Friday, July 01, 2005

Why I Like “National Treasure”

I’m still trying to figure out why I liked the film “National Treasure” so much. I confess to multiple viewings. I’ve decided it’s because even a brief brush with some of our real history is such a welcome thing in a film these days. Spoilers within (i.e., don’t read if you haven’t seen the film and want to without knowing more about it.)

I mean, someone actually did research. Homework. And of all the lines to quote from the declaration, how wonderful that in this era of “you’re either for us or against us” the writers chose this particular part: “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.” That’s a lot more relevant than the oft repeated, if not oft practiced, “all men are created equal.”

I have a genuine love for the Charters of Freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Some great thought went into those documents. I would have loved to converse with Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other men of wisdom and foresight who set us on a course for a great adventure. That we have strayed from that course is not their fault.

And then there are the locations. The Library of Congress! The National Archives! Independence Hall! I feel like a kid on a field trip every time I see those images. I can see why reviewers, a pretty cynical bunch, weren’t exactly carried away. But for this history and travel lover, it’s a fun trip!

The film also just has some great moments. There are several laugh out loud funny lines (as people who have sat next to me in theaters can uncomfortably atest). After (I’m too embarrassed to say how many) viewings, I still laugh at most of them. There’s a wonderful confluence of writing, acting, timing, direction, and editing that just makes this a crisp and professionally entertaining experience.

There’s the relationship between the father and son, with the son as the romantic and the father the realist who couldn’t stop piping up about how the clues would only lead to more clues, leading nowhere, ruining his life. There was the hint of what’s sadly now considered “old fashioned” morality, i.e., if you’ve told more than one person in your life that you loved them, you’ve been “a little too cavalier with your personal life.” Hey, guilty as charged, but I still appreciate and respect the sentiment!

I never noticed there was a clock on the back of the $100 bill. Of course, I don’t typically carry them around, so no wonder. But it was cool to have that pointed out. And since childhood I’ve been fascinated with the Great Seal of the United States and all the hidden intricacies of the design.

And of course, the thought of stealing something from the National Archives has of course crossed my mind. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see the secret CIA files on the Kennedy assassinations? It was fun to live that out vicariously. Of course I WOULD NEVER DO IT, CIA, NSA, FBI, HOMELAND SECURITY and the rest. STOP BUGGING MY PHONE.

When the woman in the film exclaimed with deep reverence, “scrolls from the library at Alexandria! Could this be possible?” The kid in me cried, “YES!” What I wouldn’t give to have seen and touched some of the treasures of the past. I grew up with books about the Seven Wonders of the World – the hanging gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the rest. But the library at Alexandria! What knowledge was lost to the world when that was destroyed?

The film provided a light-hearted, vicarious romp through places I’ve been and times and places I can never visit. It’s just, aw heck, it’s just fun.


Blogger Gabe said...

After re-watching National Treasure on DVD yesterday, I Googled it, looking for facts on what was real and what was made up in the film (although I already had a pretty good clue). I totally agree with all of your sentiments - the quote from the DOI, the humor, going to these wonderful places in our history. My wife is from Poland, and she is often deriding our country's short history. This movie reminds me that we, even as a young nation, have a rich, interesting, and even mysterious history with larger than life intellects guiding it's formative years. If only we had men of such conviction in our government today. A couple things I noted about the film were:
1. Howe is British, and he is trying to steal (and will ultimately destroy) the Declaration. Also, his name is, I'm sure, derived from the British general's.
2. Gates gets his name from the aide - de - camp of Washington's army I believe.
Thanks for a great post.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

It's funny to get your comment at this time, as I'm reading the original script, in which Gates is not named Gates, but a completely irrelevant name. I wonder which of the writers decided to make Gates a more historically connected character?

There are a lot of differences between the original script and the movie. It's interesting to see what survived the "development" process and what was changed drastically.

Thanks for the post. I'm glad you enjoyed the film. I wonder what NT2 will bring? It's already in development...!

8:40 AM  

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