Saturday, January 26, 2008

Movie Review: National Treasure (sequel)

Wait for cable to see it, and ONLY if you must.

At last! A movie that I DIDN’T like. National Treasure Jr. is anything but. I watched it last week and was most definitely UNDER whelmed. It must be difficult to take a pretty good flick like the first National Treasure and then try to successfully duplicate it in a sequel. It turns out they shouldn’t have tried.

Even though the first one was absurdly unrealistic, still, I enjoyed its thrilling story. I can suspend disbelief for a couple hours as long as the plot is interesting, and even more importantly, so long as the characters are believable. Therein lies the problem with the sequel. Most of the original characters are still there, but they added a new one, the bad guy played by Ed Harris, to replace the original bad guy. Harris, and the implausible character he plays, absolutely ruins the entire film.

For me to watch a movie and truly enjoy it, I’ve found that I have to respect the actors first. If I develop an aversion for some reason to the performers portraying the characters, I won’t like their acting. For instance, I can’t stand to see Winona Ryder in anything after she got busted for shoplifting. Worse than her even, I can’t stomach watching big mouths like Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and now, after catching some of the vacuous drivel from the talking head of Ed Harris, I find anything he does on screen now lacks credibility as well.

To be totally fair, even I didn’t dislike Ed Harris so much, I still would have been disdainful of the part he plays in NT2, which is the obligatory bad guy. As I said, he does a rotten job of it, but primarily the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the screen writers. By comparison, the nasty antagonist in the first NT makes perfect sense. He’s driven by greed and he stays that way to the end.

On the other hand, Ed Harris’ bad guy is confusing. From the first he establishes himself as the prototypical nasty character. He and his band of evil doers shoot up Nick Cage’s car during a violent albeit exciting getaway chase scene. One of Ed’s henchmen even hits Jon Voight’s likeable character on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. All these actions could result in death; therefore, no matter what Ed’s bad guy character does throughout the rest of the movie, there’s no way he should be able to redeem himself. At least you’d think so, right?

If you plan on seeing NT2 then stop reading here.

NT2 is not as direct as NT1. Nick Cage’s character, Ben Franklin Gates, once again claims he’s NOT all about the money. Once again, he is out to exonerate his family name. The first time it was by proving that his father and father’s fathers were not a bunch of treasure hunting wackos. To do that all he had to do was find the treasure.

This time, Ed Harris seems to have proof that one of Nick’s great grandfathers was complicit in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a partial page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary. It’s the first clue in a stream of clues that eventually leads to the legendary city of gold called Cibola. Without getting into the details, by finding this new treasure Nick Cage once again clears his family’s name.

So, by the end of the flick it turns out that Ed Harris is not really such a bad guy after all. He explains to Nick that he only wanted to follow Nick to the gold, and he knew the only way to motivate him was to impugn the Gate’s family name, and zoom, right to the gold old Benjamin would go. Suddenly, this monster turns out to be a pretty good fellow. He even gives up his own life to save Ben and Ben’s mom and dad, plus Ben’s girlfriend and Ben’s best friend. The Harris character goes from a willingness to commit murder and mayhem to being a paragon of courageous selflessness. I'm sorry, but I insist on consistency in MY bad guys. For me, evil is not a relative abstract, thus, I wanted Ed Harris to die ironically and horribly. At the very least he should have gone to jail. Come on!

This movie CAN be fun at times, but mostly, it just does not work as well as the first go around. Back to the drawing board boys and girls. The one thing I’m thankful for is that they killed off Ed Harris’ character. If they are smart, they’ll bring the British guy back as Ben’s adversary. Have him escape from prison or something.


Anonymous said...

darn...I really this Ed is pretty hot, too...oh well I think I will start with the stiller movie anyway...

PhilippinesPhil said...

I USED to enjoy watching Ed Harris. Then, he had to spoil it for me. I wish they'd all just shut up and act. For instance, why does Stallone feel compelled to tell us all he plans to vote for McCain? I don't care. Shut up and make movies Sly!