Thanksgiving thoughts and National Treasure

To begin by finishing where I left off on Thursday, the remainder of the Thanksgiving went rather well. It was unfortunate that my Mother-in-law was not able to sit at the table for the meal (due to extreme pain in her hip, something I certainly can’t/won’t fault her for), but the food and the company were both good. I might add that this is the first time that one of the guest actually did the dishes before leaving, which was nice (especially for the wife, who had been busting her ass for the last couple of days to get everything ready for the feast). Of course when I think about it, no one except my wife ever seems to have to put so much time into the preparation of the meal, which includes washing most of the pans a couple of times along the way to use them to make additional dishes. Perhaps in the future we should require additional help in the final clean up. Now that is something that we could truly be thankfull for.

• Having nothing of any substance planned for this Sunday, I decided that it would be nice to go and see a movie. There were three movies playing that I had an interest in seeing, those being “Saw”, “National Treasure” and “The Incredibles”. Our theatre of choice (which is only our theatre of choice because it is always slow, especially on Sundays.) was not showing “Saw” at all, and the nearest other theatres were only showing it much later in the day. Left with the choice between “The Incredibles” and “National Treasure”, I went to check the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. “The Incredibles” has an amazing 96% positive rating over there, while “National Treasure” is being beaten to death. I was thinking that we would go see the former, however, when I presented the options to the wife, she chose the latter. You guess which one we went to see.

How was the movie? It was pretty good.

A lot of the critics are ripping at National Treasure for being basically Indiana Jones meets The Davinci Code. That might all be true, since I have yet to read the Davinci code there is no way for me to know. Of course critics have only opinions, and opinions are not to be taken as fact. When almost every major critic is saying the same thing, however, it seems to push it from an opinion to a more-than-likely that the plot is ripped off from the aforementioned book. The fact that I didn’t read the Davinci Code might have made it possible for me to enjoy the movie, as such, I just hung on for the ride.

I am not sure whether the fact that I don’t watch a lot of movies made me enjoy it more than a seasoned movie-goer, but I must say that it kept me entertained from start to finish. There were a couple of pretty dull moments in it, as well as a couple of times where completely abstract clues were solved just a smidge to fast (putting it mildly). But in my rating system I judge only by how many times I check my watch. I checked my watch about a half a dozen times during this one, however the watch checks were not based on boredom, but on curiosity as to how much time had passed since I last checked. The first time I looked down was over an hour into it (counting the previews), so I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t having some weird episode with ‘missing time’ or something. The rest of the times that I was checking the watch were much later in the film, and then just because I really, really, wanted to see exactly what the treasure was, and wondered how much longer they could hold out on letting me see it.

Being a veteran of a lot of video games, I was not surprised to see references to the Knights Templar in the film. There have been rumors of the wealth of the Templars forever, tons of books have used that as a premise, as well as a lot of point-and-click adventure games. It is good solid mythology to base them on. Not quite as popular in the U.S. as it is abroad, I think the movie will do extremely well overseas, where they really eat these stories up.

The tie-in of the Masons was certainly meant to draw in the conspiracy theorists here in the U.S. The Masons are a society that is pretty well known, yet not many people over here know exactly what they stand for. While it is certainly true that some of the forefathers, George Washington for instance, were Masons, it is pretty likely that a lot of people who opposed the U.S. having independence were Masons as well.

Trying to combine the Legend of the Templars from centuries long ago with the Masons of today (or 200 years ago) just doesn’t fit. The Masons have set up a helpfull little page on their website for those who watched the movie and thought that every minute of it was true.

Just to venture a guess, I am gonna say that anyone who knows anything about early American history is going to have a lot of problems with this film. I don’t know much about it at all, but I still know enough to doubt the Templar/Mason aspect of it. There is also the fact that some of the clues are on printed money. While the bills have remained (virtually) the same for quite some time, there were not paper bills going back as far as necessary to make that premise work for this film (this was, I think, a way for them to avoid having to find the actual paintings that the bills were based on, which would have made the movie go a lot longer.).

Further, anyone who knows anything about modern science will point out that the shadow that is cast from the tower at independence hall will vary not only by the time of day, but also by the day of the year. My wife pointed out (and I noticed) that the place the shadow was pointing to was pretty clearly marked when viewed close up anyway, the problem with that is that the film made you believe that it could only be seen at exactly 2:22p.m. (and why p.m.? The moon will make things cast shadows on clear nights). That is not even bringing to light the fact that if 200 years had really passed since the original clue was left the shadow wouldn’t fall the same anyway. A couple of hundred years can make shadows fall a bit different, if you know what I mean.

Finally, at least as far as ripping the movie apart, the opening sequence is all too easy. Why would an old, wooden ship be anywhere near the Arctic Circle in the first place (I understand it is a bit chilly up there). Even if it was, why would it be common knowledge to everyone who signed the declaration of independence? How did the Hero in this story find information to lead him to the ship when all his ancestors had failed? (that part is not touched on at all. No mention of why he was looking there as opposed to looking at the South Pole.) Yes, ocean currents could dictate the direction of the ship, but when the ship is lost it is usually because of catastrophic disaster, not sailing into a little nook that then freezes over trapping you. Even if that did happen, why did the people die in the ship? It is then solid ground (well ice, but ice that huge motor vehicles can traverse), why not try to find a way out? Ohh, right, had they done that, they might have lived. Had that happened, I would not have had a movie to watch in the first place.

Wow, that sounds pretty brutal, and I actually liked the movie.

The movie flows pretty well. There are some times when there are far too many cut-scenes, which I suppose add to the drama, but kind of fall flat in the greater scheme. The movie is pretty long (which was a good thing in this case), which kept me wondering how much the good guys would be able to find before the bad guys got the upper hand again. The ‘riddles’ are all a bit too unbelievable, especially in the solving portion of them. Yet, it was entertaining from beginning to end. That seems to be a difficult thing for a film to achieve.

I really enjoyed the film, even when it tried to tie the Templars to the Masons. It kept my curiosity high enough that I wanted to see the final frame, just to see how it would all turn out. There was never a doubt as to whether the good guys would win, yet, the bad guys were close enough to get the upper hand quite a few times. There are a couple of unexpected twists (unless you have read the Davinci Code, evidently), that don’t really throw you off, but at least make yoy question your theory about how it will all work out.

Long story shorter, I watched this film for more than two hours and I think I got my money’s worth. You might want to make sure that you get it at matinee pricing though. Not great, but a good ride for sure.

Ebert actively hated it. A quote from the final paragraph in his review:

Cage, one of my favorite actors, is ideal for this caper because he has the ability to seem uncontrollably enthusiastic about almost anything. Harvey Keitel, who plays FBI agent Sadusky, falls back on his ability to seem grim about almost anything. Jon Voight calls on his skill at seeming sincere at the drop of a pin. Diane Kruger has a foreign accent even though she is the National Archivist, so that our eyes can mist at the thought that in the land of opportunity, even a person with a foreign accent can become the National Archivist. “National Treasure” is so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line.

What, did this film kill his mom?

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