National Treasure: Edge of History
When Disney launched National Treasure in 2004, America was riding high on the euphoria of post-9/11 patriotism. George W. Bush had just been reelected, and some people were gung-ho about defending the union and kicking terrorist butt. Three years later, National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit the multiplexes in the wake of Dubya’s dirty war and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but the sequel still made bank (despite similar reviews that greeted the first movie). Whatever the political winds, a franchise was born – one that includes one fancy prequel after another. Fifteen years later, have times changed?Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Yes and no. Disney+ expands the National Treasure universe to train a younger generation to be codebreakers and “treasure protectors,” but its look and politics are different. Chatty alpha nerd Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is nowhere to be seen—though his exploits have made him a semi-household name. Our protagonist for this YA-skewing, modestly scaled 10-part spinoff is twentysomething Jess Valenzuela (Lisette Oliveira), a DACA recipient whose Mexican-born mother died a year ago. Jess’ mother, we learn in the pilot’s backstory (stylishly directed by Mira Nair), is forced to flee Mexico after her husband double-crosses criminal fortune hunter Rafael Salazar and steals an Aztec relic that holds the key to discovering Montezuma’s buried treasure and drops a unique . Baby Jess Pendant Necklace…Contact Us
National Treasure: Edge of History: Got a little lost at the end there? No worries: Jess and her friends will repeat the details several times, as will another treasure bandit—ice-cold crypto queen Billie Pierce (a blonde-bobbed Catherine Zeta-Jones)—who recognizes Jess as a formidable opponent in her search for hidden Aztec treasure.
People familiar with the original film, note: Co-creator couple Cormac and Marian Wibberley spoke less about the Freemason Founding Fathers on the edge of history, thoughts on colonialism, and women’s resistance to the Spanish conquistadors.
Jess, wasting her prodigious puzzle-busting skills in a mini-storage facility, lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with Gen. Z’s pals Tasha (Juri Reed), Oren (Antonio Cipriano), and Ethan (Jordan Rodriguez). Jess is a smart, hard worker who can’t risk her visionary status; The rest are vaguely sketched as feisty (Tasha), dopey (Oren), and angsty (Ethan).
National Treasure: Edge of History: Life is all weekend escape rooms and friends-turned-lovers tropes until one day when Jess visits an abandoned storage unit at work. The account’s name is Latin for “I am a ghost,” which immediately catches the attention of our puzzle-focused protagonist. Beneath the cobwebs, Jess discovers a veteran’s folded grave flag, a silver hammer, a framed Eye of Providence, and other Masonic torches, all of which lead him to Harvey Keitel.
The veteran character actor reprised his role as FBI agent and closet Freemason Peter Sadusky, retired and suffering from dementia in his final years (so we’re told). One look at Jess’s sunburst necklace and Sadusky knows its fate – or an absurdly improbable, complex conspiracy – that she’s come to him. Keitel rasps said “entire civilization of the lost history that the necklace represents an ancient oath”. If only your father had that necklace. He used to protect the wealth. And also you should do it.
Thanks to Jess’s (missing) father, the Freemasons find evidence that centuries ago an underground network of indigenous women hid Montezuma’s treasure from the rapacious Spaniards. The women divided the sources of its location into three remains – one each for the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs. Something tells me by the end of the season, filming locations will stretch past the Louisiana state line.
This being a Disney+ product, the youthful exuberance can grate on the nerves. Jess and Tasha prepare to visit Sadusky’s rock-musician grandson (Jake Austin Walker) at a bar where he plays guitar. “This Liam guy is hot, and needs a girl,” Tasha plays matchmaker.
After initial reluctance, Liam—his treasure—is on this treasure,” thinks Liam Moodley. “Some people think he’s a failure. But maybe I should finish what he started. That’s why you do it, right? To finish what your father started Like movies, a parent-child bond provides an emotional partnership. Liam and Jess don’t want to end up like their father – obsessed with clues, maps, and treasure – yet they can’t resist the romance of world-class mystery-solving. Still, the burn is slow; You can think as much about Jess finding romance with Liam as Aztec Booty in episode four.
Sweetly dignified with a hint of humor, Oliveira is an appealing lead, even if you want him to produce some of the eccentric jerks that helped Nic Cage pull off the seminal films. Cage appeared as a fully formed protagonist in the franchise; Edge of History tracks his successor’s education (the film star may guest in the second season). Riley Poole, Gates’ tech-savvy, often one-step-behind sidekick, makes a cameo in the fourth episode of Justin Bartha. He provides some relief from the young cast’s Scooby Doo dynamic glibness. So does Zeta-Jones, who seems to be enjoying her day off since Wednesday. Despite his current, frozen-brow wax, the seasoned performer squeezes the juice out of a glam, jet-set baddie who spits out his threats and quotes Nelson Mandela over whiskey.
Compared to the mega-popular, F/X-laden MCU and Star Wars IP that Disney is heavily recycling, the National Treasure universe is downright domestic in scale. Its target audience is very specific (and apparently large): history buffs who also like intrigue and antiquities that click and scroll when you get the right combination. In our present moment — after we’ve survived a president who would eagerly tear down the Lincoln Memorial in search of ingots — the blurring of history and myth can be beautiful on TV, even if it gives a nightmare in the real world.