Saturday, June 8, 2024

00's Watch: National Treasure (2004)

Watched:  06/07/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jon Turteltaub

This is one of those movies everyone is shocked to find out I have not seen.  Which, you know, when that happens, y'all can all settle down.  Of all the movies in the world, I only watch a small portion, and this one had no apes, sharks or robots.

2004 is a time period I do remember, and I remember seeing the trailer for this and thinking "this is going to be a Dan Brown/ Indiana Jones knock-off, and it's going to just get a bunch of shit wrong."

And, friends, call me The Oracle, because I was surely correct, lo, those two decades past.

What I failed to predict was that this movie would be extremely boring, have plot holes you could lose a jumbo jet through, and be the last gasp of 90's-style gender politics in an adventure film.

Brought to us by the director of 3 Ninjas and The Meg, National Treasure (2004) is one of those things that could have flopped, but - instead - people decided it was great.

Look, I like Nic Cage well enough.  I remember the glory days of Vampire's Kiss, his amazing turn in Leaving Las Vegas, and I think he's terrific in Ghost Rider.  And, I'll start by saying he's the only real reason to watch this movie - but I'll also say, this is pretty middling role for the man.  But I'm glad he made mad bank off of it.

But ironically liking Nic Cage is not a reason to watch or like this movie, Millennials.  I know you saw it as a kid.  But.

I have no thoughts at all on Diane Kruger.  She is okay.  The role is trash.

I did not like the character played by Justin Bartha, Riley.  I was not clear on what his skills were or how he was there or why he didn't go to the cops.

Stealing the Declaration of Independence makes our heroes and villains exactly the same.  Functionally, both will just take it and go after the treasure.  All Cage has decided is that those guys shouldn't do it, but he was *already* working with Sean Bean to get the treasure, so... literally, I don't get what the difference is.  The cops and the public won't give a shit why someone stole it, they'll be mad that it was stolen.  I guess there's an insinuation that the document *could* be damaged, but isn't it more likely to remain intact if Cage rides along?

So, after stealing it - I don't even know what is happening in the story and why there's a race for the treasure.  Or how the villains are even really keeping up except that our heroes just absolutely suck at laying low.  

Anyway, this is the kind of movie where people stand around in locations for absolutely no reason other than that they're waiting for the thing that needs to happen in that location to happen.  For example:  at the movie's opening, it makes zero sense that they would find the pipe (spoilers) and then Cage would cut himself and use his own blood for ink - instead of, say - putting it somewhere for safekeeping while they kept searching the boat for gold and jewels or whatever.  And then they'd solve the riddle like it's a Riddler episode of Batman (and all of the riddles have exactly that vibe when they aren't, like, street directions).   

But the point is, we don't know how to put a pin in anything until we're not in the worst spot possible, standing around arguing about next steps (steal Declaration of Independence or no...?) so we can blow up all this gunpowder that is still good 225 years after the fact in a ship that has been taking on water from time to time over two centuries.  

This kind of stuff seems to keep happening.  I almost groaned out loud when the gang stopped in Independence Hall to stop and look at the Declaration of Independence with the goofy glasses.

And, if I may, the entire premise of the film doesn't work.  Once Cage and his little pal have the clue off the back of the document, why wouldn't they just leave it for someone else to come get it?  Leave it for the FBI?  Why run around with it?

Anyway, I know people will be mad at me for not just enjoying the adventure, but if your movie is a big puzzle box, it would be nice if when the pieces don't fit, you didn't cut them up until they do.  

I'm not sure I have to stop and explain why a 28 year old is probably not going to get the most plumb job in archives works in the US Government.   But in the classic movie mode of adding a romantic interest, she is a decade younger than our star and has a professional interest in what our hero is doing, so even after she drops the one or two things only she can tell someone, she's going to stay around, despite the absolute certainty she will, at best, lose her job and most likely go to jail.  

The movie is long.  When they had to go to New York, I decided I was on some level of hell where this movie wouldn't just end.  

Upon finding the treasure, I also was sure thinking of the course of our nation in its earliest years and the questions of debts that made political decisions that impact us to this very day, and that, in theory, George Washington was just sitting on unimaginable riches and was like "nope, no one should have that wealth".  Like, I expected the treasure would be "friendship" or "the love of a parent for a child" or some shit, but, no.  It was a huge, unimaginable treasure trove.  

But it also was stolen artifacts so... 

I'll be honest, after people told me this movie was "better than I think" for the past 20 years, I was expecting this to be better than I thought, and it just wasn't.  It wasn't even fun.  It made me wish the British won the Revolutionary War that I might be spared this movie.

Anyway.  That was our movie.  It made $347 million in 2004, which - adjusted for inflation - is about $587 million.  People loved this movie.

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