Being a Consideration of the Disney Fabulation National Treasure, Providing an Escape Route by Which the Auguft Reader may Circumvent the Entertaining but Permanent Waftage of 100 Minutes.

The Buck Stops at the Box Office

The Attic. It is Dark. You might get eaten by a Grue.

Young Nicolas Cage: Here I am sneaking toward the leatherbound book of Gates Family Secrets. If I can just climb up these rickety ladder stairs and reach the top of this stack of dark boxes … aha! (He blows dust off a large embossed book.) Wow! Let’s see what this says. “The COMMAND.COM kernel is limited to a 64K upper bound which is -”
John Adams Gates: Benjamin Franklin Gates! Just what are you doing messing around with that DOS manual?
Young Nicolas Cage: Uh, nothing.
John Adams Gates: Nothing? You don’t belong up here!
Young Nicolas Cage: But Grandpa, I want to learn the family secrets too!
John Adams Gates: I had a real career once.
Young Nicolas Cage: Yeah, like the name “Christopher Plummer” means anything to kids today.

1832. Voiceover.

John Adams Gates (v.o.): … and the great treasuries of the Old World were lost to history. The Knights Templar gathered up these massive treasures and collected them deep underground, and pledged to watch over the wealth and the secrets of the Ancients for all of time. A secret society, the Freemasons, was formed to guide and protect the fortune, concealing it behind a dense web of curious clues until such time as the world might someday be ready for a movie like this one. Speaking of which, I play Aristotle in Alexander next, but my character doesn’t have sex with Colin Farrell.
Young Nicolas Cage (v.o.): That’s what you say now.

Secret Guy: Are you an ancestor of the Gates family?
Ancestor of the Gates Family: I am.
Secret Guy: Here’s a message from the Masons.
Ancestor of the Gates Family: “…the Secret Lies with Charlotte.”
Secret Guy: One more thing.
Ancestor of the Gates Family: Yes?
Secret Guy: Why was COMMAND.COM kept under 64K, anyway?

The Present. In the Arctic, a small team of adventurers drives through the icy wastes.

Ben Gates: We should be getting close, if our ignored and ridiculed theory is correct.
Computer: Beep beep beep
Riley Poole: The computer says — hold on — I think — wait, all right, it’s going “beep beep beep” and a homing circle is flashing red and zooming in on a set of highlighted crosshairs.
Ben: Does it mean we’re getting close?
Riley: I’m not sure, I’ll look it up.
Shaw: Hello. We two are part of the expedition. We’re definitely not the bad guys.
Ian Howe: That’s right. If we were the bad guys in this movie, would we have accents like these? Certainly not.
Audience: Isn’t that Boromir?

The Sno-Cats stop. There is a flat plain of ice, and a nearby mound of snow in the shape of a ship.

Ben: So, according to our ignored and ridiculed theory, the lost treasure ship Charlotte is right around here somewhere. Let’s look for it in the snow.
Riley: What about over there by the big mound shaped like a boat?
Ben: Nothing! Why don’t our metal detectors pick anything up?
Metal Detector: Beep beep beep
Ben: I think I’ve got something!
Riley: How can you tell?

Inside the derelict Charlotte.

Riley: Good thing this wooden sailing ship didn’t sink over the 172 years it spent adrift in the frozen crushing icy wastes. Also, we’re lucky it was only buried under an inch of snow.
Ben: Well, they built to last back then. What’s that in the doorway?
Ian: Spider web.
Riley: “… some pig …”
Ben: Back here in the cargo hold is where we ought to find … hmm. Waitasec.
Ian: There’s no treasure here. This ship is empty.
Ben: Look! A huge hand-made meerschaum pipe in a distinctive shape with an intricately carved stem, hidden away in a velvet-lined case concealed in a keg of gunpowder, guarded by a skeleton wearing a hat that says “Captain.”
Riley: If only we could find a clue!

A clue is unearthed. It is a curious nonsense poem. They set about trying to solve it.

Ben: “… the explorer’s hall in the milky wood.” That’s enigmatic. Hmmm … Explorer could be Richard Burton. The Hall o’ Burton. What could that have to do with finding the hidden wealth and treasure of the ages? Hall-o-burton … treasure … that can’t be right. It’s no use, this is a dead end. Wait! I’ve got it! The next clue is on the back of the Declaration of Independence!
Riley: Huh?
Shaw: Huh?
Audience: Eh?
Ian: Well, I guess we’ll just have to steal the Declaration.
Ben: Huh? No way!
Riley: What?
Audience: Huh?
Jerry Bruckheimer, on the way to the bank: Ho ho ho ho ho!

Ian and Shaw pull guns. They shoot and then flee. The gunpowder ignites. Ben and Riley are trapped on the ship.

Ian and Shaw: Run! We don’t need them any more!
Ben and Riley: Let’s hide under this trapdoor! We’ll be safe there!
Riley: What’s this number written here by the trapdoor? 3263827? Where have I seen that before?
Gunpowder: BOOOOOOM.

