15 years after National Treasure: Book of Secrets, audiences are back on the hunt. National Treasure and Book of Secrets are rare gems from Disney’s 2000s era, so it made sense during this age of reboots and revivals to revisit this franchise. However, after viewing episodes 1 and 2 of National Treasure: Edge of History, I realized there are some treasures that are better left undiscovered.
I dove into Edge of History optimistic and eager for a new mystery, but by the time the credits rolled at the end of the second episode, I found myself wishing I could get my night back. I understand that all new shows need time to find their footing, but none of the sparkle that made the films so endearing made it into this series.
Taking the lead role from Nicolas Cage is newcomer Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzeula. Jess is a DREAMer who longs to work in the FBI’s codebreaking department. Her skills of observation match Psych’s Shawn Spencer, but that ends up being her only likable trait. She hems and haws about staying on the right side of the law yet breaks into a house in the next scene. Worse still, when she gets a puzzle to solve, instead of using clues and history to crack the code, she makes a completely random guess and runs with it, just happening to choose correctly. Olivera brings a sincerity and seriousness to the role that makes her believable, however her character lacks the vibrancy that played such a central role in the films and made Benjamin Gates a commanding lead.
Catherine Zeta-Jones’s Billie Pearce, the show’s antagonist, was another character I was looking forward to; however, her introduction left much to be desired. Zeta-Jones’s accent goes in and out, and her platinum blonde wig pulls attention away from some of the best dialogue in the show. Instead of being a menacing villain, she evokes Nicole Kidman at AMC Theatres.
The only thing that ties Edge of History to its predecessors so far is Harvey Keitel’s Peter Sadusky, and his screentime is minimal to say the least. No, this series didn’t and shouldn’t need to name-drop Benjamin Gates to hold our interest, but if you’re going to take existing IP and branch off from it with little references to the original, the new characters should be intriguing, not stereotypes and parodies of diversity in today’s younger generation.
Another key difference from the films is the treasure at the heart of the series. The treasure in question is now Mesoamerican in nature, with seemingly no ties to the United States. Given this change and the barely present tie-ins to the movies, it feels as though the series is only titled National Treasure in order to attract viewership from fans of the films to an otherwise uninspired show.
Given how the films bounced around America to find clues, I assume that future episodes will see the main cast venturing to Central America in search of answers. I can only hope that this change in scenery breathes life into this lackluster mystery.
The first two episodes of National Treasure: Edge of History are available to stream on Disney+ starting Wednesday, December 14th.