National Treasure is a 2004 American action-adventure heist film released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was written by Jim Kouf and the Wibberleys, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and directed by Jon Turteltaub. It is the first film in the National Treasure franchise and stars Nicolas Cage in the lead role, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha and Christopher Plummer. In the film, Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian, along with friend Riley Poole and archivist Abigail Chase, search for a massive lost Freemason treasure, to which a map is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
National Treasure was released worldwide on November 19, 2004. The film grossed $347 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action scenes and performances but criticized the premise and screenplay. A sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, was released in 2007.
At the 2022 D23 Expo, a sequel TV series, National Treasure: Edge of History, was announced. It was released on the Disney+ streaming service on December 14, 2022.
Benjamin Franklin Gates is an American historian, cryptographer, and treasure hunter. When Ben was young, his grandfather John told him that, in 1832, Charles Carroll passed on a secret to their ancestor of a fabled treasure hidden in America by the Knights Templar, Founding Fathers, and Freemasons. Carroll's secret was a clue leading to the treasure: the phrase "the secret lies with Charlotte". While Ben is convinced by the story, his skeptical father, Patrick, dismisses it as nonsense.
Thirty years later, Ben and his friend, computer expert Riley Poole, head an expedition financed by wealthy Ian Howe to find the Charlotte, revealed to be a ship lost in the Arctic. Within the ship, they find a meerschaum pipe, whose engravings reveal the next clue is on the Declaration of Independence. When Ian reveals himself to be a crime boss and suggests stealing the Declaration, a fight ensues, and the group splits. Ben and Riley report Ian's plan to the FBI and Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but no one believes them. Ben decides to protect the Declaration by removing it from the Archives' preservation room during a gala event. Obtaining Abigail's fingerprints, he successfully obtains the Declaration, only to be spotted by Ian's group just as they break in to steal it. Ben tries to leave via the gift shop but has to pay for the Declaration when the cashier mistakes it for a souvenir copy. Suspecting something amiss, Abigail confronts Ben and takes back the document. Ian promptly kidnaps her, but Ben and Riley rescue Abigail, tricking Ian by leaving behind a souvenir copy of the Declaration. FBI Agent Sadusky begins tracking Ben down.
Going to Patrick's house, the trio studies the Declaration and discovers an Ottendorf cipher written in invisible ink. The message refers to Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood letters. Patrick formerly owned them, but donated them to the Franklin Institute. Paying a schoolboy to view the letters and decipher the code for them, Ben, Riley, and Abigail discover a message pointing to the bell tower of Independence Hall. Pursued by Ian, they find a brick containing a pair of spectacles with multiple colored lenses, which, when used to read the back of the Declaration, reveal a clue pointing to Trinity Church. Ian's associates chase the trio through Philadelphia until the FBI arrests Ben. Abigail and Riley lose the Declaration to Ian, but Abigail convinces Ian to help them rescue Ben in exchange for the next clue. Ian agrees, arranging a meeting at the USS Intrepid, where they help Ben evade the FBI.
Ian returns the Declaration and asks for the next clue, but when Ben remains coy, Ian reveals he has taken Patrick hostage. They travel to the Trinity Church, where they find an underground passage that appears to lead to a dead end, lit by a lone lantern. Patrick claims it is a reference to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, pointing Ian to the Old North Church in Boston. Ian traps Ben, Abigail, Riley, and Patrick in the chamber, heading for Boston, which was Patrick's intent as the clue was fictitious and he knew that Ian would betray them. Ben then finds a notch the meerschaum pipe fits into, opening a large chamber containing the treasure, with a staircase to the surface. Ben contacts Sadusky, who is actually a Freemason, and surrenders the Declaration and the treasure's location in exchange for letting Abigail go free, giving the Gates family and Riley credit for the discovery, and no prison sentence. On a tip from Ben, the FBI arrests Ian for kidnapping and other crimes.
Later, Ben and Abigail have started a relationship, while Riley is somewhat upset that Ben turned down the 10% finder's fee for the treasure so the entire collection could go to museums. But the 1% he did accept has still netted them all significant wealth.
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates:
An American treasure hunter and cryptographer.
Hunter Gomez as young Benjamin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe:
An entrepreneur, crime boss and treasure hunter who is a former friend of Benjamin Gates.
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase:
An archivist at the National Archives who aids Benjamin Gates in treasure hunting.
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole:
A sardonic computer expert and friend of Benjamin Gates.
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates:
A former treasure hunter and the father of Benjamin Gates.
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky: An FBI Special Agent in charge of the theft of the Declaration of Independence.
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates:
The father of Patrick Gates and the grandfather of Benjamin Gates.
Jack Koenig portrays a young version of Founding Father Charles Carroll; David Dayan Fisher appears as Shaw, Stewart Finlay-McLennan as Powell, Oleg Taktarov as Viktor Shippen, and Stephen Pope as Phil McGregor (Ian's henchmen); Annie Parisse, Mark Pellegrino, Armando Riesco, and Erik King play agents Dawes, Ted Johnson, Hendricks, and Colfax, respectively. Jason Earles portrays Thomas Gates.
In May 2003, Nicolas Cage was cast as the lead. New drafts were written by nine scribers, including Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, E. Max Frye, and Jon Turteltaub. By October, Sean Bean was cast.
National Treasure was filmed primarily in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Utah. Most scenes were filmed on location, with the exceptions of the Independence Hall scene, which was filmed at the replica of Independence Hall at Knott's Berry Farm, and the Arctic scene, which was filmed in Utah.
BOX OFFICE AND CRITICS
National Treasure earned $11 million on its opening day in the United States, ahead of Paramount & Nickelodeon's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which earned $9,559,752). It grossed $35,142,554 during its opening weekend, on 4,300 screens at 3,243 theaters, averaging $11,648 per venue, again ahead of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The film had the best opening weekend for a Disney film released in November until it was surpassed by Chicken Little in 2005. It held on to the No. 1 spot for three weekends. In Japan, National Treasure bested the double-billing MegaMan NT Warrior: Program of Light and Dark and Duel Masters: Curse of the Deathphoenix, grossing $11,666,763 in its first week. The film closed on June 2, 2005, with a domestic gross of $173,008,894 and earning $174,503,424 internationally. Worldwide, National Treasure grossed over $347,512,318, against a budget of $100 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 46% based on 179 reviews, and an average rating of 5.30/10. The site's consensus reads, "National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 39 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film 2/4 stars, calling it "so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line." Academic David Bordwell has expressed a liking for the film, placing it in the tradition of 1950s Disney children's adventure movies, and using it as the basis for an essay on scene transitions in classical Hollywood cinema.
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