Reviews: National Treasure

Fun treasure hunt thrillers, especially if you turn off your brain

Both movies follow the same basic formula: Ben thinks there is a massive treasure hidden somewhere, and clues leading to it are scattered all over the place in plain sight, and need to be deciphered by the right mind. A group of bad guys also wants the same treasure, and they try to reach it before the heroes do, attempting to shoot, capture or steal from the heroes when they cross paths. In addition to this, Ben and his crew end up breaking the law, so not only are the bad guys after them, but the feds as well. Eventually, after following the clues, the heroes discover an enormous secret underground area beyond their wildest dreams, that eventually leads to the treasure.

The fun is in the journey. There's a lot of suspense as the heroes try to reach each clue before the bad guys do, sometimes with the bad guys hot on their trail and trying to get them. With each new location, there's another attempt to sneak out a clue without getting caught - either by guards or police, or by the bad guys - which leads to a Eureka Moment before they then look for their next clue. These Eureka Moments are very implausible at times, but I prefer not to think of them too realistically, but instead view them as nothing more than plot enablers. For example, discovering that a special pair of spectacles made by Ben Franklin reveals a secret message on the back of the Declaration of Independence means, for plot purposes, that our heroes now have another location to visit, as do the villains should they discover what the heroes are up to.

Eventually, the clue seeking is replaced with more direct adventure when the heroes finally reach the place where the treasure may be. Breaking-down staircases, ancient booby traps; the heroes end up dealing with more Indiana Jones-esque threats at this point, and the focus of the story has changed. Personally, I wish there was a bit more of this adventure, though the suspense is still high during the clue seeking due to the constant enemy threat and chase/hide moments.

The movies are considered Guilty Pleasures for many, and it's easy to see why. There's a lot of corny humor in the dialog. The plot is implausible, especially in the sequel, which also ramps up the humor. And the level of thriller-like danger is toned down a bit to get a PG rating.

It's cheesy, yes, but it's pretty fun if you're in the mood.