Disney has had an excellent recent track record of revisiting some of their former properties and following them up with new Disney + based series. Current hits like Willow, Mighty Ducks, a plethora of Star Wars-related content, and The Santa Clauses have all found varying degrees of success, but that streak is about to come to a screeching halt. Lifeless, dull, and uninspired, National Treasure: Edge of History does its lead no favors with a terribly derivative script and water-downed take on the original films.
Brilliant but undocumented citizen (they bring it up EVERY episode) Jess Valenzuela (Lisette Olivera) has a mind built for problem-solving and puzzle-breaking. She wants to be a cryptologist for the FBI despite her status mentioned above. She’s roommates with YouTuber/would-be influencer Tasha (Zuri Reed) and her incredibly dense boyfriend Oren (Antonio Cipriano). Together, the trio becomes embroiled in a mystery after Jess’ storage facility job tasks her with tracking down a delinquent account owner. Her investigation leads her to Peter Sandusky (Harvey Keitel reprising his role from the previous films), but Sandusky sees a kindred spirit and sets into motion events that will impact her life greatly. With overprotective friend Ethan (Jordan Rodrigues) and the grandson of Sandusky, Liam (Jake Austin Walker) also joining the fray, the group sets out to unravel a decades-long mystery before the villainous Billie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) can succeed in doing the same.
Right off the bat, the biggest thing missing here is the undeniable energy that comes from having a Nic Cage in your production as similar filming styles and series tropes come off flat right out of the gate without that Cage charm imbuing them. Everything that has been carried over from the previous films style-wise just feels tired and labored here, the last film is 15 years old and the way the material is handled makes it feel even older. The first episode is directed by the incomparable Mira Nair in what had to be both hands bound behind her back and forcibly tied to a chair as it looks nothing like her traditional aesthetic. I have seen the first 4 episodes altogether, and while I will focus mainly on the events of the first 2 episodes which are public now, I can assure you the series does not get better.
The biggest issue here is the group that surrounds Olivera’s Jess, her de facto Scooby Gang if you will, and the utter unlikability of some of them. Olivera herself is actually fairly good here as the lead, she does have the chops to lead a project, but this one sadly isn’t written well enough for her to rise above a Hispanic stereotype. Her solo interactions with Reed’s Tasha are fine enough too, but how being a YouTuber suddenly makes her a master hacker who can breach ultra-secure security systems in a blink of an eye I don’t have a clue. It’s a blindingly stupid jump in logic for the sake of making the story easier to tell that never sits well.
Add in the completely ridiculous Oren, who can’t remember the most menial of tasks yet can spout out historical facts and figures randomly, precisely as the plot requires them. Plus Cipriano’s performance as Oren is just hard to watch, grating and annoying throughout. Overprotective Ethan has to remind us at least twice an episode that ‘Jess can’t be in trouble or she’ll lose her DACA status’, while Walker’s Liam is such a color-by-numbers bad boy’ it will surprise me if people will remember who he is half the time.
The actor that should be having the most fun here, going full camp and chewing scenery everywhere she goes, is certainly Zeta-Jones. But sadly we get none of that as she too is buried under the sheer mediocrity of the series writing and quite frankly looks bored to hell. Even her henchpeople, who are Boris and Natasha cartoonishly drawn, are just flat on the screen and hold no threat. We already know thanks to reports about the series that Justin Bartha will return as Riley Poole from the original series, but Dianne Kruger and Nicolas Cage will be awol. It remains to be seen if Bartha can help elevate this drivel when he eventually does arrive, but the odds are very much against him with this start.
National Treasure: Edge of History feels somewhat determined to ruin the special chemistry that allowed the kooky and overly campy original series of films to work exceedingly well. It’s almost like producer Jerry Bruckheimer has completely forgotten the original films altogether before getting attached to this. I certainly hope he goes back and watches the 2 films before the scheduled third film with Cage, and simultaneously washes out the bad taste that this series is likely to leave behind.
- Release Date: 12/14/2022