This new two-disc edition of National Treasure should surprise no one. With the first films success in theaters and on home video, a sequel was undoubtedly going to arrive. While it’s taking longer than anyone would have expected (three years, by the time the new National Treasure arrives in theaters), Disney is building up a bit of excitement for the new film with a new two-disc edition of the first. With a whole extra disc more than the previous release, there’s even more extras to enjoy.
Coming from a line of treasure hunters who have all sought a hidden “war chest” 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, he’s 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, they’re 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 there’s something that’s undeniably entertaining about it. Undoubtedly, Jerry Bruckheimer’s 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 it’s hard to be disappointed by such a film. It’s 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. I’m 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. I’m 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 that’s what National Treasure excels at. Never letting up for a breath, National Treasure is a straight on action adventure that doesn’t stop until the film ends. The numerous chase sequences and the puzzles that have to be solved along the way are cleverly written; they aren’t incredibly difficult and seeing the puzzles being worked into the United States history is always something that’s been entertaining and thrilling to think about.
There’s really nothing more to say about the film. It’s shallow and has less substance than Underdog (the two DVD releases street the same day, in case you’re wondering why I threw that in here), but I’ll be damned if it’s not entertaining. Recommended.
So how does this new edition of National Treasure hold up to the previous single-disc DVD release? Not too well. Before we get into that, however, we get to take a look at the packaging. Coming in a standard two-disc amaray case, National Treasure has an embossed foil slipcover, as well as inserts advertising the Blu-Ray format, the code for the Disney Movie Rewards program (mine had no code printed on the paper—hopefully that’s not a production error) and the “logbook” for the DVD set. These are the same type of inserts that past releases have had, although I think the Blu-Ray insert is new, as it features something stood out at me and is rather annoying. While I understand the need to push the new digital disc format, their portrayal of Blu-Ray over DVD in the “pristine picture” category of the insert is absolutely crap. They use Cars as the example and the Blu-Ray image is in a widescreen shot, while the DVD is in some kind of full frame; what this does is effectively advertise that DVDs are now cropping images. This is what was used to compared DVD widescreen to VHS fullscreen back when the DVD format was new, only this time they’re actually lying as the Blu-Ray and DVD versions of Cars have the exact same aspect ratio. Incredibly annoying.
With that little rant out of the way, we can move onto the set itself. The first disc of the set is the exact same the single disc and features no new content; there is still no commentary on the film, which is disappointing, considering there’s director’s commentary on everything else in the set it seems. As with the original release, the video and audio quality for the release is superb, offering all the right surround elements at the right moment, along with a pristine DVD transfer.
Since the first disc in the set is the same as the original (sans newer trailers), I want to focus on the second disc, which is what houses all the new extras. If you aren’t sitting down reading this, then you’ll want to. The second disc house an amazing forty minutes of new extras! Yes. Forty minutes. Hardly call for a new two-disc release, but what can you expect? The first of the extras is a series of deleted scenes (7:52) with intros and commentary by director Jon Turtletaub. A lot of these scenes are fun, but with the movies over two-hour run time, it’s no wonder they were removed.
Moving onto the featurettes, “Ciphers, Codes and Codebreakers” seems to be the only newly recorded footage for this DVD release. Clocking in at 11:50, this featurette is in anamorphic widescreen and goes into depth about the history of code breaking in the United States. It’s a really interesting extra that has plenty of interviews with professionals in the cipher business.
The next three featurettes are all older extras that, for whatever reason, were not included on the original DVD release. “Exploding Charolette” (6:35), “To Steal a National Treasure” (5:45) and “On the Set of American History” (6:06) are all letterboxed in a 4:3 frame and include on-set footage with cast and crew. All three are worth watching if you enjoyed the film, but when they pull content that was obviously produced with the original DVD release in mind and market it as “new”, I feel slightly ripped off.
There are only two scenarios in which you should buy this DVD release: you don’t own the original or you love the film to death. This release in no way warrants being called a “special edition” with only forty extra minutes on a second disc that should’ve been included with the original release in the first place. If you don’t own the original release then this is definitely the definitive DVD release for this film, just for the extra content. However, with no commentary or any kind of extras advertising the new film (aside from a trailer on the first disc), one has to wonder what Disney really hoped to accomplish with this DVD release.
If You Own the Previous Version: Skip It
Don’t Own: Recommended
National Treasure: Two-Disc Special Edition arrives on DVD on December 18th.