execute a bit more polished the set of ideas that propelled the last. Not that the last one was bad, but second films can often be the polished version of the first. They take concepts and ideas that were tested out in the original and use them more effectively as this movie does here.
The story here is a little more globetrotting than the last one as they now need to head overseas in order to get some important clues. It is minimal though. However the story itself is firmly based in American history. The main thrust being the Lincoln Assassination and the conspiracy which surrounded it. Yes it was a bit of a conspiracy not only in this movie but in real life. There were multiple people involved.
Book of Secrets does use plenty of history and other stuff rather than create complete fiction. Cibola for example is drawn from history and plays an important part in the story. There is also bits of info about the Statue of Liberty and even Mount Rushmore woven into a fun story using the legendary Book of Secrets that is a book said to exist where presidents write secrets that no one else knows.
Mitchell “Mitch” Wilkinson (Ed Harris), a black-market dealer, gets the ball rolling by implicating Gates ancestor Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch) in plotting the Lincoln Assassination in order to get Gates looking for treasure. All things considered I am not sure why he felt a need to do that. Given what made Gates famous one would think that he could start out with complete honesty. Then again we would not have had a very exciting movie if he did.
Wilkinson as the villain is more like the dark version of Benjamin Gates. He wants to establish his family name for posterity and can be blindly passionate in his quest. Unlike Gates he is willing to use gunplay and be generally underhanded. Shooting and threats are not out of his repertoire.
Benjamin (Nicolas Cage) for his part is now on the outs with his girlfriend Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). This aspect of the story somewhat parallels what is going on with Benjamin’s father Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight) and mother Dr. Emily Appleton-Gates (Helen Mirren) who coincidentally is an expert in extinct pre-Colombian languages which is important to this treasure hunt. Sometimes when films do such things it can come off as an unnecessary element for a second film but here it just seems more like a natural growth of the characters even if it’s unwanted.
As said new to the Gates family is Helen Mirren. That woman was clearly having a great time in her part. She is a quality actress who can do fine drama as well as just fun stuff. She gives her all. Anna. F9. RED. Not stuff that would draw Oscars but stuff that is good and she is good in. But she was also in Excalibur, 2010, The Mosquito Coast, and so much more that would be considered more artful.
There’s a good chunk of this movie driven by the present situation of all those involved from the last film as well as the coming back together of our main couple. The clues we get are fewer as the characters discuss history (or this world’s version of it). But the movie does embrace the general history of the United States. There are no great conspiracies or sinister motives at play here. But there is much like in the last movie a ballzy move here where Gates decides it is a good idea to kidnap the President (Bruce Greenwood) in order to get it some desperately needed information.
By the end of the story despite all the evil he’s done Wilkinson gets a bit of a redemption and Gates gets a touch of greatness again. There are no real deep themes. At least nothing below the surface. Ultimately this is a fun adventure that mixes history and fantasy. Director Jon Turteltaub doesn’t have to add any twists or dark elements because that’s not what this is about. Ultimately no one is ultimately evil here. At worst they’re mildly misguided. This is a film that is meant to entertain.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a great follow-up to the original film. It’s just as fun and exciting as the last one. And perhaps the ideas they used are a bit more polished. If you’re looking for a good family adventure to watch with everyone or something enjoyable to watch by yourself this is most certainly it.