"I'm surprised that this movie has attracted so much scorn. Is it silly and far-fetched? Well, duh, anyone could figure that out who's seen only half a trailer! So, if we accept that going in, the only remaining question is does it deliver sufficient entertainment value?
I vote yes.
The far-fetched plot owes a large debt to "The DaVinci Code", which itself owes a large debt to a time-honored history of conspiracy theories. Long before "The DaVinci Code" was published, I'd heard all sorts of whispered tales about the Knights Templar and the Freemasons - usually involving the Holy Grail, though.
But none of that matters. This is a yarn, pure and simple. As such, it's well told with a good mix of likable and villainous characters, plus at least one you're not too sure about. Should you expect a tall tale to stand up under intense scrutiny? Not bloody likely! To keep you from thinking about the incongruities, it has lots of well-paced action.
This is also a family film. I saw it with 8 other family members ranging from preteen school kids to their grandpa (me). Everyone had a good time and everyone figured we got our money's worth."
In Our Day and Age... ****1/2
Janson Kemp | Dallas, TX USA | 04/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"National Treasure is proof of what us "common" listeners, movie goers, readers and observers have suspected for a long time; That critics are usually wrong/stupid. This movie got bad reviews. Not even bad - abysmal reviews. And do you wanna know why? After everything is said and done, it's because there's no sex, no foul language, and it's entertaining instead of disturbing. Well we can leave them to the business of deciding what our likes and values "should" be, and we they can pontificate why movies they view with disdain end up as year-end blockbusters. With that being said, I feel I should come from a different angle. This movie is also NOT an anti-Christianity film (and I find it interesting that people would equate it as such, seeing as there are so many other mediums that are). The plain and simple facts: pretty much everyone involved in shaping this country: from establishing it, to breaking from England, from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to the men we've elected as Presidents have been Christians. ALSO, more than half the men that signed the Declaration were Masons. Simple facts. George Washington was a Mason. Ben Franklin was a master mason. Lodges were established pretty much everywhere across the East Coast. There's no way to dispute these things because they happened. Coming to the conclusion that masonry is anti-Christian just shows a lack of knowledge on the subject (especially since most masons are Christian to begin with). This is a completely different topic (something that I wouldn't mind discussing with anyone via e-mail), so onto the movie.
It's well written, interesting, with a cliff-hanger look into history that more than acknowledges Dan Brown. (By the way, Dan Brown's new book is on the same subject as this movie. I'm not sure which is interdependent.) It's well produced, well casted, with very few lagging moments. The story is great and the American historical sights are filmed very well, showing masonic influence in virtually everything our Founding Fathers did. I really don't see how this can be construed as negative. Perhaps critics don't like Disney.
Seeing an early edition DVD of this movie, I can say that the special features are certainly lacking. Putting any type of "history channel" type documentary of the evolution of templars-to-masons would have been nice. Even masonry in American history would have been good. Basically, there's a 5 minute mini-history that covers the same ground as the movie or is common knowledge. Perhaps the "special edition" will have more. The lacking special features pales to the greatness of the movie. One of the best!
Overall: 9 out of 10."
Great adventure film appropriate for youngsters
Lisa Shea | 05/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It seems that just about every movie out there in modern times involves skimpy outfits, swearing, or other adult themes. National Treasure is one of those rare films that is fun for the kids, while offering at least a reasonable amount of intrigue for adults as well.
First, yes, let's get out of the way that the plot and characters are rather one-dimensional and only lightly sketched. Ben wants the treasure - but we never really get a sense of why he's seeking it. Perhaps he wants to find it (as he claims when seeking to avoid prison) to 'give it back to the people'. He's joined by a cute female researcher and a cyber-guy. The trio is up against Sean Bean, who wants the treasure for (gasp) monetary gain.
The main appeal of the movie is that the sanitized adventure takes place in locations that you could visit with your family - Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York. The characters move from location to location, deciphering clues and getting hints of masonic involvement. There are creaky underground caverns, guttering torches, and of course, vast treasures. It helps kids to get interested in history, which is a lovely thing.
