Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Silly Treasure Hunt


[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

One can almost picture the producers salivating on hearing the premise behind National Treasure. It is a treasure hunt with a string of clues leading to a huge treasure(like The Da Vinci Code), it has a cool protagonist(like James Bond) and features a series of action sets in exotic locales(like the Indiana Jones trilogy). With the formulae from three bonafide blockbusters, how could the film fail? But unfortunately, it does. It is silly, completely unbelievable and way too long.

Nicolas Cage plays a bounty hunter in search of a fabled treasure that has been lost for centuries. A piece of paper handed down from his great grandfather leads him to a ship and from the a clue on the ship, he learns that the map to the treasure is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. In order to prevent another bounty hunter(with more sinister plans) from stealing the historical document, Cage steals it himself and goes after the treasure.

I love puzzles and riddles and was hoping that the fun part of the movie would be seeing how Cage solves the clues leading him to the treasure. But the clues here are so vague that they can be interpreted in several ways. And the hunt and some of its components are so complicated that we don't believe for even a single moment that people in their right minds would have actually planned and created them in the hope that someone would solve them.

Worse, Cage doesn't solve the clues through any logical or analytical thought process. He goes into a "thinking mode" when he sees a cryptic message while people around him look at him expectantly and then comes up with a sudden explanation that we wouldn't have thought of in a thousand years. In order to limit the running time to acceptable limits, it is understandably necessary for Cage's interpretations to be right. But even with cinematic liberties, the way he finds stuff is jaw-droppingly silly. For instance, the line "the secret lies with Charlotte" somehow tells him that Charlotte is a ship. After a convoluted explanation dealing with currents and ice, he ends up looking for the ship north of the Arctic circle. And when he digs a few inches into the snow, he hits something solid and brushes away the snow to reveal a nameplate that reads "Charlotte"! Oh Come On!!

The one enjoyable sequence in the movie is the actual robbery of the Declaration of Independence. It has some neat ideas(I liked the way he gets to read the keys the previous entrantant into the room typed in) and is picturized well. From there on, the movie goes downhill with each subsequent clue being sillier than the last one(like an x-ray glass hidden in the brick of an old church!)

Towards the end I didnt care whether he found the treasure or not and simply wanted the chase to end! The underground sequence seems to go on forever and even has a father-son moment reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There are any number of false climaxes, each of them more irritating since we realise the movie hasn't ended!

Don't go looking for this treasure!

19 Comments:

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I didn't dig National Treasure either. The only Nicholas Cage movie I liked was The Rock and that was probably because it had Ed Harris and Sean Connery in it. I don't remember Face Off that well so I can't comment on it. I actually thought that a Van Damme starrer The Order (which went straight to Video, of course) was more absorbing.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

i share your liking of 'the rock'. 'face/off' is one of my favorite movies too. its very stylish and the style makes us overlook the preposterous plot. haven't seen 'the order' though. will try and check it out.

 
At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rock was OK though it looked like an Indian masala flick at a few places. They even ripped off Rock's story to make a Hindi movie 'Qayamat' with Ajay Devgan. Was hilarious all through. Chunky Pandey playing a scientist - isn't that enough to make up your mind about that movie :-)) ?

My other faourite Cage movies were Face-off (though Travolta stole the show there) and Gone in 60 seconds.
Lookin at his movies, I think most of them are good enough to be remade as masala flicks here in India. Face-off inspired Aks. Gone in 60 seconds can definitely be made as a sequel to Dhoom. Con Air can be remade in Tamil with Gabtun Vijaykanth smoking a suruttu in the first frame of the movie saying 'Damil la enakku pidikkatha ore vaarthai Bayam' :-))

I saw 'National Treasure's' promos in Sathyam when i watched Swades there. The title looked catchy but after I read the reviews,I wasn't interested in it.

 
At 1:43 AM, Anonymous vic said...

I am going to have to strongly disagree w/ you guys on 'face off'

imo when woo came to hollywood his work became pure garbage… rehashed and tamer versions of his hongkong stuff

check out his hk stuff if you have not already……
‘the killer’ is his one and only true masterpiece… brilliant film!

though if you are strictly looking for classic woo style/gun fights regardless of plot then check out … ‘hard boiled’, ‘better tomorrow 2’ and ‘heroes shed no tears’ for spectacular woo hk action… he definitely does not make them like these anymore

victor

 
At 2:42 AM, Anonymous Maverick said...

That anon post was by me.
Vic
I agree that his HK action movies had some amazingly choreographed stunt scenes. But you gotta realise he can't have them the same way back in Hollywood. That would not suit the tastes of Americans. Sure, they loved Croucing Tiger, but JW had to tone down his action pace a lil' bit to make it look more like a Hollywood movie. His Face-off was a nice concept thought it did not have great stunt scenes. Instead, Broken Arrow had some nice stunt scenes.

 
At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Vijays said...

Balaji, you want to check out a Van Damme film that went straight to video?? I think you are being too nice here..

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous ram said...

"Instead, Broken Arrow had some nice stunt scenes." -> this is one of Roger Ebert's least favorite movies but one of his best, most funniest reviews... check it out rogerebert.suntimes.com

reg. Cage, I think two vintage Cage performances are "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Adaptation." he's in top form in these two movies...but as an action star, i dont particularly like him...i prefer bruce willis.

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vic, woo definitely diluted his work when he came to hollywood. 'hard-boiled' was awesome and my fav woo film. but the dilution seems to happen to varied genres like japanese horror, jackie chan movies, etc.when they are 'hollywoodized'. but even within hollywood, woo's quality has taken a nosedive. 'paycheck' was a disaster.

i liked 'broken arrow' quite a bit for its action scenes when i saw it then. but seemed cheesy when i saw it recently. btw, they have the tamil 'Rock' on sun tv may 29!

ram, cage was good in 'adaptation'. he's not my fav action star either. i was shocked when his name was thrown about as a possible 'superman'.

vijays, i saw 'eye see you', a stallone straight-to-video film from netflix. the van damme flick has to be better!

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous ram said...

tamil 'Rock' ?????????????????

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous ram said...

tamil 'Rock' ?????????????????

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

yeah, suntv's broadcasting dubbed hollywood flicks sundays @ 11.30. they had 'titanic' recently. 'die hard 2', 'shanghai noon' and 'rock' the next 3 weekends...

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger vibinrajmani said...

I actually liked National Treasure, maybe because i liked the way it handled the history part, especially about the Knight Templars, Ben Franklin, Andrew Jackson, etc. Sure, the movie is silly and absurd, but it was a fun ride. Nic Cage is one of the greats here. Ignore his commercial movies like Rock,Con-air,face-off,gone in 60 sec. Watch Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Matchstick Men. I can easily compare Nic Cage to Vikram, who alternates between an offbeat commercial film and an indie-type of film.

 
At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Maverick said...

Sun TV seems to have found out the popularity of dubbed Chinese movies ( Jackie Chan, Jet Li) that Vijay plays in the weekends. I don't know who is dubbing for these movies but I bet it is fun watching them. I still remember a few lines from the Vijay TV's chinese flicks..

from one of the jackie chan old kung-fu days movies...

'Nee dhaan andha kung-fu magaarajaa aa?"

'Heyyy...intha kadhi pathi theriyumaa? Bhagavathy padathula vijay use pannina kathi idhu'

imagine such a dialogue in a jackie chan movie. vizhunthu vizhunthu sirichen.

 
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