There's no shame in admitting all of the things you forgot about National Treasure. It's the type of movie designed to keep you entertained for a couple hours, only to gradually fade from memory until the next time it pops up on TNT. It isn't even the craziest Nicolas Cage movie, even though he plays a man named Benjamin Franklin Gates who has to steal the Declaration of Independence. If you pay closer attention on the next rewatch, you may realize National Treasure is much weirder than you remember.
It’s not hard to understand what drew Nic Cage to the role of an explorer who’s down on his luck and thrust into a world of international intrigue. This is the kind of role comparable to an appetizer for an average action star, but under the care of Cage, it becomes a four-course meal. If you haven’t watched National Treasure in a while, then prepare to follow a wooden lantern down memory lane.
The central plot of National Treasure follows a group of good treasure hunters attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence to keep it safe from evil treasure hunters. Before stealing the document, Benjamin Franklin Gates goes to every government law enforcement agency available to tell them about his evil ex-partner's plan, but no one believes him.
That's right - it's post-September 11, 2001, and someone telling a government official about a potential federal building break-in garners zero response. The National Archive doesn't even beef up security. The government doesn't learn its lesson in the National Treasure-verse, as Gates is able to kidnap the President in the sequel.
After spending nearly hours watching Nicolas Cage solve a 200-year-old puzzle, the most unbelievable and mind-boggling thing in this film is the ending discovery of a cavern filled with treasure. It's jam-packed with suits of armor, Egyptian statues, scrolls from the Library of Alexandria, and a ton of Freemason stuff. There's also an ambiguous statue of an extraterrestrial, which means aliens exist because, of course, they do in this universe.
The treasure room discovery is a cool scene, but it leaves a few unanswered questions in regard to who filled the underground cavern with artifacts dating back to the dawn of civilization: was there a Founding Father in charge of arranging everything? Did the Founding Fathers take shifts moving things in? Was it merely something they worked on during the weekends, and did they fill the cavern before or after creating the puzzle pointing toward it? These questions are why we need a National Treasure prequel.
By the end of the film, Benjamin Franklin Gates and his team of treasure hunters commit enough crimes to put them in prison for a long time. They burgled the National Archives, kidnapped an archivist, stole the Declaration of Independence, broke into a church, destroyed property, and committed obstruction of justice with the FBI. That's a lot of crime.
When Agent Peter Sadusky initially catches Gates, he tells the treasure hunter "someone" has to go to jail for all of this stuff. So what do they do? They put Gates's old partner and archrival Ian Howe in prison instead. The law doesn't work this way. You can't just put someone in jail for your crimes because you're a nice dude. Except, in National Treasure, it's exactly what happens.
One would think being part of one of the most highly specialized government agencies in the world requires intelligence and resourcefulness. In National Treasure, this isn't the case. After Benjamin Franklin Gates steals the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives, the FBI go in hot pursuit of the treasure hunter team.
Agent Peter Sadusky and his crew manage to catch Gates, but they immediately allow him to go free so he can meet with his archnemesis. Instead of gathering intel for the FBI, Gates jumps in the nearest harbor and swims away. The FBI immediately ceases their pursuit to avoid getting wet. The FBI finally does their job after Gates solves the puzzle, finds the treasure, and then tells them the whereabouts of his former business partner. It's not a good look for the federal agency.