As an American history buff, I loved the two National Treasure films starring Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, and Diane Kruger. They came out in 2004 and 2007. For sure, don't watch them for a history lesson, but the imagination of the writers taking history as a starting point for a super fun treasure hunt, was ingenious.
Now, there's a TV show based on the concept of the films. National Treasure: Edge of History debuts on Disney+ on December 14th.
I was able to watch the first two episodes and, so far, they're just as fun as the movies. Starring Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela, the series looks south to the Incan, Mayan, and Aztec beginnings of North America. Jess's Dad, Rafael (Jacob Vargas) died when she was a baby so all she's ever known of him is what her mom (Vannessa Vasquez) has told her. And it's not very positive. Tagged as a thief, Jess knows nothing more of her Dad but still cherishes the necklace that once belonged to him which she now wears.
Jess works at a storage facility and when she's asked to pack up an unpaid unit, she discovers some amazing historical artifacts. Ima Phasma is the renter, and she explains to her boss that it means "I'm a ghost." Tasked with finding Ima's identity, she discovers the items belong to none other than retired FBI agent, Peter Sadusky (Harvey Keitel) from the films. When she goes to his home to return some of the items, she's not prepared to be handed a treasure hunt, especially from someone who sound a tad bit crazy.
Lisette Olivera and Harvey Keitel in "National Treasure: Edge of History." © 2022 Disney/Brian Roedel. All Rights Reserved.
When she pursues the information Peter gives her, in true National Treasure form, 22-year-old Jess and her group of friends, immediately run into trouble. Of course! There's always someone else looking for the treasure. In this case it's Billie (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a corrupt antiquities dealer. The group of 20-somethings learn quickly that searching for the treasure is going to take them out of their comfort zone.
What I found wonderful about the show is the ethnic diversity in the lead cast. The story has its roots in Mesoamerican history and so it is fitting that the lead is Latina. Jess's other friends are all different ethnicities. It also seems like they're just a group of friends without the burden of sexual tensions between them (although we find out that Oren (Antonio Cipriano) and Tasha (Zuri Reed) were dating but called it off), which is quite refreshing.
Zuri Reed and Lisette Olivera in "National Treasure: Edge of History." © 2022 Disney/Brian Roedel. All Rights Reserved.
One thing the original films did was to present history as something exciting and worth knowing about. It's OK to be a history geek like Jess is in this series or Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) in the film franchise. My hope is that the series stays fun and adventurous, not taking itself too seriously, remaining family friendly, and maybe just inspiring someone to delve further into the actual history that provides the basis for the show.
About the Author
Sister Hosea Rupprecht is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, a religious community dedicated to evangelization with the media. She holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto and an MA in Media Literacy from Webster University in St. Louis.
Sr. Hosea is director of the East Coast office of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, based in Staten Island, NY, and speaks on media literacy and faith to catechists, parents, youth, and young adults. Together with Father Chip Hines, she is the co-host of Searchlight, a Catholic movie review show on Catholic TV. Sr. Hosea is the author of How to Watch Movies with Kids: A Values-Based Strategy, released by Pauline Books & Media.
For the past 15 years, she has facilitated various film dialogues for both children and adults, as well as given presentations on integrating culture, faith and media.