The film plays on every cliché and every stereotype imaginable, and part of its charm is playing them exactly to an audience's happiest expectations.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

In a way, you could call the 2004 action adventure "National Treasure" a kind of poor man's "Da Vinci Code." Both stories are about frenzied hunts for a Very good video. The scope measures out at about a 2.20:1 anamorphic ratio across my standard-screen Sony HD television, a ratio that is pretty close to its original 2.35:1 theatrical-release dimensions, given the normal overscanning of a modern TV and whatever was lost in the transfer process. A reasonably high bit rate ensures that black levels are solid, white levels are clean, and colors are bright and deep. Object delineation is fairly sharp, moiré effects are at a minimum, and grain is almost nonexistent. There is maybe a slight glassiness, and one can notice signs of minor edge enhancement watching close up, but it's hardly something to complain about.

The sonics are reproduced via Dolby Digital 5.1, and they, too, are excellent. One notices immediately the strong dynamic contrasts, the impact, the stereo spread, and the well-defined if not terribly deep bass response. Surround audio is well rendered, although most of the noises appear to come from the rear and little from the sides. Nonetheless, there are persuasive sounds to be heard in the back of creaking old ships, gunshots, multiple helicopter flyovers (this IS an action picture, after all), groaning staircases, and the like.

For a single disc, there's a surprisingly large number of extras involved. And to tie them all in with the movie, there is a multilevel treasure hunt you can play while watching them. On the Main Menu are four initial items: (1) An eleven-minute featurette, "National Treasure on Location," that takes you behind the scenes and into some of the location shooting; for instance, Utah filled in for the Arctic sequence. (2) Two deleted scenes, totalling seven minutes, with an optional director's commentary; they are "Thomas and the President" and an "Extended Shaft Sequence." (3) A two-minute opening-scene animatic, again with an optional director's commentary, wherein Turteltaub explains that a CGI routine was created to give the filmmakers an idea of what a proposed, but never used, opening sequence might look like. And (4) a two-minute alternate ending, also with an optional director's commentary.

Now, here's the thing. If you play through the main four extras, you're rewarded with clues to revealing the final four bonuses. However, if you don't like playing games, you can always cheat and look at the informational chapter insert, which explains how to bypass the clues and go straight to the point. Anyway, among the extra extras you get an eight-minute featurette, "Treasure Hunters Revealed," that uses interviews from and footage of real-life treasure hunters; "Riley's Decode This!" in which our friend Riley presents us with a series of puzzling challenges; a five-minute segment on the history of "The Knights Templar"; and a phony Verizon bonus, which is no more than a promo for the cellular phone company.

The bonus materials conclude with nineteen scene selections (which is generous for Buena Vista); Sneak Peeks at other BV titles, but no trailer for "National Treasure"; English and French spoken languages; and French and Spanish subtitles, with English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Thoughts:
Maybe because I had just finished reading "The Da Vinci Code" before watching "National Treasure" and because I foresaw a lot of parallels between the two works, I was eager to see what Bruckheimer and his team would do with essentially the same situations. Yes, I expected a lot more mindless action in "National Treasure," and that's exactly what I got. But I also found the film moved along at such a healthy clip, with no one in the cast seeming to take any of it too seriously, that I was quickly caught up in the whole harebrained but warmhearted operation. Give a good popcorn flick a chance, and you can find yourself eating a whole lot of popcorn while passing an enjoyable time.


Film Value