Monday, October 27, 2008

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) moves along with the steady pace of a metronome. You know what's coming every step of the way, no surprises, no revelations, just one stunt and effect and clue after another. This sequel features virtually all the same characters played by the same actors
as its predecessor National Treasure (2004). Both films are heavily influenced by the faux-thriller The Da Vinci Code and any number of much better films and novels of the 20th century that use paranoid conspiracy narratives. The main character Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) is told that his grandfather, whom he had long believed a patriot of the Civil War, was involved in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. Determined to vindicate family history, he sets out to discover the truth. He discovers a secret Confederate cabal that plotted the assassination and planned to start a second civil war funded with treasures hidden away in the deep recesses of Mt. Rushmore. Somehow the Masons are involved. The treasure consists of golden relics and Mayan temples somehow transported from Central America to South Dakota. Oh, and there's also a book of secrets, passed down from one president to the next, containing the truth about all the mysteries you ever wanted to know the truth of—flying saucers and Roswell, NM, Kennedy's assassination, etc. This film has the credibility of a third-rate comic book. The mystery behind the conspiracy unravels in a complicated and arbitrary way as Gates deciphers clues and puzzles and inscriptions—one of them on the desk of the president in the Oval Office of the White House. Gates even has to kidnap the President, briefly, who doesn't seem to mind. Everyone here seems to be going through the motions, even Ed Harris, who somehow made his way into the story as the villain. It's as if history itself isn't enough, and it's necessary to invent stories about Masonic conspiracies and hidden clues and hidden treasure. It's easy to sleep through long stretches of this film, rousing occasionally to check on the action, missing nothing.

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