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FandomFlix: Weekly Streaming Review – National Treasure

Welcome to the first edition of FandomFlix where each week I’ll be covering one movie available on one of the various streaming services.

When it makes sense, the chosen movie will be related to news or to a current event. If there’s nothing that matches too well, I’ll just pick a movie based on my own whims. Though subject to change, I will list the next week’s movie at the end of each post, in case you want to (re)watch ahead of time.

These posts will not necessarily be a standard movie review although sometimes they may be. The idea is to make it more of a lighter, fun affair. With that in mind, many of these may contain spoilers; I’ll be sure to note when that’s the case. And don’t worry, this long intro is only for this first one.

For this first entry, I wanted to ease into it with something fun and widely popular. So that led me to the fan favorite National Treasure, currently available on Netflix and Disney+.

National Treasure tells the story of historian/treasure hunter Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) as he hunts for the fabled Templar Treasure, thought to be the greatest treasure ever in existence, if it’s real, that is. There’s family history there, too, with Gates’ father and grandfather and great-grandfather and so on all getting wrapped up in the treasure hunt during their lives.

But the family drama isn’t what you come (and come back) for. It’s the ridiculous plot, over-the-top heist sequences, and the walking GIF himself, Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas Cage instantly makes everything more fun and enjoyable. What people seem to forget these days is that the man can actually act. They see his roles like those in the GIFs above, and they think that’s all he is. And it’s true, much of his filmography is littered with over-acted, absurd performances. But remember, Cage has been nominated for two Academy Awards, even winning one for Leaving Las Vegas.

All that said, his outrageousness usually results in supreme entertainment. Movies like Con Air and Face Off, while maybe not the highest quality films, are endlessly rewatchable, led by Cage’s affable, fun-loving personality.

But it’s not just Cage that makes National Treasure work. The entire movie is just simply a fun time. It’s one bigger heist/adventure made up of lots of smaller heists and adventures. And as a huge fan of heist movies, this couldn’t be more up my alley.

It’s surprisingly consistently thrilling to watch Gates & Co. find a clue, solve it, plan and execute their next heist, all to repeat the process over again. National Treasure never lets up, it just keeps going and going; but never to the point of overwhelming the audience. Aside from a couple of instances, nothing ever feels too high stakes.

They need to get to a tower at a specific time. They need to find a special pair of glasses. Doesn’t sound like anything that’s going to get the heart racing too much, does it? A nice adventure film that lets you relax a little bit – and that’s fun for the whole family – is sometimes exactly what you need.

A common criticism is how crazy and unbelievable the plot is, essentially being one hunt after another for a new MacGuffin to aid in their search for the treasure, aka the ultimate MacGuffin. But I would argue that is a huge part of what actually makes it work.

National Treasure (2004)

The main plot is “rooted” in history, at least to an extent that Ben’s family doing what they’ve done for generations can be believable. It uses real historical facts and events to establish the tales and mysteries at the center of the story. And yet, it also knows when to reel itself back in. Thankfully, National Treasure doesn’t delve into alien involvement or a supernatural explanation for anything. It keeps everything within the realm of possibility. So while you know what’s happening is a stretch of the truth at best, it still feels like something that could be real.

And on the flip side, it manages to go big enough to keep viewers engaged and entertained with what’s happening. It’s a good mix of the smaller and the larger parts, such as the glasses and stealing the Declaration of Independence for two examples. National Treasure manages to strike a near-perfect balance of absurd and believable while never straying too far in either direction. This, coupled with earnest, dedicated turns from Cage and co-stars Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, and Sean Bean, all work together to make National Treasure a fun, perfectly rewatchable movie.

Also read: REVIEW: Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen Is A Movie With Style

I hope you enjoyed this first entry for our FandomFlix series. I won’t always pick such a popular, well-known movie. Part of my desire to do this was to get myself to branch out on the movies I watch. And by extension, I hope to introduce a few of you to new styles or directors or actors you maybe otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to seek out.

Next week’s FandomFlix: Clouds of Sils Maria, available on Netflix

I’ll be keeping the exact reasoning for the next choice secret until that post publishes but here’s the trailer to give you a taste of what I’ll be talking about.

Written by Matt Hambidge

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