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The Ending Of National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets Explained

Like its predecessor, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets begins with a dramatic scene involving a famous American historical figure divulging the existence of a secret treasure to Thomas Gates (Joel Gretsch).

We first met a young Thomas in National Treasure, when he learned the secret of the Knights Templar from a dying Charles Carroll (Terrence Currier) and kicked off this whole story. This time he's not so lucky. After deciphering a code from the diary of John Wilkes Boothe (Christian Camargo), Thomas realizes that it leads to the legendary city of gold. However, he also realizes that the people who approached him with the code are Confederate sympathizers — and Booth has just assassinated President Lincoln (Glenn Beck). They shoot Thomas, who destroys the decrypted message before he dies.

Also like its predecessor, National Treasure 2 then takes a series of wild (and some may say screamingly inaccurate) twists and turns through historical clues and daring (some may say recklessly dangerous) deeds, to end up at said treasure.

However, to quote an entirely different Disney franchise, "Not all treasure's silver and gold, mate." The National Treasure movies were never just about finding material wealth (although Riley, played by Justin Bartha, isn't about to turn it down). Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is motivated by family loyalty and high-minded ideas about setting the historical record straight. Here's how the ending of National Treasure 2 neatly restores the Gates family name for a second time — and lays the groundwork for a still highly anticipated sequel.

The ending of National Treasure 2 is about justice

Before Abraham Lincoln was president, he was a lawyer (among other weird jobs), so he might appreciate National Treasure 2's arc towards justice. And while that includes Ben's quest to clear his family's name, it also involves a more selfless effort.

At the end of National Treasure, Ben's joint discovery of the treasure of the Knights Templar transformed the Gates family from gold-hunting crackpots to pioneering historians, in the minds of those who care about such things. But at the start of the sequel, the family name is besmirched again, this time by Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the great-great-grandson of one of the disgruntled Confederates. Wilkinson accuses Thomas Gates of orchestrating President Lincoln's assassination. And naturally, Ben sets out to prove that his ancestor was too busy hunting for treasure to be wrapped up in a political assassination, by finding said treasure.

By the end of National Treasure 2, Ben and his father are able to point to the city of gold to clear their ancestor's name. But Ben also seeks justice for Wilkinson, who switched from threatening to murder Ben to sacrificing himself to save Ben and his family and friends during the discovery of the city. Ben even goes so far as to tell the president (Bruce Greenwood) that Wilkinson deserves equal credit.

For Ben in National Treasure 2, justice equals the unveiling of the truth. He dedicated his life to finding the Knights Templar treasure and the city of gold because for him, the real reward was proving that his family had been right all along. The best he can do to get justice for Wilkinson is to make sure the world knows the truth about him too.

National Treasure 2 dropped a major clue about a sequel

When National Treasure was released in November 2004, it became a surprise hit. The movie topped the box office charts the weekend it was released, and stayed there for three weeks. It also became the biggest Nicolas Cage movie of all time in the U.S. Overall, it made over $330 million at movie theaters worldwide, which was just over three times its budget. Noting the movie's success, Disney did what Disney does: it made a sequel, Book of Secrets, which did even better, making over $457 million when it was released in 2007.

Fans assumed that this success meant there would be a National Treasure 3 — and Book of Secrets seemed to confirm this with its open-ended conclusion. At the end of the movie, the president asks Ben what he thought of page 47 of the Presidents' Book of Secrets that is kept in the Library of Congress. Ben says, "I believe I can help with that, Sir," adding that the contents are "life-altering."

A mysterious book that contains a "life-altering" secret that requires the very particular skill set of a treasure hunter? Surely there had to be a sequel! Unfortunately, Disney never made National Treasure 3.

However, the project hasn't been completely buried and forgotten about like, say, a lost city of gold. In March 2021, National Treasure fans got the news they've been waiting for when Disney green-lit a Disney+ series based on the movies, with a new set of characters. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer also said that he hopes a third movie could happen too — and with these stories, the possibilities are truly endless. If the ending of National Treasure 2 taught us anything, it's to never give up hope of finding your treasure, no matter what the non-believers say.