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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for National Treasure can be found here.
When Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) was a young boy, his grandpa, John Adams Gates (Christopher Plummer), told him how, in 1832, Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, entrusted his stable boy, Ben's great great grandfather Thomas Gates, with the first in a series of clues that supposedly led to a vast treasure amassed by the Knights Templar. Although Ben's own father, Patrick Gates (Jon Voight), does not believe in the legend, Ben swore to take upon himself the duty of the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and the family Gates and has spent his entire life trying to figure out the meaning of the clue: The secret lies with Charlotte. Finally, as an adult, Ben has found Charlotte and begins on his quest for the treasure.
National Treasure is a Disney Production that was co-written by numerous screenwriters, including Jim Kouf, Marianne and Cormac Wibberley, Oren Aviv, Charles Segars, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio. A sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, followed in 2007. National Treasure 3 is currently in development with no release date known.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence, some of whom were also members of the Freemasons, a reformation of the Knights Templar, hid the treasure during the American Revolution [1775-1783] to keep the British from getting their hands on it.
Charlotte turns out to be The Charlotte, a sunken vessel in the Arctic Circle. Inside The Charlotte, Ben finds a meerschaum pipe bearing the second clue: The legend writ, the stain effected, the key in Silence undetected. Fifty-five in iron pen, Mr. Matlack can't offend.
Ben deciphers the second clue to mean that the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence hid the message invisibly on the back of the document. Ben must now inspect the Declaration, one of the most important historical documents in the United States. At the same time, Ben's ex-colleague, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), has decided to steal the document and find the treasure for himself.
Part of the experience in watching this movie is to try for oneself to decipher the clues and guess where they might lead, so posting that information would be a disservice. Suffice to say that the third clue presents an Ottendorf cipher that, translated, reads: The vision to see the treasured past comes as the timely shadow crosses in front of the house of Pass and Stow. The fourth clue is a pair of 3D spectacles. The fifth clue reads: Heere at the wall. The sixth clue revealed is Beneath Parkington Lane. Those schooled in American history might be able to figure out the clues for themselves.
An Ottendorf cipher consists of three codes, i.e., 2-4-6, that corresponds to a random book or newspaper article. The first number corresponds to the page, the second number to the line on the page, and the third number to the letter/word in that line.
Status quo refers to the way things are going at the present time, that is, the current status of things. If something changes, e.g., the power shifts, then the status quo also changes.
After escaping from the treasure room, Ben contacts FBI agent Peter Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) to return the Declaration. As they are attempting to work out a compromise, Ben sees from Sadusky's ring that he is a Freemason. They agree to give the treasure to "the people" in return for Abigail having no repercussions on her record, Riley being credited for the find, and Ben not having to go to prison. "Someone has to go to prison," Sadusky says, so Ben leads them to Boston where Ian is attempting to break into the Old North Church. Ian is arrested on charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, and trespassing on government property. In the final scene, Ben, Abigail, and Riley stroll in the garden of their estate purchased with the finders fee that they received after turning over the Declaration and the treasure.
Some movies that also involve jumping through various hoops to find a valuable treasure include (1) The Maltese Falcon (1941), in which a detective searches for a priceless statue, (2) The First Great Train Robbery (1979), in which master criminals attempt to steal a gold shipment from a moving train, (3) Entrapment (1999), in which two thieves plot to steal 8 billion dollars at the stroke of the 2000 millennium change, (4) The Da Vinci Code (2006), in which a symbologist Robert Langdon tries to unravel a chain of cryptic codes that could change the face of religious history, and (5) Angels & Demons (2009), in which Robert Langdon follows a series of clues to find a destructive weapon that could level the Vatican. Also of note are any of the Indiana Jones movies, i.e., Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), all of which center around Indy's search for various ancient artifacts.
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