National Treasure: Book of Secrets

National Treasure: Book of Secrets movie cover

In this sequel to 2004’s National Treasure, Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is on another hunt for — what else — treasure. Only this time the treasure, Cíbola, a legendary Native American city of gold, is not Ben’s primary objective. Cíbola is merely a means to prove that his ancestor, Thomas Gates, was not a co-conspirator with John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

Although a sequel, Book of Secrets stands on its own; you don’t need to have seen the first movie to appreciate the second. In the first few minutes after the Lincoln assassination scene, we’re quickly brought up to speed on who these people are, what they’re like, and their relationships.

We learn in short order that Ben Gates is a noted historian. Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) is his comic-relief sidekick who can’t make it on his own. And Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), Gates’ love interest from the first movie, has kicked Gates out of their house, which is why he’s now living with his father, Patrick (Jon Voight).

Like its predecessor, Book of Secrets blends true but obscure facts with wildly implausible fiction.

There really are twin desks carved from planks from the HMS Resolute. And these desks really are in the White House and in Buckingham Palace. But do the desks really have a clockwork mechanism that guards secret compartments? Probably not.

Likewise, there really was a legend about a Native American city of gold, Cíbola. In fact the legend spoke of seven such cities. But is Cíbola really hidden beneath Mount Rushmore? Probably not.

As for the Book of Secrets after which the movie is named … Well, if there is such a book, passed down from one American president to the next, we’re not likely to ever know.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets stretches credulity almost but not quite to the breaking point. The pace is swift without being tiring, with just enough lulls to get in a little character development. In that respect, it could have done with more.

We almost care about all of the characters, but we don’t really care much about any of them. The bad guy, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), starts out flat, but by the end of the story has grown to the point that we can see he’s not all bad. He’s simply fighting for the same thing Ben is fighting for, his family’s honor. Unfortunately, by the time we realize this it’s too late to develop any sympathy for him.

Ben and Abigail get back together, predictably, but we don’t really care. Nor do we really care if Ben’s estranged parents reconcile.

Weak character development aside, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a worthy successor to the first movie and offers a fun ride with intriguing puzzles, without any sex or language, and only minimal violence. And at the end, we’re left with another question: What the heck is on page 47 of the President’s Book of Secrets? Sequel, anyone?

Random Notions rating: 4 out of 5

Get National Treasure and National Treasure 2 – Book of Secrets on Blu-ray from Amazon.

Jonathan Mycroft is a freelance writer and author. His work includes suspense-thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy, humor, and stage plays. His latest novel, Trial by Fear, follows a serial sex killer on the lose after another man is wrongfully arrested for the crimes. You can read an excerpt from Trial by Fear at www.jonathanmycroft.com