National Treasure appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though without significant flaws, Treasure presented a lackluster picture.
Sharpness was one of the main problems. The movie occasionally lacked great detail, especially in wider shots. While the film never became terribly ill-defined, it wasn’t as crisp and concise as I’d expect.
Still, most shots - particularly close-ups - looked acceptable to good. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. No source flaws marred the presentation.
Treasure goes against modern action flick conventions in its firmly natural palette. The colors looked perfectly adequate but not much better. The tones presented decent clarity and accuracy, but I never thought they appeared vivid or distinctive.
Blacks were reasonably deep and firm, and most low-light shots seemed acceptably defined, though a few - like those inside the Charlotte - tended to be dense. Ultimately, there weren’t enough problems to knock my grade below a “C+“, but it was still a less than appealing image.
On the other hand, I felt pleased with the Uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack of National Treasure. Though the film didn’t include as many slam-bang set pieces as the usual action flick, it brought out some good sequences. When the track needed to expand during car chases, gun battles and the like, it used the full spectrum well.
Elements were properly placed and moved about the setting in a convincing way. The surrounds contributed a nice sense of space and involvement. Music depicted positive stereo imaging and the entire presentation offered a good feeling of environment.
Audio quality fared well. Speech was accurate and distinctive, without notable edginess or other issues. Music sounded full-blooded and rich, as the score was rendered nicely. Effects showed good range and definition. They demonstrated solid low-end and were impressive across the board. Ultimately, this was a positive track.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the CE DVD from 2007? Audio showed more breadth and pep, while visuals were more precise and dynamic. Even with the picture’s limitations, it still worked as an upgrade.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new components. Not found on the prior DVDs, we find an audio commentary with director Jon Turteltaub and actor Justin Bartha. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, action and stunts, visual effects, story/character/history elements and related areas.
Turteltaub and Bartha interact well to make this an enjoyable chat. They goof around at times, but they still provide a good level of information. The commentary moves well and becomes a satisfying affair.
Something interactive arrives via Mission History: The Declaration of Independence. This has you scan the Declaration; as you do so, a monotonous female voice reads the text and the film’s Riley character interjects comments about the material.
Once you scan the Declaration, you can access a “Playlist” with various materials. This branches into 21 areas, some of which go with text, but most of which show short video clips. In these, we hear from US National Archives Senior Curator Stacey Bredhoff, US National Archives supervisory conservator Catherine Nicholson, US National Archives chief conservator Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, History Professors William Fowler, Joyce E. Chaplin, David Armitage and Robert Allison. The snippets cover the physical Declaration itself and its preservation as well as the history behind it.
I think the info in “Mission History” works well, as we learn quite a lot of useful material here. Unfortunately, the interface bites. Plain and simple, it’s a chore to get through all of the components; it’s silly that the disc forces you to “scan” the Declaration and slog through all of that just to watch the segments.
Even when you’re done, you can’t just click “view all” and go from there; you’re still stuck in an awkward interface that slows progress. Even then, it’s unclear if I gained access to everything; the disc throws in so many unnecessary distractions that it becomes tedious to deal with the whole thing. I do like the information on display, but the interface makes it much more difficult to reach than it should be.
Many video pieces follow, and we begin with an 11-minute and 20-second featurette entitled National Treasure On Location. We get notes from director Jon Turteltaub, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, second unit director George Marshall Ruge, production designer Norris Spencer, visual effects producer Kathy Chasen-Hay, visual effects compositors Phil Brennan and Claas Henke, senior visual effects supervisor Nathan McGuinness, director of photography Caleb Deschanel, and actors Justin Bartha, Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Sean Bean, and Diane Kruger. They talk about the project’s path to the screen, realism and locations, the actors and characters, Turteltaub’s approach to directing, stunts, sets, and visual effects.
”Location” is better than the average promotional featurette but not by a tremendous amount. To its credit, it doesn’t just feel like an extended trailer, and it goes over a lot of decent subjects. However, it rushes through them so quickly that we don’t learn much. The visual effects get the most attention, though even that area remains only briefly discussed. It’s a passable featurette.
Seven Deleted Scenes appear next. These start with a 47-second introduction from Turteltaub in which he discusses the editing process. Then we get the clips themselves: “Thomas and the President” (1:45) , “Extended Shaft Sequence” (6:02), “Reviewing the Plan” (1:51), “Extended Scene: Ian Breaks Silence” (2:01), “Sadusky Takes Charge” (1:11), “An Unexpected Detour” (0:45), and “Lighting the Path” (1:41). Most seem pretty forgettable, though “Silence” has some good story points, and “Detour” is amusing. I would’ve liked to see the latter in the flick; it’s short and fun, so I can’t imagine it would’ve hurt the final product.
