"National Treasure" Blu-ray Review
May 20, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Releasing alongside the Blu-ray release of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, this Blu-ray edition of National Treasure packs on almost all of the extras from the previous DVD releases and adds in a few new extras of its own, along with a 1080p and uncompressed 5.1 transfer. Those holding out for the ultimate National Treasure experience need look no furtheróthis Blu-ray edition is a powerhouse.
Coming from a line of treasure hunters who have all sought a hidden ďwar chestĒ by our founding fathers, Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) is slowly coming closer and closer to discovering the source of this chest in National Treasure. Unfortunately for Ben, heís not the only one looking for the chest and after assembling a small group of individuals to aid him in his quest to find the chest, theyíre thrown into one event after another, which slowly unfolds to their discovery of the location of the treasure. With other treasure hunters and the FBI on his tail, Ben has little room for error in his attempt to find what his family has looked for, for so long.
In every sense of the phrase, National Treasure is a pure popcorn flick. It in no way redefines the action genre, nor does it add anything new to it, but it is just a really fun film to watch regardless. Essentially, National Treasure is nothing more than a poor-mans Indiana Jones, but thereís something thatís undeniably entertaining about it. Undoubtedly, Jerry Bruckheimerís affinity for producing loud and large blockbusters helped the film become what it was; unfortunately his films rarely contain little more than a mixture of chase scenes and loud noises.
In its generalness is where National Treasure shines, however. You know what you can expect from this film and itís hard to be disappointed by such a film. Itís nothing special and the cast of the film is nothing short of completely entertaining, with Cage making a believable treasure hunter and his assistants filling in as the standard supporting role. Iím saying all of this to truly convince you, should you not have already seen this film, that there is absolutely nothing unique about the film. Iím pounding this fact in, because there is really nothing to expect from this film other than entertainment.
Of course entertainment is all you really want from a film and thatís what National Treasure excels at. Never letting up for a breath, National Treasure is a straight on action adventure that doesnít stop until the film ends. The numerous chase sequences and the puzzles that have to be solved along the way are cleverly written; they arenít incredibly difficult and seeing the puzzles being worked into the United States history is always something thatís been entertaining and thrilling to think about.
Thereís really nothing more to say about the film. Itís shallow and is as generic as you can get for a summer action movie, but Iíll be damned if itís not entertaining. Recommended.
For this latest release of National Treasure, Disney ups the ante with new features and, of course, a 1080p, uncompressed 5.1 audio transfer. The film itself arrives in standard Blu-ray casing along with an insert inside with the Disney Rewards redemption code as well as a $10 mail-in-rebate for upgrading to this Blu-ray, should you have purchased the old release. Menus are a nicely animated layout, though I canít help but notice itís not as smooth as it could be. While you wait for the various animations to take place there seems to be a bit of lag; perhaps my player was just feeling sluggish at the time, but things werenít as responsive as they could have been. Not a huge issue and really only pops up when thereís a lot of options to scroll through.
Iíve commented on my previous Blu-ray reviews that I honestly didnít think the format was all that impressive after witnessing what my cable provider shot through in 1080i, but National Treasure made me realize just how much of a step up this format is in terms of detail. While a few sequences in the film lose a bit of detail and contain spots of grain, the majority of the transfer is crystal clear and sporting details that DVD could never hope to reproduce. Recently I read an article on one of the news sites that HD was becoming an issue for stars and makeup artists due to the blemishes that appear because of it and quite a few pock marks and facial impurities showed up on the actors when the camera was zoomed in on them here. All in all this is an amazing transfer and I honestly am quite impressed by what weíre able to see. Granted this is one of the first action films Iíve watched on Blu-ray that wasnít made up purely of blacks (which are also nice and inky here), but the transfer really impressed me this time around. Unfortunately where the video excelled, the audio stumbled a bit as even in uncompressed form the audio didnít have much of a leg up over the two-disc editions 5.1 surround. Not to say the Blu-rayís audio isnít impressive as there are a myriad of instances of surround usage and it seems as if the subwoofer never shuts up once the movie starts (something I donít really mind, but the others in the house might).
Moving onto the extras we find our first two new Blu-ray exclusives. The first is a feature-length commentary with director Jon Turtletaub and actor Justin Bartha. This was something I always felt was lacking from the National Treasure DVD releases so Iím glad to see that one was finally recorded for this film. Throughout the track Turtletaub and Bartha joke with one another and Turtletaub is a literal treasure trove of information when it comes to the production of the film as well as the history that surrounds it (the history that isnít purposely tweaked for the story, anyway). Overall a solid track in both insightfulness as well as simply being enjoyableóyou can tell Turtletaub and Bartha are certainly enjoying recording the track with one another.
The next Blu-ray exclusive extra is ďMission History: Inside the Declaration of Independence.Ē This is an interactive piece where you scan pieces of the Declaration of Independence, decode it and read about certain aspects of the historical document. While scanning certain parts of it, a separate bit of information will open up on a PDA in the top right of the screen which has interviews with historians and all kinds of fun bits; itís a really interesting extra to sort through, although that is a key word to use: there is a lot of sorting here. Those who donít mind spending some time combing through menus to find the extras will find it enjoyable, but my patience wore on a bit simply due to the length of the document. Thereís certainly a lot of great information to be had from this extra, but youíll spend a lot of the time pressing buttons your remote just to get to where you want to go. As a side note, this interactive piece runs in 1080i.
The rest of the extras on this Blu-ray edition are all repeats from the previous two releases of National Treasure. Only one of the extras, from the two-disc special edition released last December, is in 1080i. Not surprising, this was the only extra on the two-disc edition that was in anamorphic widescreen. The extra Iím talking about, of course, is ďCiphers, Codes and CodebreakersĒ (11:50). This extra goes into depth about the history of code breaking in the United States. Itís really quite interesting and has plenty of interviews with professionals in the cipher business.
Moving onto the rest of the disc we find the repeats from the past releases. As previously stated, these are all either 480i/p and range from an opening animatic (2:52), seven deleted scenes (16:04) and an alternate ending (1:50). All of these segments have commentary by Turtletaub over them, who explains the differences as well as the reason for removing certain scenes from the movie. Finally we have the other featurettes, which include "National Treasure On Location" (11:17), "Treasure Hunters Revealed" (8:36) , "The Templar Knights" (4:59), ďExploding CharoletteĒ (6:35), ďTo Steal a National TreasureĒ (5:45) and ďOn the Set of American HistoryĒ (6:06). These are all letterboxed in a 4:3 frame and include on-set footage with cast and crew.
Some trailers (including a high-definition trailer for Wall-E--I swear HD was made for animation, such a beautiful looking movie) are included as well, but other than that that wraps up the disc. Itís crammed full of content for your viewing pleasure, but considering 95% of it is all repeat from the previous releases, it really depends on how badly you want to see the film in high-definition. The transfer doesnít disappoint in the least and those wanting to experience a room full of thunder in complete high-definition need look no further than this release. Highly Recommended
National Treasure is now available on Blu-ray.