[REVIEW] National Treasure: Book of Secrets

July 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

Title: National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Type: Movie
Primary Subject: U.S. History

So wait, history is cool?! Apparently it can be! National Treasure 2 essentially follows the same pattern as the original. Historian/treasure hunter finds clues hidden in historical documents and locations to lead to an undiscovered treasure. While a “real” historian might be bothered by the rather unreal glorification of the profession I’d argue this is no different than the way most jobs are presented in media and it is, in fact, good for history teachers. I don’t care why students become interested in history, I just care that they are!

Motivational Potential:

Top-notch movie in terms of everything a kid would want. Jerry Bruckheimer produced movies always movie quickly and with high energy -this is no exception. What Pirate of the Caribbean does for pirates, this movie does for historians. If discussed properly I could see many kids coming away with a serious interest in history and archaeology.

I always present history as putting together a puzzle. This movie takes that to “Hollywood” level where everything in history is part of one puzzle or another (or all part of one big one!) With the movie as the backdrop any future discussions of history would be much more interesting to students. They could start to view facts as puzzle pieces and not just trivia pieces to be memorized and forgotten quickly after a test.

The movie is rated PG which I know is a problem for many schools. Know that this is about the least objectionable PG movie you’ll find. There’s no foul language and not even any innuendo. There are a few “romantic” scenes but none beyond a slightly passionate kiss. The violence is all threatened at worse minus some destroyed property and a car crash or 10. Guns are flashed but never used. It is far less violent than Peter Pan or even the animated version of Robin Hood.

It is, however, very long. The movie runs about 2 hours, 10 minutes which might make it hard to justify using the class time. It could be cut down to about an hour and 30 to fit into two class periods but it would take some key editing to keep the true feel of the movie.

Educational Potential: 1/5
History is referenced constantly but the subjects are always very fleeting and rarely explained. The discussion of dead languages and the importance of protecting archaeological finds could easily be used apart from the movie though.

Again, I’d argue the true educational benefit comes from the interest in history in general it will generate among students. In a U.S. history course I think it would be more than worthwhile (though one might argue the first film is better for that, I wouldn’t) but in World history, perhaps not.

This will almost certainly become my new “End of Testing” reward movie. I’d love to find a way to use it earlier in the year as I truly would like to see what inspiration it would provide to students. It would be hard to justify giving up the two class periods, however, given that I teach world history.

I hope this franchise continues as anything that can give historians a rock star quality is all right in my book.


Entry filed under: Movies.

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