From the time his grandfather first told him about it, Benjamin has been obsessed with finding a treasure believed to be the greatest the world has ever known – one that has been amassed over centuries and moved across continents. This vast fortune has supposedly been hidden by the founding fathers of America (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson et al) who have laid out clues for its location. Most people do not believe in the existence of this treasure, even Benjamin's father, Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight) is skeptical, but after many years, Benjamin believes that the final clue is a map located on the back of nothing less than the Declaration of Independence!
He realises that to keep the secret of the treasure from falling into the wrong hands – namely a double-crossing partner called Ian Howe (Sean Bean) – Benjamin and his associate, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) must steal the country’s most celebrated document. With the help of museum curator, Dr Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), and pursued by the FBI led by an investigator named Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) as well as Howe and his henchmen, Benjamin and Riley become caught up in a desperate race against time to decipher the clues and unlock the 2,000-year-old mystery.
Director Jon Turteltaub must be commended for keeping this movie going at a decent pace, and even with a runtime of 131 minutes the movie never feels slow or bogged down. Filming in real locations gives the movie an authenticity that was sadly lacking from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which was CG'd to death. There is some CG in National Treasure but it's minimal, and unobtrusive (take note George Lucas/Steven Spielberg).
National Treasure is a great movie for the entire family. While some of the historical locations may be lost on Australian children, the fast paced nature of the movie, and lack of graphic violence makes it a great experience for young and old. As we all know a sequel has been released (and will be on Blu-Ray soon), but there's no reason not to add this original to you Blu-Ray library.
In terms of video quality National Treasure is, as with almost every release from Disney, very impressive. Using the AVC MPEG-4 codec at 1080p in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 the transfer on this disc is, from the opening scenes, wonderful to look at. From the brilliant whites on the ice, to the darkest dungeons the colours and sharpness are fantastic with a decent amount of detail in the darker scenes as well.
To be honest there were some sections of this movie that looked a little washed out with inconsistent contrast levels. The vibrancy of some scenes is certainly below that of others. I'm not sure if that was an issue with the source material, but it could have done with some tweaking.
While a (very small) notch below Disney's best efforts there is no denying that this Blu-Ray presentation is vastly superior to that on the DVD with a sharpness and clarity that the old format simply can't get close to.
Subtitles are provided in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, and a smattering of other languages including Chinese, Portuguese and Russian among others. Sampling the English track demonstrated accuracy from the dialogue on screen to the subtitle text.
Audio Commentary with Director Jon Turteltaub and Actor Justin Bartha: While Justin Bartha is a little annoying this remains an entertaining commentary with some pretty decent information about the production of National Treasure. Certainly not the best commentary we've heard, but it's not terrible either.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Director's Audio Commentary (16:04): A series of seven deleted and extended scenes with an optional director's commentary. The scenes are quite interesting, particularly as most are character, rather then action driven.
Opening Scene Animatic (2:51): With and optional commentary from Jon Turteltaub this shows the original opening idea. This is quite an interesting opening sequence, and worth a look.
Alternate Ending (1:50): Again with an optional Director's Audio Commentary this looks at the original ending which was also shot. The commentary explains why it was changed, and it's a change for the better in our opinion.
Ciphers, Codes, & Codebreakers (11:49/HD): A great little featurette about keeping secrets over thousands of years. This featurette is a little briefer then I hoped, but still welcome.
Exploding Charlotte (6:35): This featurette looks at blowing up the Charlotte for the movie.
On the Set of American History (6:16): This brief featurette looks at the various historical locations where the movie was filmed including the National Archives, Washington Monument and Independence Hall which contains the Liberty Bell.
National Treasure On Location (11:20): A look at the various locations, both real and on-set, used during the filming of National Treasure.
Treasure Hunters Revealed (8:36): This featurette looks at the real-life treasure hunters from around the globe. Brief, but interesting.
The Templar Knights (5:00): A brief look at the Templar Knights, who they were, how they formed and what they had to do with this movie.
Trivia Track: Nothing out of the ordinary here this is a pop-up trivia track which plays during the movie with snippets about history and the production.
Review By: Dave Warner