National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
Ben is back, but this time, he’s a renowned treasure hunter/protector giving lectures with his father and being a sought after member of historic societies. But when our movie starts, a long-lost page from Booth’s diary (man who assassinated Lincoln) seems to implicate Ben’s great-great-grandfather as a co-conspirator, sending Ben back on a quest to clear his family’s good name. In order to do that, though, he has to locate a legendary Native American city of gold that has been dismissed by everyone as myth.
So, Ben turns to his friends once again for help. Er, that is, he turns to best friend Riley, supportive father, and ex girlfriend Abigail who can’t help but join back up with Ben, no matter how much she tries to convince herself she shouldn’t. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Ben’s adoring mother, who just happens to be of the world’s foremost experts on pre-Colombian civilization, gets roped into the action too—despite the fact that she and Patrick haven’t spoken for 32 years?
As the group begins to follow a new trail of clues, they are led across the globe before ending up in the Oval Office and coming to a standstill. Their next clue, the one that should have been in a secret compartment in the President’s desk, isn’t there, and the only man who knows where it is is the President of the United States. Which means, in essence, Ben is going to have to temporarily kidnap the President of the United States in order to convince him to reveal a presidential.
But of course there is a bad guy, too. There is always a bad guy. And he wants to find the treasure, or rather, want’s Ben to find the treasure and be credited for its discovery.
The gates men are once again driven by a fierce desire to clear their family name of infamy. Thus, the value of family and a good reputation is characterized as something worth preserving, something worth going to great lengths to protect and honor. Accordingly, almost all of the main characters risk life and limb to help absolve the late Thomas Gates of murderous intent.
Ben’s good character is also evident in the fact that he’s very concerned about innocent people being hurt during a London car chase, whereas Mitch plows through city streets with abandon and gives no thought to possible pedestrian casualties. We eventually learn that Mitch wants to redeem his family’s legacy as well, but he’s willing to go to any length to accomplish the task—unlike Ben, who refuses to put others in jeopardy to accomplish the same means.
Another theme of the film is couples working out their differences. Ben and Abigail very quickly remember why they love one another once the hunt begins, and throughout the movie develop deeper ties to one another as they once again work together. The conflict between the couple stemmed from Ben’s tendency towards a know-it-all attitude, and we see Ben learn to listen more and seek Abigail’s (and even Riley’s, sometimes) opinion, instead of assuming she’ll just do whatever he says.
Patrick and Emily (mom and dad Gates) also have similar issues stemming from the same basic thing. But over the course of the movie, and through their tremendous love for their son, they resolve their differences and recommit themselves towards one another. And in the end we see that, though they are still strong personalities, they can work together and they take delight in the same things.
Once again we have situational ethics to deal with. Was Ben right to kidnap the President in order to clear his family’s name? It is worth noting that the term “kidnapping” is rather strong for what actually happens. Ben has to ask the Presdient something he knows he cannot reveal with anyone else present, which means he has to get him away from his ever present secret servicemen. So Ben takes the willing president on a historic discovery at Mount Vernon (where the President is having a party), and intentionally allows a secret passageway to close the two of them off from the secret servicemen (who begin to go crazy upon discovery, marking Ben Gates as a wanted man). As the President realizes what has happened, Ben immediately begins to explain that the President is safe, and Ben has every intent of letting him go, whether he gives him the information he seeks or not ( Ben never was good at bargaining or lying). The President asks Ben if he is aware that he is now a wanted man, and Ben says yes, but he is willing to pay that price to clear his family name.
I was less convinced in this film that the lengths the Gates must go to in order to clear their family name was right, but I think that the Gates are still portrayed to do what is right, while still placing others first. The goal in this movie, though, is more personal, making it a bit harder to say whether what they did was right or wrong.
I was rather unhappy to know that Ben and Abigail didn’t get married, but rather that they had been living together and bought a house together before breaking off their relationship. This was a downer for me, and as the credits begin to roll, we see them get back together as Abigail invites Ben to move back into the house (something Patrick Gates eagerly encourages, as he is tired of Ben sleeping on his couch).
Another thing I was unhappy about with this sequel was the fact that Abby uses herself to manipulate a man she has recently begun dating (trying to move on from Ben) in order to get herself and Ben into the Oval Office. It is fairly tame, and could have been so much worse, but, none the less, I was upset that the filmmakers chose to go down that road. The scene ends with her kissing the guy in order distract him from what Ben is doing.
Once again, the violence in this film is tame, being more action based than anything. The movie does open with a shooting, and a father dies in front of his son, but as a whole the movie is victimless, with one other exception. We have more chase scenes, gun fire, and mayhem, but all of it is suspenseful, not scary.
Language in this movie was actually cleaned up quite a bit, though, with only one use of the Lord’s name in vain being the only culprit.
Alcohol is mentioned, as Emily tries to blame her original attraction to Patrick on a tequila, and Ben smears alcohol from a flask on his face in order to appear drunk to pull off one of his elaborate plans. He also wanders into the President’s party carrying a bottle of wine and acting drunk to make it appear like he’s been there a while.
John Turtletaub and Jerry Breckheimer now have two movies in their pockets (Breckheimer more, but this is about National Treasure, not Breckheimer) that prove action/adventure movies do not have to be full of language, violence and sex in order to be exciting, engaging, and original. While this one did have a few more bumps in it than the first one, it is still very clean and fun, my biggest issue with the movie being the nonchalant attitude towards Ben and Abigail’s cohabitation.