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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

National Treasure (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]

(Jon Turteltaub, 2004)







  Being Re-issued February 8th, 2011:

 National Treasure / National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets double-pack on Blu-ray






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment




Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:11:04.481

Disc Size: 48,881,768,136 bytes

Feature Size: 34,933,370,880 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.28 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Locking Blu-ray case

Release date: May 20th, 2008

Re-issue release date: February 8th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video






LPCM Audio English 6912 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 6912 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB



Feature & Extras: English SDH, French, Spanish, and none



• High Def Exclusive: Mission History: Inside the Declaration of Independence

• Audio commentary by Jon Turteltaub and Actor Justin Bartha

• Alternate Ending with optional commentary by the Director

• Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by the Director

• Alternate Ending

• Exploding Charlotte (6.5 min.)

• National Treasure On Location (11 min.)

• On the Set of American History, with the cast (6 min.)

• To Steal a National Treasure (6 min.)

• The Templar Knights (5 min.)

• Opening Scene Animatic: a storyboard in motion (3 min.)

• Cyphers, Codes & Codebreakers (12 min.)

• Treasure Hunters Revealed, with real-life hunters (8.5 min.)



The Film:

Disney plans
Blu-ray releases of both National Treasure movies on May 20, simultaneously with a 2-Disc "Collector's Edition" SD/DVD of the sequel (the first movie having been given the 2-disc treatment 6 months earlier.) Both Blu-ray editions will port over all the features of the SD collector's editions, along with a few exclusive bits of their own.

By now you are no doubt fully up to speed on the connections between the National Treasure and the Indiana Jones movies: Over there we have quests for the Ten Commandments and the Holy Grail; over here, it is the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the President's "Book of Secrets" that must be in hand. In both cases, a treasure would be forthcoming once the relic is in hand, though in the case of Indiana Jones, that treasure is metaphysical (infinite power and eternal life) and for the treasure hunters in the new movies, it is actual reach-out-and-touch-it gold and spoils of war – an indication of how our values have devalued in the intervening decades.


In both cases, there are bad guys and good guys on the quest, with the usual and expected behaviors from each. In the new movies, we also have the presence of the police, with a remarkably level-headed chief. There is even the familiar tinge of justifying a life's work – in the present case, that work is generational, going well beyond the father and son dynamics of the Indiana Jones trilogy. The differences are interesting: Most important is that the Indiana Jones relics are so remote and bound with religiosity that the producers wisely chose to leave comment to the audience; but in the new movies, comment is deliberate and, to an extent, educational.

The first National Treasure movie deals with an actual document, with a history lesson forthcoming. The title of the sequel is faux history and not much is made of its contents, except in our imagination, but the movie does lead to comment on – or, at least, there is an awareness of - the heritage of this continent's native population. Despite the intentions of the filmmakers - and this is all the more evident from the commentaries - this intention turns out to be empty. (The antiquated phrase "Indian-giver" just popped into my head, only in inverse, like we're trying to make up for the deliberate, yet careless way that the European white man ravaged the native Indian population.)

The key to the movies is in how cleverly our treasure hunters work out the clues. It's nice to see them bat around various ideas until they arrive at what they think is the right answer. (It is extraordinary how they are never wrong.) For me, there are two difficulties: the first is that while I don't see myself as a particularly stupid person, I could never have arrived at the same point they did even if I had the historical and faux-historical knowledge they do, which kind of leaves me out of the loop. I prefer a mystery to reveal its method as it goes along, following a logical train of thought, even if fictionalized. But at times such leaps of logic in both movies border on laughable, though the actors manage a straight face – God bless 'em.

But Turteltaub is no fool. He knows he can hide the pea anywhere he wants because many of the factoids presented are known only to the participants – and the history they are working from may or may not be figments of the writer's imagination. Turteltaub is counting on our willingness to accept the story's spiraling clue structure simply because it is imaginative, not because of it's logical or factual, and even though the treasure hunters appear to be following a logical train of thought. Such a device would probably not work in a novel since we would have enough time to become distressed by any serious leaps of logic, but as far as movie making goes, I thought Ben's cryptoanalysis on the fly to be a fairly clever ploy. It was certainly amusing. The action and the actors keep us from worrying too much about how they got from A to B.



The Movie : 7
Since childhood, Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) has been on a quest to find the treasure of the Knights Templar. But it's not a mere jewel encrusted falcon he's after, but a roomful of the stuff. He comes to believe that the most recent protectors of the treasure were the Masons, including the likes of Benjamin Franklin. They hid clues to the treasure's whereabouts in various letters and documents – for starters, the Declaration of Independence. Ben's partner in this quest is Ian Howe (Sean Bean), who shows his hand early in the movie in an attempt to bury Ben and his computer wizard friend, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), in the arctic. Ben realizes that Ian will try to steal the Declaration to learn its secret clues and destroy it in the process, so they try to warn the FBI and other agencies of the threat – thus Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), who is something like a curator of the National Archives. Everyone, including the lovely Ms. Chase, shines them on so they decide to steal it before Ian and company get their filthy hands on it. Ian and Ben meet, unexpectedly and unfriendlylike, in the basement where the document is under Mission Impossible security.



Image : 8.5 (7.5~9/9)
The score of 8.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value on a ten point scale for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

Frankly, I was surprised at vagueness of the image at times, especially in the prologue and arctic sequences. On the other hand, there were times when the acuity was altogether too great considering what came before and after. I assume this is how the movie was hot, but that's just an assumption. Most of the time, the image looked rather flat and uninvolving.


















Audio & Music:

Audio & Music : 7/6
Alas, I regret to confess that I'm still waiting for my new surround system, so I will not be of much help in sorting out the differences between the two audio mixes (5.1 Uncompressed for the original movie and Dolby True HD for the sequel), but in the two channel mixdown from the 5.1 DD, there is no question that the sequel's audio is clearer and more dynamic.

I don't know about you, but I've just about had it with Bruckheimer music. Trevor Rabin's score is repetitive and so derivative, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be on a submarine, exchanging countermeasures with the Russians, or breaking into Alcatraz.





Operations : 8
Walt Disney Studios Blu-ray DVDs continue their chapter-skipable previews and promos before the endless loading of the feature film begins. As in some other recent Blu-ray DVDs, I found the menu operations to be sensible, listing the length of the various segments along with a brief description. I should also note that this DVD has some very clever menu functions, including a sleuth's magnifying glass that moves with the mouse. Kudos.

Extras : 6
I found the commentary a bit difficult, especially with the mosquito noise provided by Justin Bartha. I found Bartha tries much too hard to be cute, and it was work to sort out fact from fiction even as regards the background of the film. In short: a little humor goes a long way in these things. But the high def extra feature Mission History: Inside the Declaration of Independence was fascinating and informative, despite Bartha's tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. Though sensibly sorted out techinically, my player took its dear old time moving from one function to the next, but once I realized the delay was only that, I found this feature alone was worth the purchase of the DVD. The SD featurette concerning the history of codes is also intriguing.



Bottom line:

Recommendation : 8
Recommended mostly for the extra feature Mission History. The movie's not half bad, and it certainly has its supporters. It's not Indiana Jones, but then again, who is?

Leonard Norwitz
April 27th, 2008

November 8th, 2010






  Being Re-issued February 8th, 2011:

 National Treasure / National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets double-pack on Blu-ray






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About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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