National Treasure (2004)

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Released 27-Apr-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-National Treasure On Location
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Opening Scene Animatic
Alternate Ending
Game
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 125:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jon Turteltaub
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Nicolas Cage
Diane Kruger
Justin Bartha
Sean Bean
Jon Voight
Jon Voight
Christopher Plummer
David Dayan Fisher
Stewart Finlay-McLennan
Oleg Taktarov
Stephen A. Pope
Annie Parisse
Mark Pellegrino
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Don Harper
Paul Linford
Trevor Rabin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ever since Robert Louis Stevenson penned Treasure Island, stories of hidden treasure have held fascination. Hollywood has taken us on many treasure hunting adventures, first to Egypt looking for the lost treasures of the Pharaohs, then to the Caribbean searching for fabled pirate treasure. Directed by Jon Turteltaub and produced by the seemingly ubiquitous Jerry Bruckheimer, National Treasure blows the dust off the genre, moves it into the 21st century and gives us an entertaining, well told and fun to watch adventure story.

    In 1974 a young boy, Ben Gates, finds an old book in his grandfather's attic. The grandfather (Christopher Plummer) discovers the boy with the book, and proceeds to tell the story of a great treasure acquired by the Knights Templar. For centuries the treasure had been fought over so the knights decided it was obviously too great for one man to possess and carefully hid it. Its location was guarded through history by the Masons, with no one person ever knowing the exact hiding place and only possessing one of a series of clues to its whereabouts. One of the clues was held by a Mason who was also one of the founding fathers of America. Close to dying, he sought to ensure the knowledge was not lost and passed the clue on to one of Ben's ancestors. The Gates family has since spent generations trying unsuccessfully to locate the treasure.

    The story jumps forward to today and an adult Ben (Nicolas Cage) is continuing the hunt with the backing of a new partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean). Having found the solution to the clue passed down from Ben's forefathers, the pair has launched an expedition to the Arctic Circle in search of the next link in the chain of clues. The new clue points them to the National Archives in Washington D.C. where they believe the map to the treasure has been secretly recorded on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Gaining access to this well-protected and valuable historical document for examination will not be easy and Ian suggests they just "borrow" it without official sanction. Ben refuses and Ian, greedy for the wealth that it will reveal, betrays Ben, leaving him and his assistant Riley (Justin Bartha) to die in the Arctic wilderness while he heads to Washington to steal the document.

    After escaping from the ice fields, Ben's warning of the possible theft of the Declaration of Independence is dismissed by the FBI and by Dr Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), a curator at the National Archives, since the document is supposedly "impossible to steal". Meeting with official indifference to the threat, Ben decides the only way to protect the document from his former partner is to steal it himself, which places him in a race to solve the clues pointing to the treasure while staying one step ahead of both his nemesis Ian and the FBI.

    The film moves at a good pace, never too fast to follow and never leaving you feeling the plot has stalled. Director Jon Turteltaub blends the action, suspense and humour to give an experience that is easy to watch and entertaining. The film is also thoughtful enough to maintain sufficient credibility with the premise never seeming completely impossible. In the tradition of all action stories the film does push the edges of credibility, but never crosses the boundary into ridiculousness. Instead it blends just enough historical accuracy to keep at least one foot in reality while taking us on an incredible adventure, playing on our collective interest in conspiracy theories and secret societies such as the Knights Templar and the Masons.

    Nicolas Cage once again shows his versatility as an actor playing the determined intellectual drawn to actions in which he would rather not be involved but cannot avoid. Diane Kruger plays a modern-day leading lady who is an intellectual foil for Cage's character, as well as a love interest. Well suited to his supporting role as Cage's assistant, Justin Bartha plays the socially awkward electronics genius to perfection, providing comic relief without descending into parody or appearing pathetic.

    The cast obviously enjoyed their roles and the strong support of veterans such as Christopher Plummer, Jon Voight and Harvey Keitel add substance to the film and raise it above a two-dimensional chase movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The feature is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, very close to the theatrical 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a very good transfer that is a pleasure to watch. Colours are rich and full, shadow detail is excellent and there is good definition in the highlights. Even the images of vast, predominately white ice fields maintain detail, while the dark catacomb scenes are well rendered with no low level noise present. Picture quality is sharp throughout and there are no film artefacts.

