The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Do I Feel … Enthusiasm … for National Treasure 2?

Written by: Jimmy Hitt, CC2K Staff Writer

Image Somewhere in life I was negligently exposed to the terrible genius that is the B-movie.  You know the type.  It’s the one where all the clichés converge into an irresistible stew of awesomeness the likes of which makes you both elated and embarrassed, questioning the very intelligence you so often believe you possess.  It’s the Michael Bay film or the Jerry Bruckheimer vehicle or…wait a minute.  I see a trend here.  These aren’t even B-movies, are they?  They’re…SUPER B-MOVIES.  B-movies disguised by a whole football team of writers and special effects personnel.  B-movies helmed by deceptive, smart directors who are more than a bit evil.  B-movies covered in the pixie dust of Hollywood and more often than not starring the King of Krap: Nic Cage himself.  

Yes, Cage has appeared in roughly a billion dollars’ worth of straight garbage.  Ghost Rider anyone?  Face/Off? The Rock? But we all know he can act his way out of a paper bag when he feels like turning on that bizarrely unmistakable ugly man’s charm of his.  Adaptation. essentially steeled me against pure, white hot, Cage hatred, or Catred as it’s known.

So alas, when National Treasure came out, I unwittingly entered a perfect storm of sorts.  My love of B movies combined with my Nic Cage attraction/repulsion, which entered a Gulf Stream of luke warm post-The Da Vinci Code conspiracy enthusiasm and coalesced into a monstrous guilty pleasure.

When I first heard about a sequel to such a monstrosity, I immediately wondered what it would be called.  Frontrunners included International Treasure and National Treasure 2: The Ho Chi Minh Adventures.  But in all seriousness, the real thought that occurred to me was, “How can they do a sequel when Cage found all of the world’s missing treasure in part 1?”  

Turns out that National Treasure: Book of Secrets addresses that question straight away, creating a plot where information, rather than material goods, becomes the next quarry. 

And not just any information.  In just a few short pages, the screenplay has our hero Ben Gates uncovering a massive plot to free the Lincoln Conspirators from a desert island off the coast of Florida back in 1867, as well as another secret organization known as the KGC (Knights of the Golden Circle).  Yes, this time around the greatest secrets of our own republic become conspiracy theorist gold, with Ben circling the U.S. in much the same fashion as last time, pursued by rogue agents and treasure hunters alike as he defies the odds and…well you get the idea.

So given that most of this sequel is just retreaded, revamped fun and games with a historical bent, what if anything, you ask, can I actually reveal about the plot?  What new surprises or spoilers can you hope to get out of reading any further? 

To answer those questions, let me just remind the casual National Treasure fan that, first and foremost, these films are PG, financed by Disney (who probably are run by the KGC), and produced by half of Hollywood.  There is not a killing off of principle characters, nor a speck of blood or a curse word.  There will not be any flesh or, gasp, a major explosion.  What we have here is a by-the-books conspiracy thriller that’s yet another carbon copy of The Da Vinci Code, except with humor, attractive women, a hero who actually seems enthused to be in the story, and topics we can sink our teeth into. 

See, every American is raised to believe that our country’s history is pretty cut and dry.  Washington never lied, Lincoln freed the slaves and was killed by a Southern retaliator, Kennedy was killed by Oswald, etc.  What Book of Secrets will hopefully do is educate the populace of…actually forget it.  This shit is all made up.  Deliciously so, but made up nonetheless.

There’s a scene about half way through the screenplay where an eight-year-old boy drops some serious Wikipedia conspiracies on Ben’s lap, who just ignores the kid and continues on his mission.  Yet I couldn’t help but wonder what sounds more plausible, a conspiracy involving Lincoln’s own cabinet members—which this film presupposes—or a conspiracy wherein John Wilkes Booth was really a male model and Lincoln was killed over the price of cotton. 

The beauty of a film like National Treasure is that is exploits some simple truths about American history: we don’t know much about our own complicated history, and one explanation sounds just as plausible as the next.  If Nic Cage tells us that the Freemasons run the world, that sounds just as reasonable as George W telling us that Saddam was behind 9/11.  Hence, the search for a mythical “book of secrets” will be easily as interesting as its predecessor’s search for history’s lost treasure.

We all know that our government lies to us, so if Nic Cage wants to tell us some half-truths about our history, all while dodging bullets and playing grab-ass with Diane Kruger, I will be there.  I’m not ashamed to say it: I loved the first film for what it is, and judging by the screenplay, I might just love this one even more.  I can certainly get behind national secrets as opposed to a room full of anonymous “treasure.”