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Cage's new National Treasure picking up steam

January 09, 2008 12:46 IST

It is no news that a film drubbed by critics goes on to become a smash hit but the way National Treasure: Book of Secrets has been growing at the box office has surprised many Hollywood observers. It soon could become the highest grossing film of Nicolas Cage's two and half decade-long career.

The treasure hunt adventures and unmasking of villains in the film have struck a chord with audiences across the globe and surprised the skeptics who wondered if a film filled with references to American history can move the audiences in France, Peru, Spain, Japan, Singapore or India. Audiences are apparently suspending logic and enjoying the film.

Box office analysts say there are many reasons why the film is doing well. They refer to its feel-good spirit, its suspenseful twists and turns, spectacular visuals and an engaging performance by Cage. And then there are also a number of veterans including Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel and Jon Voight who add their own weight. To the younger generation, the German star Diane Kruger, who played Helen in the international hit Troy, is a major attraction.

The sequel to the smash hit, the three-year-old National Treasure, the new adventure has grossed $180 million in 20 days in America. It has also taken over $100 million in a few international markets in just about 10 days. With a $250 million final gross projected in North America, it will make the audiences forget Cage's previous film. The ill-fated Next barely made $60 million worldwide.

Diane Kruger Worldwide, Book of Secrets could earn more than $450 million becoming one of the biggest hits of 2007. And it could make even more money in video stores six months from now when the DVD version will be out.

The huge success of the film has already pushed Disney into preparing the third installment in the series but moviegoers may not have to wait three more years to see it. That means Cage, who could get $30 million (15 percent more than what he got for the first film), will have to postpone the production of Sadhu based on a script by Deepak Chopra and comics by his son Gotham.  

Though several critics pointed out that the new film did not offer any new startling plot twists, the audiences worldwide thought otherwise. They did not believe publications such as Hollywood Reporter that called the film 'a letdown.' The influential trade publication added: 'The Book of Secrets contains all the elements from the original film, which was a kind of Da Vince Code on steroids crossed, rather charmingly, with American History Trivial Pursuit. But that's the problem: It's virtually the same movie with new locations.'

In an industry known for the sequels grossing about two thirds of the money made by the originals, Book of Secrets is joining a handful of films that have swum against the current.

In the new film, Ben Gates (Cage) is presenting new information about Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth and the 18 pages missing from Booth's diary when a man presents a missing page of the diary. The intrepid adventurer is stunned to find Thomas Gates, Ben's great-grandfather, is mentioned in the page. Could it be true that Thomas Gates was involved in one of the most infamous murders in history?

Doing more research, Ben and his father Abigail break into Buckingham Palace, and then sneak into the White House. They know following the protocol won't take them anywhere.

Helen MirrenThey know that unless they find the missing clues, not only are they in danger but the country itself face great threats. As Ben encounters one adventure after another, he resolves to clear the family name and save his beloved country.

Die-hard critics can offer any number of reasons to damn the film. But the audiences would surely agree with the well known critic Roger Ebert, who after running down the film, concluded: 'The person who attends National Treasure: Book of Secrets expecting logic and plausibility is on a fool's mission.

'This is a Mouth Agape Movie, during which your mouth hangs open in astonishment at one preposterous event after another,' he added. 'This movie's plot doesn't play tennis without a net, but also without a ball and a racket. It spins in its own blowback. And, no, I don't know what that means, but this is the kind of movie that makes you think of writing it. '

Ebert praised the film's special effects. 'The actors had fun, I guess,' he continued. 'You might, too, if you like goofiness like this.'

Arthur J Pais