    Unfortunately the transfer falls short of reference quality. There are some instances of MPEG blocking which mar an otherwise excellent transfer. The effect is most noticeable when there are large areas of unbroken colour, such as at 8:04 when the flat white Arctic ice fills the screen and at 21:25 when the scene is dominated by a cloudless Washington sky. The artefacts are not heavy and I am being picky in highlighting them, but the high quality of the transfer overall makes their appearance more noticeable. Their presence did not ruin my enjoyment of the movie.

    Subtitles are available in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are easy to read and follow the actors' words well.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The main audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1 and as with the video is excellent although not quite reference quality.

    Surrounds and sub-woofer are used subtly for ambience and fullness, only occasionally drawing attention to themselves during a few special effect scenes. It is a generally good mix, even if it is not one to show off your system's full potential. The movie would probably have been ruined by too much "showy" audio.

    The score is rich and blends well with the movie. The surrounds and sub-woofer are used lightly but to good effect giving the feeling of being immersed in the music. Occasionally the score is mixed ever-so-slightly too loud for the dialogue although it never drowns it out.

    Dialogue is clear throughout and makes good use of left-to-right panning to give a wide sound stage that is involving and enjoyable.

   Audio is also available in English Audio Descriptive, a term I have not encountered before. Designed for the vision impaired, this track incorporates a narrator describing the scene and actions on screen when there is no dialogue. This is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and the small portion I listened to was clear and clean.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Extras are reasonably plentiful and of varying quality but are not easy to find. A few are located under the menu item Bonus Treasure Hunt but some you have to discover. As you view the extras you are given clues that let you unlock others. When all the clues are found, the entire extras menu can be revealed. Only some of the extras listed here can be seen on an initial view of the menu.

Menu

    An animated menu with some scenes from the movie overlaid with scripted text from the Declaration of Independence. A looping theme is played behind it.

Featurette: National Treasure On Location (11:19)

    A brief look at the location shooting and special visual effects used in the movie. The director, producer, cast and some of the crew discuss aspects of the production. Presented in full screen with scenes from the film shown in letterbox format.

Deleted Scenes (8:38)

    A brief introduction (0:47) by Jon Turteltaub discussing why scenes are cut from movies (apparently the first cut produced a four hour film), followed by two deleted scenes. Thomas and the President (1:47) shows the young Thomas Gates meeting President Jackson and Extended Shaft Sequence (6:04) is an extended cut of the descent down the subterranean shaft. These can be selected individually or as a play-all option. The introduction is presented full-screen and the deleted scenes are shown in letterbox format.

Featurette: Opening Scene Animatic (2:49)

   Once again a brief (0:26) introduction by Jon Turteltaub followed by a 2:23 animation of the opening sequence of the treasure's history. This sequence was produced as an "animated storyboard" during pre-production. The introduction and sequence can be selected individually or as a play-all option.

Featurette: Treasure Hunting Revealed (8:36)

    A number of real-life treasure hunters talk about what treasure hunting actually involves. Presented in full-screen.

Riley Poole's Decode This (6:48)

    Aimed primarily at kids, the Riley Poole character narrates a very basic overview of language and cryptography. This is followed by a code-breaking game. Breaking this code is necessary to unlock all the extras.

Featurette: The Templar Knights (5:00)

    A full-screen documentary giving background information on the Knights Templar.

Trivia Track Viewing Mode

    The movie can be viewed with subtitles giving various bit of trivia about the cast, crew and locations of the movie.

Alternate Ending (1:49)

    Once again an introduction (0:46) by Jon Turteltaub discussing why the alternate ending was filmed, followed by a 1:03 alternate ending. As with the other similar extras the introduction and alternate ending can be individually selected or there is a play-all option.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this disc is identical to the Region 4 release, except the Region 1 version also has some Verizon (a US phone company) promotion material that ties in with the movie.

Summary

    This is one of those rare movies that the whole family can enjoy. With no graphic violence or coarse language, you can safely let the kids watch, yet it is complex enough to capture the interest of adults. It is a fun adventure movie with an intelligent script, solid performances and tight direction.

    The extras are a mixed bag ranging from the interesting to the fairly pedestrian. The historical backgrounds may spark an interest in history with some younger viewers.

    The video is excellent, but not reference quality. I would have preferred a few less extras to raise the transfer quality just a bit. Still, a fine transfer that is well worth watching.

    The audio is also of high quality, falling just short of ideal.

    An entertaining film that makes a good addition to any DVD collection. Even if you are not an adventure fan you will still find this an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Friday, April 29, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig M84-210 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

Other Reviews NONE
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DD EX mix? - Tom (read my bio)