I recently watched the newest chapter of the National Treasure series. I began watching with the apprehension of being greeted with a simple sequel. Rather, I discovered a powerful story with mind-blowing twists and deep, intriguing adventure covering areas as exotic as Paris, France and Mount Rushmore.
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets parallels its prequel by revealing some of the events surrounding the Lincoln assassination. Two of John Booth’s henchmen approach Thomas Gates (Benjamin Gates great-great granddaddy) and request his help to decipher a coded message. When Thomas discovers that the men belong to a secret Southern society, he brands them as "traitors" and almost destroys the message by throwing it into the fire. In return, he is shot by the conspirators who retrieve the blackened piece of paper.
The story then returns to the present where Thomas Gates is publicly accused of the assassination of Lincoln when the missing page from Booth’s diary is revealed. This prompts Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) to find the lost treasure and restore his ancestor’s good name.
Opposing him is Jeb Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the descendant of a Confederate general, who is also seeking the treasure. Wilkinson appears as an atypical villain who pursues Gates before realizing that they should work together. Eventually, Wilkinson shows that he is capable of doing good and even risks everything in the face of danger.
Apart from the villain, there are many ways that this movie not only reflects but also builds upon its predecessor. The major characters from the previous movie return for equally stellar performances. Gates again makes his mark as a puzzle-solver and historical extraordinaire.
Gates’ audacity continues to be a source of bold action and intrigue. In attempting to find the lost treasure, he again finds himself a wanted man with the FBI desperately attempting to capture him (and only waiting until the end of the film to do it).
Comic relief plays a large role in this film. The action scenes are often punctuated when Ben’s sidekick Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) makes a funny remark or gets into an odd situation. There is one scene where security men barge into a bathroom looking for Riley and find another man instead. Also, look for a scene where Ben sticks his hand into a rock crevice and feigns injury.
National Treasure 2 contains many positive elements, which make the film even more exceptional. The theme of family values is strong in this movie as the family members must depend on each other and have faith in each other’s abilities. This theme is especially brought to light as Ben’s father and mother are forced to reconcile their differences. Self-sacrifice is also an important aspect of this film, appearing when one member of the expedition stays behind to allow the others to escape from an underground chamber.
In addition to these positive themes, the movie is not without negative elements. In the early parts of the film, there is the revelation Ben and Abigail (his girlfriend from the previous movie) have been living together. Also, the character of Ben’s mother appears, and it is revealed that she and Ben’s father are divorced. In addition, there are some intense scenes that may be inappropriate for not-intense people.
Overall, I would heartily recommend this film to anyone looking for relaxing entertainment. It is, in my opinion, a family film, although some caution should be exercised regarding young children.