Okay, laugh all you want, but I honestly could not think of another action movie that I enjoy as thoroughly as National Treasure. When I told a friend I was writing about this movie for an action film blog, she said, “Don’t you think it’s a little far fetched?” And cars turning into robots isn’t? Tom Cruise scaling a building? We needn’t dismiss National Treasure because it plays up conspiracy theories and fabricated historical evidence. I could watch this movie on any given day. The humour is cheesy, the acting is okay, but there’s something thrilling about a treasure hunt. (Also, the second film totally borrowed from North by Northwest with the focus on Mt. Rushmore… but that’s beside the point…)
As I thought about the action aspect of the film, I realized the narrative would not function as well without the suspense. I get the feeling National Treasure without action would be as fascinating as The English Patient. The dynamic between Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Ian Howe (Sean Bean) creates a needed tension to spark interest in the progression of the treasure hunt and makes the conclusion even more rewarding due to their competitive nature. And what better way to place everyone on tenterhooks than to put one of the most well-known documents in America under siege? I’m curious how archivists felt as “professionals” rubbed lemon juice all over a two hundred year old document that our country was built on—I’m assuming their reaction is akin to those who work in sewage plants who saw Nemo survive after having been flushed down a drainpipe in Finding Nemo.
The most frustrating part of the movie is the “action packed” ways Ian goes about attaining the clues. Are guns really necessary? I suppose. But I’m pretty sure my twelve year old self thought Ian was a downright cheater because he rarely used intellect to figure anything out. I came to the conclusion that the best action films involve someone striving for the end goal by intellectual means versus armed attacks — but, this is America… and we have the right to bear arms. The intellect is especially rewarding after the intense scene that takes place in the dumbwaiter shaft leading to the treasure as Ben’s father, played by Jon Voigt, tricks Ian and his crew into traveling to Boston based on false information. The action is great, but the cleverness works in tandem with the action to make a compelling film.
You know, I’m not the greatest at discussing the reason why action is worthwhile, but I guarantee if you watch “On Story” tonight at 5 on Panhandle PBS, you will be given a more fruitful explanation from the experts. Tonight’s theme focuses on what makes action films great and creators of Con Air, Gone in Sixty Second, Zombieland, and Machete cover this compelling debate. Until next time, ladies and geraniums…