by Christopher Hodapp
For over a year now, Disney has been floating the story that they are really and truly finally at work on a sequel to the 2004 box office blockbuster, National Treasure. In fact, the first announcement came within days of reports that Sony Pictures is developing Dan Brown's Masonic-themed novel, The Lost Symbol, into a pilot film in hopes of it becoming an ongoing TV series.
Yesterday, Disney confirmed that super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is not only preparing a third National Treasure movie with the original cast that follows the intrepid Gates family, but also a completely different story line starring an all-new cast as a continuing TV series for the Disney+ streaming service.
Disney+ has given a 10-episode series order to a National Treasure TV series that will be exclusive to the streamer. The series will act as a reimagining of the franchise with a twenty-year-old Latina character named Jess Morales at the center of the story. Jess and her friends will set off on an adventure to uncover her mysterious family history and recover lost treasure, following in the footsteps of Nic Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates.
Original National Treasure producer Jerry Bruckheimer is working on the new series, along with original writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley. Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe) will be directing the new series.
This TV series will bring the National Treasure franchise to a new generation, but it isn't the only project in the works from the property. There is still a third National Treasure movie in the works. Writer Chris Bremner was brought on to pen the script early last year.
“We’re certainly working on one [National Treasure] for streaming and we’re working on one for the big screen," Bruckheimer explained to Collider during an interview in 2020. "Hopefully, they’ll both come together and we’ll bring you another National Treasure, but they’re both very active….The one for Disney+ is a much younger cast. It’s the same concept but a young cast. The one for theatrical would be the same cast.”
The Deadline website has a few more added details about the TV series:
The project, from the films’ producer Jerry Bruckheimer and original writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley, is a reimagining of the National Treasure franchise. Written by the Wibberleys and to be directed by Mira Nair (Vanity Fair), the series explores the timely issues of identity, community, historical authorship and patriotism, told from the point of view of Jess Morales, a twenty-year-old DREAMer who, with her diverse group of friends, sets off on the adventure of a lifetime to uncover her mysterious family history and recover lost treasure.
Reimagining? Timely issues? Identity? DREAMer? This promises to be a barren source of amusement. This synopsis reads like it was created by an automated woke computer program specifically to appeal to the wokiary and strictly adhere to the dogma of wokishmentarianism. That's usually a pretty good indicator that we can look forward to being lectured to instead of entertained.
Call me crazy, but something tells me it just won't have the magical combination of elements that made the original film the surprise hit of 2004, and its 2007 sequel even more popular. Part of the success behind the two National Treasure movies was their apolitical treatment of American history and current politics. Both films presumed that audiences pretty uniformly admired the Founders, and shared at least a common enough knowledge of American history to enjoy the movies. Cage's character of Benjamin Franklin Gates was a man in love with, and obsessed by (and, incidentally, named after) the figures of the nation's past, and the movies deliberately steered clear of attempting to take political sides, fire off deliberately polarizing pot shots, or drag contemporary issues into what was simple swashbuckling, escapist entertainment. Sadly, this proposed story line has all the crowd-pleasing potential of the all-girl remake of Ghostbusters.
Anyhow, it goes on:
Jess Morales is taking the torch from Benjamin Gates, the National Treasure films’ protagonist played by Nicolas Cage.
The Wibberleys executive produce with Jerry Bruckheimer Television. ABC Signature is the studio.
Senior-level writers are expected to join the Wibberleys, whose TV credits include LA’s Finest. They have worked with Bruckheimer on several movies, including the first two National Treasure films and G-Force.
The development of the National Treasure series has been on parallel tracks with the long gestating trequel to Jon Turtletaub‘s movie franchise starring Cage, which brought in Chris Bremner as writer in January 2020.
At least the feature film sounds more like it's following in the footsteps of the two prior movies. But Bruckheimer and crew need to get in gear – it's been sixteen and a half years since Nic Cage found the Templar treasure hidden by the Founding Freemasons, and none of the actors, Bruckheimer or director Jon Turtletaub are getting any younger.
Meanwhile, as reported earlier this month, The Lost Symbol pilot has been snapped up by NBC's streaming service, Peacock. It will be the basis for a new, ongoing TV series called Langdon, about Brown's tweedy professor protagonist, Robert Langdon, fresh out of Harvard, and hunting historical, fine art clues and solving mysteries.
In 2004, National Treasure cashed in on the Dan Brown mania swirling around his hotly anticipated Da Vinci Code sequel, and I've long suspected that the hugely popular Nic Cage movie hijacked some of Brown's story points. The release of The Lost Symbol ultimately didn't happen until 2009. It's sort of funny that these two streaming TV projects have once again managed to be in a race with each other all over again. We at least know that Masons are central to the Langdon story line. Apart from an oblique reference to Albert Pike in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, only the first NT movie revolved around Masonic clues and story points. We'll have to wait and see if we make it into the threequel.