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August 24, 2008
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
20/12/200713/8/2008Walt DisneyJon Turteltaub
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1PGNic Cage

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Everyone, look over there...
Released to cinemas in 2004 National Treasure was a movie that managed to surprise with an outstanding worldwide gross of almost $US350 million. Little surprise then that only three years later a sequel was being pumped out, and National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets is that movie. With all the primary cast and crew returning, and a few new ones being thrown in for good measure, was there any chance that this movie would fail? It seems not with a worldwide gross of $US457 million!

When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben's great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's death. Determined to prove his ancestor’s innocence, Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America. This journey leads Ben and his crew not only to surprising revelations – but to the trail of the world's most treasured secrets.

Any sequel is dependent on the return of the stars and Nic Cage has returned as Ben Gates yet again. He's not the only one returning with Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight and Harvey Keitel all playing major roles in this movie. Acting is superb from all and each now seems a little more comfortable with their roles in the movie. Certainly the direction from Jon Turteltaub is keeping everyone in check and motivated during the production.

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Who put those images on my PC!
National Treasure 2 has a couple of newcomers when it comes to actors/characters. Ed Harris plays the Ben's nemesis in Mitch Wilkinson who has some ulterior motives to trying to prove that Ben's great-great grandfather was a co-conspirator. I have always been a fan of Ed Harris, particularly in movies including Apollo 13, The Truman Show and The Abyss, and he puts in a fine performance in this movie. Someone else adding a bit more spice to the mix is Helen Mirren as Ben's mother Emily. She didn't have a pleasant split from her husband - Ben's father - Patrick who is played, yet again, by Jon Voight. The banter between those two characters is almost always amusing.

Of course any sequel needs to be bigger and better then the original to succeed. Indeed the action sequences in National Treasure 2 are bigger, louder and more intense then those in the original movie. Of particular mention the car chase through London and the rather dramatic sequence on the balanced platform which takes place underground.

Overall I still feel that the original National Treasure is ever so slightly better then this sequel. This could be due to the freshness, or perhaps the increased use of CG in some of the shots here which was a little noticeable at times. Still, this is a more then capable sequel with bigger set pieces, a couple of new - and likable - characters, and plenty of thrills and spills. If you liked the first movie, then you'll like this too. This is a solid action adventure title that should be in any fans Blu-Ray collection.

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Nic Cage and Harvey Keitel in National Treasure 2.

National Treasure 2 has been encoded onto Blu-Ray at an aspect ratio 2.40:1 at 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, and looks quite wonderful. Colours are vibrant, and details in darker scenes - of which there are many we might add - are impressive. As expected from such a recent movie at the cinemas the print used for this transfer is absolutely pristine without a single blemish or spec of dirt.

Any issues with this are certainly minor. At times the contrast seems a little high in the outdoor scenes, but that is rare and an issue with the source rather then the encoding we feel. Despite the impressive detail in the dark scenes some did suffer some crush (where the image jumps sharply to solid black rather then fading out slowly). Finally some of the CG work in the film, including the collapsing balance platform, is quite noticeable although it wasn’t dissimilar in the theatres so we can't blame the transfer for that. As we said, minor issues in an otherwise lovely transfer.

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Ed Harris as Mitch Wilkinson and a lost diary page.

Audio on this Blu-Ray disc is provided in English or Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with each track sounding as stunning as the other. As an action-adventure movie there are plenty of moments where the surround sound channels can be put to good effect, and they are. Dialogue too is crystal clear even during the busier scenes and the music by Trevor Rabin suits the movie perfectly.

The only other audio track on this disc is an English Descriptive Audio which describes the action on the screen pretty well. Finally the disc includes English and Japanese subtitles which, from sampling the English track, was accurate to the dialogue on screen, although occasionally shortened slightly.

National Treasure 2 comes to Blu-Ray with a few bonus extras over the DVD release and, most importantly, with HD video unlike the first movies Blu-Ray release. So what have we got...

Audio Commentary with Director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight: A rather entertaining commentary which looks at the various aspects of producing this sequel, the locations shot at and various plotlines for the movie.

Book of History: The Fact or Fiction of National Treasure 2: This is a quite impressive extra. While the movie is playing options will come up so you can look at facts, or little video clips about the real events covered in the movie. True or False trivia questions pop up on occasion from time to time. This feature is well put together, and well worth spending your time on. It's even possible to save your progress to return at a later date.

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Helen Mirren, Nic Cage, and Diane Kruger.
Deleted Scenes (16:04/HD): Numerous deleted scenes are presented here, each with an introduction by Director Jon Turteltaub. His reasons for removing each scene is detailed, and impressive as is the quality with each presented in HD with the AVC MPEG-4 codec and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 448kbps.

The Treasure Reel: Bloopers & Outtakes (5:03/HD): Just the usual series of bloopers and gaffs, with too many scenes with actors simply laughing at, ermm, something. These aren't Jackie Chan quality bloopers.

Secrets Of A Sequel (6:48/HD): Another pretty ordinary featurette this is more of an EPK styled event where the director and actors say how great it is to be back for the sequel.

The Book Of Secrets: On Location (9:48/HD): A look at filming the movie in France, England and the United States including the difficulties of filming in each location.

Street Stunts: Creating The London Chase (9:41/HD): Quite possibly the biggest chase sequence ever filmed in London is detailed in this featurette. Plenty of behind the scenes footage, including rehearsals prior to getting into the city, makes this an interesting feature.

Inside The Library Of Congress (5:46/HD): Somewhat surprisingly this was the most interesting featurette on this disc. The Library of Congress really is a marvel of knowledge and research and this all-too-brief featurette certainly shows just how much history is stored here. This featurette includes interviews with curators and researchers at the library.

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Things are starting to go wrong!
Underground Action (6:47/HD): Action sequences in National Treasure 2 were impressive, and this featurette looks at the biggest of them all, that on the balanced platform. This featurette shows how they used a gimble to remote control the larger platform.

Cover Story: Crafting The Presidents' Book (4:32/HD): The Presidents' book isn't real - at least no one knows if it is - so the filmmakers had to make it up - including recreating the writing styles of each President.

Evolution Of A Golden City (10:19/HD): The sets used for this movie were enormous, in fact they used the biggest sound stage possible at Universal to create this magnificent set.

Knights Of The Golden Circle (2:36/HD): As someone with little knowledge of American History I was really hoping that this would explain what KGC really was. Unfortunately with under 3 minutes it leaves you wanting to know so much more then it answers.

It's rare that a sequel lives up to the original movie, but that is the case with National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. More characters, bigger action sequences and just as many thrills makes this a winner and a movie worth adding to you collection - right beside the original.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Walt Disney. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.