Note that most of the running times include introductions from Turteltaub, so the various scenes are each a good 30 seconds shorter than the lengths listed. Turteltaub also shows up for some optional commentary about the scenes. He adds some info about the scenes and why he cut them, though the intros tend to make the commentaries somewhat redundant.
Next comes an Opening Scene Animatic. This two-minute and 51-second segment starts with a short intro from Turteltaub as he tells us what an animatic is, and then we see the animatic. It shows a longer computer-created take on the movie’s opening, and it’s pretty fun to see. It includes optional commentary from Turteltaub who discusses the animatic’s purpose and comparisons with the final product.
After this we find an Alternate Ending. In this one-minute and 50-second segment, we get another Turteltaub introduction to tell us about problems with the scene. We then see this final shot at the National Archives. I understand why it got the boot, but it’s a fun segment. More Turteltaub commentary lets us know more about the clip’s problems, though he repeats some of what he says in the intro.
Next we get a featurette called Treasure Hunters Revealed. In this eight-minute and 36-second piece, we hear from Turteltaub, Mel Fisher Enterprises president/CEO Kim Fisher, author/treasure hunter WC Jameson, Mel Fisher Center president Taffi Fisher-Abt, Mel Fisher Enterprises co-founder Deo Fisher, Mel Fisher Enterprises executive vice-president Pat Clyne, Atocha Recovery Project operations manager Gary Randolph, Atocha Recovery Project captain Andy Matroci, West Coast Treasure Hunters president Betty Broughton, treasure hunter Bruce Gentner, and Atocha Recovery Project engineer Jeff Dickinson. We learn about real-life treasure hunters. They talk about their motivations and methods and we see hunts on land and on sea. We also get tips for aspiring treasure hunters. Despite a fairly glossy tone, “Revealed” offers a nice little look at the real-life exploits of these folks.
We can also find a trivia track. As usual, this runs text at the bottom of the screen as the movie plays. The track mostly covers historical information connected to the film and other related facts. We learn a little about the cast and crew as well as sets, locations and general production notes. The material pops up with acceptable frequency, though not as often as one might prefer. It remains a bit dry but it adds some decent insight into the subject matter.
A featurette called The Templar Knights runs for five minutes. It looks at the history of Masons and the Templar Knights. We mostly hear narration, but we also get comments from Knights Templar of California Grand Commander Dan McDaniel. Despite its brevity, it offers an interesting little overview with good insights like the reason why Friday the 13th is viewed as unlucky.
More featurettes follow. Ciphers, Codes and Codebreakers goes for 11 minutes, 49 seconds and includes information from historian of cryptology David Kahn, The Code Book author Simon Singh, and cryptanalyst Jim Gillogly. We learn about cryptology and its various forms throughout the years. This becomes a short but informative examination of various codes and their implementation.
Next comes the six-minute and 35-second Exploding Charlotte. It features Turteltaub, Bartha, Spencer, and period nautical dresser Courtney Anderson. The piece looks at the design, creation and destruction of the boat seen at the movie’s start. It provides a quick and enjoyable glimpse of that part of the production.
To Steal a National Treasure fills five minutes, 46 seconds with notes from Bruckheimer, Cage, Deschanel, Turteltaub, Kruger, Spencer, screenwriters Jim Kouf and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, prop master Erik Nelson, and Archivist of the United States John Carlin. This one gives us a look at elements connected to the National Archives set, and it adds some more decent footage from the production as well as some insights related to the design of the heist.
Finally, On the Set of American History takes up six minutes, 16 seconds, and offers comments from Turteltaub, Voight, Bruckheimer, Cage, Ruge, Kruger, Deschanel, Bartha, Spencer and screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott. “Set” looks at some of the historical locations used in the film. Like the other featurettes, this one lacks great substance, but it functions as a satisfactory overview.
The disc opens with ads for WALL-E and National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. No trailer for National Treasure shows up here.
Despite strong production values and a distinctive plot, National Treasure presents an ordinary movie. It’s one of those films that diverts our attention mildly but it never threatens to truly engage us. The Blu-ray provides strong audio and some useful bonus materials; picture quality is acceptable but unexceptional. The Blu-ray offers the best version of a spotty film.
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