Washington D.C.

Ben: Riley, we have to warn the authorities that Ian is going to steal the Declaration of Independence!
Riley: Didn’t he do the same thing in Lord of the Rings?

FBI: G’wan, get out!
Homeland Security: And stay out!
American History Ph.D. Abigail Chase: And don’t come back! … And here’s my number, just in case.
Ben: Now we’ll have to steal it ourselves so that Ian doesn’t get it.
Riley: If you say so, Mr. Frodo.

A Montage. Even Rocky had a Montage.

Ben: The Declaration of Independence is protected under multiple layers of bulletproof glass in a shockproof display mount with heat and motion sensors layered throughout the case. It is under constant video and seismic surveillance, with laser precision monitors and an emergency drop system to evacuate it to a sealed storage room flooded with poison gas in case anyone tries to tamper with it. There are round-the-clock Special Forces guards and a K-9 detachment on full patrol to keep it safe from thieves and tyrants.
Riley: Hasn’t stopped Bush yet, has it?
Ben: Not really, no.

They steal the Declaration of Independence. Ian simultaneously breaks in to steal it, and finds Ben a few steps ahead of his operation. Car chase. Dr. Abigail Chase is accidentally kidnapped by Ben and Riley, who save her from Ian and his goons. Ian speeds off into the night with what he does not yet know is a poster reproduction of the Declaration; our heroes flee with the original, plus Dr. Chase.

Ben: Abigail Chase. See, that’s overdetermination, right there. Because “Abigail” suggests Abigail Adams, the wife of Sam Adams, which makes sense because you’re a presidential scholar. And “Chase” as your last name communicates to the audience that this is a chase or caper picture. It’s one of the small, textural elements that makes a big-budget movie work. Also, since you’re a severe blonde who will turn into a bombshell later in the film as you loosen up, you fall into the Hitchcockian model of the hot librarian heroine, and that’s always a crowd-pleaser.
Dr. Chase: And you must be King Obvious of the Clarification People.

The Gates Homestead.

Ben: Dad?
Mr. Gates: Bill?
Ben: No, Dad, it’s Ben, the other one. Not the Microsoft one.
Mr. Gates: Well, then maybe you can help me with the computer, it’s been worthless ever since I installed Service Pack 2.
Ben: Actually, Dad, I wanted to -
Dr. Chase: But the pop-up protection is worth it, don’t you find?
Mr. Gates: Really? Do you think so? On my box the tradeoff in speed is huge. Some days I find myself typing faster than the word processor displays, and that’s on a local connection.
Dr. Chase: You didn’t install over 2000, did you? Because it’s always a mess when you do that.
Ben: ANYway. So here we have a, uh, random piece of parchment with a vital map drawn on it in invisible ink. The ink was created by the greatest and craftiest minds of American history, drawing on the combined knowledge of chemists and alchemists stretching back to the time of antiquity. How can we reveal the map? Let’s think about this.
Everyone: TRY LEMON.
Riley: I was going to suggest holding it up to the moonlight, but don’t mind me.

In the Evil Van.

Shaw: Ian, I was wondering.
Ian: Yes?
Shaw: Remember back in the Arctic Circle when we said we weren’t the bad guys?
Ian: That was a lie. We are the bad guys.
Shaw: Oh good. That explains the guns then.

The clues point to Philadelphia. Ben, Riley and Dr. Chase solve the puzzles and find Ben Franklin’s Cryptographic Spectacles, which work a bit like the X-ray Specs from the back pages of comic books. Ian & Co. are in hot pursuit, and now the FBI joins the fray.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

Ben: … and if I use these glasses to look at the back of the Declaration it … oh look …
Dr. Chase: What? What does it say?
Ben: It says, “Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”
Harvey Keitel: Agent Sadursky, FBI. We need to have a talk about a priceless document that lies at the heart of America today, that defines us and makes us who we are in the world, that drives us toward the light at the end of the tunnel and defends us, as a nation and a people, with the righteous force of liberty and law.
Ben: The Declaration of Independence. Here, take it. We’ve kept it safe.
Agent Sadursky: Declaration of Independence? Son, I’m talking about the PATRIOT Act. How do you think I found you so fast? I’ve been tapping your cell phone.
Riley: But you can’t do that!
Agent Sadursky: Did you see me in Bad Lieutenant?
Ben: We’ll come quietly.

FBI Headquarters.

Ben: I’m telling you. This will all make much more sense if you just get me some lemons.
Nervous FBI Agent: Sir? Telephone.
Agent Sadursky: Who is it? Tell them I’m busy.
Nervous FBI Agent: Sir, it’s a writer named Dan Brown, and he wants to -
Agent Sadursky: Holy Moley! Everybody run!

In catacombs deep beneath Trinity Church in Downtown Manhattan.

