National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

This is probably one of the most thorough and all-around entertaining DVD I’ve seen this year. Aside from a few small issues with the movie, this DVD as a whole delivers on every level.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A wonderful flick that more than lives up to the original with some spectacular special features.
THE BAD
Some of the humor doesn't work in the flick and there are some issues as to why the whole thing gets started in the first place.
THE FEATURE
I wasn't the only one surprised by the success of the first National Treasure flick. I went to see it in the theater, thinking it'd maybe be a semi-entertaining little romp of a movie that'd be a nice distraction after all the holiday hubbub. I left the theater thoroughly entertained and surprised by the intelligence and creativity of the movie. Naturally, I was pumped for the sequel, only this time I was not surprised when I left the theater equally entertained and wanting more from this treasure-hunting crew.

We pick up the series with a brief flashback back to the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and then go to Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) and his father Thomas Gates (Jon Voight) giving a lecture on Abraham Lincoln and his assassination by John Wilkes Booth, as they're now celebrities in the academic community after the events in the first flick. We also see Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) trying to deal with his "fame" as he sits in a bookstore awaiting fans to come ask for autographs of his new book... and not having much luck. After a rather tedious back-and-forth with these sequences, we finally get into the crux of the story. A mysterious man (Ed Harris) at the Gates' lecture comes forth with one of the missing pages torn from the diary of John Wilkes Booth that implicates Ben's great-great grandfather as one of the co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination. Even though the page is proven to be authentic, the Gates and Co. refuse to believe their lineage had anything to do with the murder of one of the greatest Presidents in American history, so they're off on another adventure to clear their family name... and possibly uncover one of the nation's greatest hidden treasures ever, and one of the most secretive collection of doc*ments known to man: the President of the United States' Book of Secrets.

There are only a few things that really don't work here. On a general level, I thought it started out a little slow to get into the action, re-introducing us to these characters and throwing in a menial sub-plot about Ben and Abigail breaking up. We get into plenty of conflict later on and I'm not sure why they wanted to throw this clich&#233d little one on top of that. When we do get into the whole adventure, it's never quite clear why Harris' character comes forward with this ancient relic now. However, none of these issues really registered too high on my radar because director Jon Turtletaub and screenwriters Cormac and Marrianne Wibberly (from a story by Gregory Poirier and Pirates of the Carribbean writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio), do a spiffy job of rushing us right past these sorts of logistics and, in no time, you're caught up in another highly-charged adventure that goes beyond the national borders.

They could've easily called this International Treasure, because we're swept off to Paris and London as well as plenty of action stateside in Washington D.C. and Mount Rushmore. While the whole impetus of this journey may have started with some holes, the storytelling is quite precise when it comes to the whole hunt, with just as much ingenuity as the first, probably more-so. The Wibberly's do some fine work in the script, ratcheting up the tension when they need to and loosening it up when necessary as well.

As far as the acting is concerned, they pick up right where they left off, with some fine performances from our main trio of Nicolas Cage, the stunning Diane Kruger and the hilarious Justin Bartha. It really feels that they all don't lose a beat at all from the first movie and they're all just a delight to watch. We also get two incredibly top-notch additions in Ed Harris as the mystery man who wants his claim on history and Oscar-winner Helen Mirren in a spectacular smaller turn as Ben's loving mother... and Thomas' prickly ex-wife who hasn't seen Thomas in over 20 years. We also get another old friend back in the wonderful Harvey Keitel as the FBI agent and unofficial friend/official foe of Gates. Bruce Greenwood is also wonderful in a almost-cameo performance as the President of the United States.

Director Jon Turtletaub helms another fine action-adventure and, after watching both of these movies, it's almost shocking that he was almost exclusively a comedic director. Aside from his comic instincts, which serve him (and us) quite nicely most of the time, he really has a deft touch when it comes to chase scenes and, just in general, of controlling the tension level created by the script.

Overall, this is just another wonderful adventure that the whole family can enjoy together. This movie has damn-near everything we go to the movies for in one insanely-well-packaged movie that will entertain you over and over again.
THE EXTRAS
We get just a wonderful wealth of special features here, all of which are timed out precisely and delivers just the right amount of information and entertainment that all the best special features do.

