The surprise hit of the 2004 holiday season, National Treasure, Disney’s Jerry Bruckehimer production once destined as a Touchstone Pictures release, became an international sensation. Grossing nearly $350 million worldwide, inspiring a book series and sequel film, and re-launching Nicolas Cage‘s stardom, Treasure‘s name could not be more fitting.
How fast a decade goes by. National Treasure turns one decade old this November. That’s reason enough to determine 10 reasons to revisit the film.
1. Watch Nicolas Cage in one of his more ‘subdued’ performances. Though the movie star sometimes settles for more dramatic performances outside the action genre, in terms of his “hero characters,” this is one of Cage’s calmer roles. Sure, there’s the occasional shouting and self-awareness about shouting. “See, now can you please stop shouting?” he asks Diane Kruger‘s Dr. Abigail Chase at one point. But it’s more intense whispering than screaming all the time. Cage is a keen and under-appreciated actor. This may not be Oscar bait, but he does a commendable job with the material.
2. Marvel at the amazing cinematography and stuntwork.National Treasure employed intricate and well-designed set pieces that the characters rip to shreds. Some are actual locations, such as along the streets of Washington, D.C. Others are entirely invented. Caleb Deschanel – yes, Emily and Zooey’s dad – is responsible for the astounding cinematography here. His talent has been clear from his younger years, garnering Oscar nods for The Right Stuff and Fly Away Home. Here, historical-themed environments, both real and fictitious, allow for the characters to make use of every piece. Props also go out to the daring stunt crew for performing tricky maneuvers in many scenes.
3. Question why Jon Voight has all of those lemons in his fridge. Well, likely for the sake of having a convenient plot. Apparently Ben’s dad was going to stage a lemonade stand the following day? Roll your eyes at the randomness of him having the fruit for no apparent reason when Ben barges into the home of his estranged father.
4. Feel compelled to purchase Trevor Rabin’s energetic score. Best known as guitarist and vocalist for Yes, Rabin has transitioned to film composer. His early solid movie orchestral work was evident in scores like 2000’s Gone in 60 Seconds and Armageddon (also for Disney and starring Cage). But National Treasure ramped up Rabin’s game, delivering awesome arrangements through strings and percussion. It’s an easily recognizable soundtrack, one worth purchasing upon another listen through revisiting Treasure. Listen to a snippet below.
5. Imitate Nicolas Cage’s serious-sounding quotes. “I’m gonna steal the Declaration of Independence” may be the most notable line – parodied often in Andy Samberg’s impression of Cage in old Saturday Night Live skits – but many of his film lines scream overly resolute. Other phrases you will end up remembering and quoting include “There’s more to the riddle; information you don’t have, I do” and “Is there a door that doesn’t lead to prison?”
6. Wonder why Sean Bean must play the villain – and die – in almost everything he stars in. Something about the English actor beckons menace, as he is typically cast as nefarious characters who almost always perish. Luckily, he does not meet his doom in Treasure, but he comes close at various points. Bean’s Ian is one top-notch baddie, sacrificing artifacts for the sake of greed.
7. Become inspired to evaluate ordinary-looking everyday items. You will never observe an American one-dollar bill after catching National Treasure for an additional viewing. As we continually hear in the film, clues of a miraculous discovery are all around us. Some exist in the palms of our hands, whereas others were left by the Founding Fathers at various historic sites. David Ovason’s The Secret Symbols of the Dollar Bill, a book released around the same time as National Treasure, has met mixed reviews, but for many has served as an entryway into exploring the items examined in the movie.
8. Ponder the accessibility of breaking into top-secret areas. While I don’t think National Treasure is advocating for individuals to trespass into sacred places, such as the National Archives, watching the movie may cause you to question these topics. Of course, much of the movie exaggerates the truth. Yet your natural curiosity may cause you to take up watching documentaries on The History Channel about the construction of these heavily protected buildings – and how some could try to sneak inside them.
9. See American landmarks’ hidden areas. Implausibility may be the name of the game in National Treasure. It’s fictional fun. Nonetheless, the filmmakers did seek to make many famous settings authentic. Treasure was filmed in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and New York City, including the interior of Trinity Church, for that sense of genuineness.
10. Prepare to watch the sequel.Book of Secrets, the second film that proved even more successful than its predecessor, may have eluded critical approval, but garnered much love for audiences who showed up for extra helpings. Revisiting the movie may inspire you to catch Cage in action on his international adventure. Helen Mirren and Ed Harris come in to add more gravitas. To make the viewing extra entertaining, scream every time Nic Cage says the word “president.”
What do you most enjoy about National Treasure? Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.