There is "sweet" love between the main characters - one mild kiss is the extent of their affection. There is the child-reedeeming-his-father's-love going on. Without giving much away, good triumphs and evil is vanquished.
I really wish they could have done a bit better job on the coherency of the movie, though. Sure, having it so sweet-and-simple was lovely for the kids. However, they could have had a bit more logic in some scenes. They know that one clue is "beneath" a two-word name ... but when they find a plaque with those two words on it, they immediately smash it. When they find that person's body, they immediately cause destruction to the scene, so they can't search it. There's a sundial-type puzzle in one sequence, and they obviously need to know the time of day for the sundial. The puzzle is in three dimensions - they need to know exactly where the sundial points. However, they don't even think at all about what day of the year it should refer to - they simply assume one day is the same as any other.
They use ropes that are over 200 years old, which somehow haven't been gnawed by rats or crisped over time. And, in a scene of ultimate horror for me, they find a room full of ancient documents - and they LIGHT A MASSIVE FIRE. Not only would this have crisped the important papers, but this was in an underground chamber - the smoke and lack of oxygen would have slain them all.
I'm not trying to nit-pick here - there were trillions of little errors if we wanted to get into those. These were the huge, glaring "No Way!" moments that caused huge problems with simply following and enjoying the movie. It would have been so easy for the writers to handle these points properly - to keep it 'sweet' for the kids and 'fun' for the adults. So I find it a shame that they couldn't do that properly.
For the DVD, there were a number of special features provided. They definitely aimed this squarely at kids. There are a tiny amount of deleted scenes and alternate ending options. The main group of special features are 'learn about codes' types of exercises. They take quite a while to work your way through - not because they are hard, but because they are really tedious. You have to solve a number of symbol-matching puzzles. You have to go letter, by letter, using your remote control to find the matches. In one puzzle, even though there are multiple copies of a given symbol on the screen, you have to go back and re-select it each time. That's just silly.
But still, it is meant for kids, and the kids might enjoy doing it step ... by step ... by step ... to get all the secret codes to unlock the super-secret features. There is a tiny amount of information about the Masons, and how the purge of the Templars over 700 years ago still affects us in our fear of Friday the 13th. I would have enjoyed even more "real" information about the Great Seal on dollar bills and so on. There are many topics touched on by the movie which are just let go. Maybe the hope is that people will use the internet to keep figuring out secrets, long after they finish with the movie.
So in summary, if you have kids in the house, then National Treasure is a great, safe movie to watch together that is a fun story that has a nice moral ending. If you're an adult, I might rent it - but there are many other books out there that cover this topic area (masonic secrets, history of 1776 situation, Templars, etc.) with much more interesting detail. The reality of what went on is even more fascinating than anything Hollywood could invent!"
Kelly | Littleton, Colorado | 03/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great movie that the whole family can watch! I am a history buff, and it was very enjoyable to see this movie incorporate actual events from history into the mystery. The cast was well chosen, and the movie never had a dull moment. The different location shots were chosen, and showcased to intrigue the viewers. "
Suprising Hit in My Book
Shawna C | Pennsylvania | 04/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't plan to see this movie at all. Even though I usually love Jerry Bruckheimer films (Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my all-time favorites), the plot sounded too out there and far-fetched to seem enjoyable at all. However, when some friends from college suggested a movie night at the dollar theater, and this was their chosen flick, I figured, "What the heck? It's only a dollar." It was honestly the best dollar I spent at the movies in 2004.
Putting aside the fact that the plot does sound a bit weird, there isn't much to complain about (which just proves what I have always believed - professional critics know nothing about what makes a good movie). Nicholas Cage's portrayal of Benjamin Franklin Gates, history nut and treasure hunter, was outstanding (albeit his knowledge of history did border on an obsession). As his sidekick Riley, Justin Bartha had me in stitches.
The ONLY complaint I have is that it seemed fairly easy for Gates to actually get his hands on the Declaration of Independence. That point aside, it's an easy five-star movie."