First up we get some Deleted Scenes, but with a twist. Each of these scenes has an introduction from director Jon Turtletaub, something I very rarely see on a DVD, but I just love every time I see them. When I normally see deleted scenes, right after watching the movie, I have no context as to why they're deleted. True, most of the time they're garbage, but I think if every movie had an introduction to these scenes, I might be inclined to like them a little bit more. Here, Turtletaub gives us a nice little intro before each scene and gives an in-depth explanation why the scene didn't make it into the movie. I didn't love all these deleted scenes, actually, I'm glad most were deleted, but because I got those little tidbits of information as to WHY they weren't in the movie, I enjoyed watching these a lot more than I would've without the introductions. This is something I think every director should take a little time to do, because it really gives the viewer more insight into their process and how the film was put together. Kudos, Jon Turtletaub. Kudos.

Next up we get The Treasure Reel, which is basically a reel of bloopers and outtakes. Most of these are just goofy, giggly sorts of parts that seem a lot funnier to the actors than us, but there are some pretty good bits here, most of which are from Justin Bartha, which isn't shocking at all.

Secrets of a Squel is next and this is a rather splendid little featurette, with interviews from Turtletaub, Cage and many others from the cast and crew, talking about the challenges of making a sequel and what they wanted to accomplish here. It really gives you a good feel of some of the thought processes that went into many different aspects of the movie and it's really quite a good watch.

The Book of Secrets: On Location gives you a wonderful feel of the experiences shooting in all these different locations around the world. We get several interview bits with practically all of the main cast, some of the crew and, of course, Turtletaub. He strikes me as the kind of guy that just really really loves to be on camera, but it doesn't matter because he always has something cool or interesting to say, so it's slideable. We get some excellent information on each location, including some of the limitations that were put on them in some, especially in Washington D.C. where they were only allowed to film in very specific locations around the White House, which was pretty weird. Another great feature.

Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase takes us a little deeper into one of the most action-packed parts of the flick and we get to see the exactness needed to pull off such a daring chase through the streets of London. It's really quite amazing to see the amount of work that needs to be done for such a small part of the movie, but one that paid off in a very big way. An awesome look into one exhilarating scene.

Underground Action

Cover Story: Crafting The President's Book is another winner as well, albeit a briefer feature than the others. This shows how they actually created the Book of Secrets, and it's far more detailed than you think. As they say in the movie, the book has an entry from each President, starting with Washington, and they crafted this book the same way. There is indeed an entry for each President and they even took it a step farther in gathering actual handwriting samples from every single President and writing an entry based off their actual handwriting. Wow.

Evolution of a Golden City is one of the more dull features here, but really not by much. This shows how they actually constructed this amazing city of gold. I won't tell you why there's a city of gold for spoiler reasons, but this shows how they went about designing this elaborate set.

Knights of the Golden Circle caps off the features with a brief little educational featurette. This features some actual scholars of the Lincoln era who drop some knowledge on us about the actual Knights of the Golden Circle and what they were all about. This isn't incredibly long, the shortest feature here, but it's timed quite well and just gives us a little bit of factual knowledge on this actual anti-Lincoln group and what they were all about. A nice little end to some magnificent features.
THE VIDEO
The disc is presented in the widescreen format, enhanced for widescreen televisions, in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
We get a nice eye-catching cover here. The front features a whole-cover shot of Nic Cage holding said Book of Secrets in one hand and a big torch in the other, with a big title card going through the middle in the foreground and some random shots of some of the landmarks seen here behind Cage. The back cover features a nice synopsis, a large special features listing, a shot of Cage, Kruger and Bartha together along with the billing block and tech specs. It's a very nice-looking design.
THE FINAL WORD
This is probably one of the most thorough and all-around entertaining DVD I've seen this year. Aside from a few small issues with the movie, this DVD as a whole delivers on every level. It's a damn fine flick with top-notch features that is well worth watching over and over again.

Do you like this review?

Comments (1)

  1. Shelley

    I agree 100%. It is not often that I see a sequel that is better (IMO) than the original.

    5 years agoby @shelleyFlag