Disney+'s National Treasure spin-off series, National Treasure: Edge of History, seems poised to expand the franchise, but the show's first wave of reviews may have derailed this plan.
The original National Treasure from 2004 followed Nicolas Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates' search for the Templar Treasure while trying to fight mercenaries. The first movie became a box office hit that led to a sequel being greenlit, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
Although plans for a threequel haven't come to fruition (yet), Disney+ is giving the franchise a new life through National Treasure: Edge of History. The spin-off show follows Lisette Olivera's Jess Morales, a lead character who discovers her family's ties to major historical events and a lost treasure.
Now, as fans prepare for its Disney+ premiere, a discouraging update has emerged.
National Treasure Spin-Off: What Critics Are Saying
The first wave of reviews for Disney+'s National Treasure: Edge of History has been released, with the general consensus being that the show falls flat, suffers from poor writing, is boring, and is described as childish that has a 'Disney Channel'- like tone.
Slash Film's Jeremy Mathai shared that the first two episodes of the series "struggle mightily" to stand out from its big-screen predecessors while also sharing that "once-entertaining tropes" from treasure-hunting movies such as secret compartments and hidden rooms "fall entirely flat" on this one:
"Two episodes in, “Edge of History” struggles mightily to define itself apart from the manic, go-for-broke tone of its big-screen predecessors. Like a well-worn rerun that has since lost any charm that it used to have, it doesn’t take long for once-entertaining tropes — secret compartments and hidden rooms behind bookshelves, clues hidden in plain sight, and bad guys with unlimited resources itching to cause trouble for vague reasons — to fall entirely flat."
While Roger Ebert's Brian Tallerico praised Lisette Olivera's "charming" performance, Edge of History's "shallow writing" made all the "puzzle-solving boring:"
"The Jon Turteltaub films weren’t exactly Michael Bay, but they had a momentum that’s just lacking in this talky, bland riff on the idea of historical mysteries. There’s a charming lead who tries to hold it together, but she’s a victim of shallow writing that somehow finds a way to make puzzle-solving boring."
CGM's Clement Goh pointed out that the show's "Disney Channel touch is more alive than ever" in Edge of History:
"Unfortunately, much of Jess’ story arc falls flat with some of TV’s cheesiest lines and robotic delivery between characters. The first two episodes occasionally bring out some references and charm from campy characters. But the live-action Disney Channel touch is more alive than ever in the worst ways."
Collider's Maggie Boccella noted that Edge of History's slow pace "does little to endear [fans] to [the cast]" while also saying that the charm that the National Treasure movies have was lost when a good chunk of subplots are "piled" on top of the kids that are leading the series:
"From the get-go, it’s difficult to root yourself into the story of Jess and her friends — a group of plucky twenty-somethings all living in an apartment they definitely couldn’t afford in the real world. The pace is slow and does little to endear us to anyone, even Jess, and the charm that made National Treasure endlessly quotable (at least to me) is lost when a number of other characters and subplots are piled on top of the kids who are already struggling to bear the weight of leading the show. (Like, do we really need another sympathetic FBI agent this time around?)"
AV Club's David Cote used the cheesy lines of the show as an example of how boring and cliche Edge of History is:
"This being a Disney+ product, the breezy youth vibe can grate on the nerves. Jess and Tasha prepare to approach Sadusky’s rock-musician grandson (Jake Austin Walker) at a bar where he strums a guitar. “This Liam guy is hot, and a girl’s got needs,” Tasha prattles away, playing matchmaker. “You’re doing Mr. Tattoo Singing Six-Pack a solid."
Still, Cote praised the "parent-child bond" of the series as it "supplies the emotional stakes," but the "burn is slow" for Liam and Jess' romance:
"As in the movies, a parent-child bond supplies the emotional stakes. Liam and Jess don’t want to end up like their fathers—obsessed with clues, maps, and treasures—yet they can’t resist the romance of solving world-class mysteries. Still, the burn is slow; by the fourth episode you may care as much about Jess finding romance with Liam as Aztec booty."
Despite the negative reviews, there are still positive reactions to Edge of History.
Mo from Streamr praised Edge of History's references to the National Treasure movies, its connection to US history, and its perfect use of its young cast "to create an engaging, thrilling, and tense series:"
"Wow. NATIONAL TREASURE: EDGE OF HISTORY should NOT work. The dialogue is not great, the special effects are network-level, and there are some choice soundtrack elements every time Catherine Zeta Jones’s character appears, but wow. It just slaps!! There’s a certain level of wonder you feel when you watch this show, reminding you of a classic adventure story just like the original films. And this is VERY much set in that universe, trust. The series revamps the idea of history, US history and makes good use of its young cast to create an engaging, thrilling and tense series that - and this is the best part - LETS YOU SOLVE THE PUZZLES WITH THE CHARACTERS!"
Streamr's Josh Martin Jones explained why Edge of History "should definitely be" on fans' radar:
"NATIONAL TREASURE: EDGE OF HISTORY should definitely be on people’s radar. The mature young adult themes paired with the treasure-hunting makes for an incredibly fun and exciting watch Lisette Alexis and Catherine Zeta-Jones were the highlights. Superb!"
Will Edge of History Recover from Bad Reviews?
The latest reviews for Edge of History may be troubling for some fans, considering that this could've been the worthy successor to the National Treasure movies. However, the show still has time to recover, as not all episodes were sent to the press.
The future installments may improve the series' overall outlook, but unfortunately, the first impression from these critics would potentially dampen the audience's interest.
Despite that, potential references to Nicolas Cage's National Treasure hero combined with the confirmation that an idea for a Season 2 is already in the cards could spark more interest while also hinting that it could be improved.
Although Cage isn't confirmed to appear in the series, fans are still excited if there are possible teases about his future involvement, with showrunner Cormac Wibberley already hinting that such an appearance from Benjamin Gates "would be like Tony Stark gets to visit Peter Parker:"
“[It would be like] Tony Stark gets to visit Peter Parker. That's basically how we saw the relationship if Ben Gates ever showed up. She's basically Peter Parker to him and would be like, 'Oh my God, it's Ben Gates! What do I do?' That's how our universe is. We would love to bring any of the other veterans if we get another season. We have roles for all of them."
Still, Cage's appearance acting as a saving grace for a show with disappointing early reviews is not the best route to go. Hopefully, Disney+ took notice of these reactions so that the executives can try to find the right balance of showcasing a show that is a worthy successor to its predecessor.
National Treasure: Edge of History's first episode premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday, December 14.