Ian: Now at last I’ve got you all. You spineless liberals with your moral flip-flops. Look where it gets you! One strong man with a gun and the will to lead comes along, and all your hard work and your education is washed away in a moment. Now, let’s head down these rickety cracked ancient dusty broken swaying stairs, and you can lead me to my treasure at last.
Riley: You … you … you gunkie!
Dr. Chase: We still haven’t forgiven you for what you did at the end of Fellowship of the Ring!
Ian: Oh really? Look, you played Helen of Troy in a blockbuster so pathetic that no one here even recognized you until I just mentioned it. At least I have fans to hate me. And as for your little friend here -
Riley: Don’t.
Ian: Why don’t we ask him about his impressive résumé? Well, Riley?
Riley: Don’t. I mean it. Stop now.
Dr. Chase: Riley? What is he saying?
Ian: Yes, your friend Riley’s big film credit -
Riley: Don’t go there. For the love of God.
Ian: — his big film credit is Gigli.
Ben: (shocked silence) That’s not true, is it? Riley, say that’s not true.
Riley: I’m so ashamed.

A section of rickety cracked ancient dusty broken swaying stairs collapses. Shaw falls to his death. Ben and Dr. Chase are thrown to a platform which begins to fall apart under their weight.

Ben: Abigail, quick. Press your upper body against my chest. Harder. Yes, good. All right, now hook your arms around my neck and grind your pelvis into mine.
Dr. Chase: Like this? Is it helping us escape?
Ben: Escape? Oh, right. OK, here, let’s jump to safety.

They jump to safety. Ian marshals the group to a deep hidden level, where an empty room confronts them. Ian is hoodwinked into a wild goose chase to Boston’s North Church; when he leaves the rest are stranded in the deep pit. When we say “stranded” we mean they are abandoned in a shaft choked with ropes, ladders, stairs, scaffolding, and construction tools, but they can’t use the handy little counterweight elevator which Ian takes to the top.

Ben: I thought he’d never leave. OK, let’s go get the treasure.

In the treasure chamber, the guttering flames reveal vast heaps of gold.

Riley: Look at all this stuff! That’s a sphinx kind of thing, over there by that heap of jewels and golden statuary. And those mummies are pristine! And that blazing ruby must be as big as a housecat!
Dr. Chase: Scrolls! Scrolls from the lost library at Alexandria!
Ben: How can you tell?
Dr. Chase: They’re overdue, these are the letters rolled up with them. Wow, your Grandfather is going to be in a lot of trouble when they catch him. He said he played Aristotle, right? Looks like he didn’t return this one right here. The letter says the fine is 10 oboloi a week.
Ben: “My Big Fat Greek Debauchery.”
Dr. Chase: It’s got pictures. Ewww, look how many people it takes to do that!
Ben: We’ve found it. We’ve finally found it. We — what’s this sled doing here?
Riley: Uh, Ben?
Ben: Yes?
Riley: I found this sign, and it says -
Ben: Oh no.
Riley: It’s -
Dr. Chase: “Property of Microsoft. Do Not Remove. I Have Read This Notice and Agree With Its Contents Y/N.”

… or is it?

9 Responses to “Illumiknotty”

  1. Harvey Says:

    That’s just sad, really. I *like* Nicholas Cage.

  2. Linus Says:

    Three words, Harvey: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I like him too, in concept, but he really does a bunch of bad movies. Everyone does, but Nic’s got a talent there.

    This actually could have been much worse; it was bad in a pleasant sort of way. If you saw the trailer you know what you’re in for, and that is exactly what you get — not much worse, and definitely no better.

  3. Pierre Says:

    COMMAND.COM (or any other .COM program) had to be under 64K -one segment in the 8086 architecture with its 16-bit address registers.

  4. Linus Says:

    Well, Secret Guy will certainly be glad to hear that! I have revised the numbers to reflect 8086 architecture into posterity; no one will be the wiser, unless they read the comments. Thanks.

  5. Moze Says:

    And then there’s the whole Weequahic ambiance, which I find fascinating.

  6. Linus Says:

    Wasn’t that a Robert Ludlum book? The Weequahic Ambiance?

    By which I mean, what’s a Weequahic ambiance?

  7. Odin Says:

    This rocked my morning! Way better dialog than the movie, and without all those distracting visuals.

    Unfortunately I’ll probably have to see National Treasure *again*, since it’s Thanksgiving and my family can only coexist in the silent darkened DMZ of movie theaters. Here’s hoping your turkey day is better than mine…

  8. Linus Says:

    And here’s hoping yours is better than expected, Odin. My family is perfectly able to talk politics and the usual touchy subjects … the one we can’t do is Western medicine and child-rearing, with all its related issues (like, why three-year-old children should not still be wearing diapers, that sort of thing).

    It’s always something, isn’t it?

  9. Moze Says:

    “And then there’s the whole Weequahic ambiance, which I find fascinating.”

    Oh, dear. That comment belonged in the Philip Roth thread, not here. You were so polite, though, to make it seem as if it made some existential Rothian sense.

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