I always like it when some fellow has a kid late in life and two centuries later you wind up talking to some l’il ol’ lady whose gram’pa was in the War of 1812 — the long slender thread of a personal connection to history. That’s how National Treasure begins: it’s 1974 and Christopher Plummer is talking to his wee grandson about a tale he in turn heard as a young slip of a lad from his own grandfather, who in turn heard it from the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s about hidden treasure — but not some rinky-dink nouveau-riche arriviste 18th-century treasure. No, this goes way back: men have fought over it for generations — and, just to prove it, while Christopher Plummer’s yakking on, director Jon Turteltaub cuts to some Roman guys in leather skirts warring over unspecified artefacts. It goes way back before that, of course, but wisely Turteltaub decided not to show Ug the Caveman trying to swipe it out from under the triceratops next door. The Knights Templar found it, and brought it to Europe and, after they’d evolved into the Freemasons, they decided it was too much for any one king and so brought it to America.
Any conspiracy-minded Internet wallah will already be enjoying a delicious frisson just from the Knights Templar and Freemason namechecks. My neighbour gets up at four every morning and spends the first 90 minutes of his day on his computer accumulating yet more proof that the Knights Templar were an embryo secret world government that led directly to the Freemasons and thence to the Trilateral Commission and the Carlyle Group. In a further twist, he ‘uncovered’ ‘evidence’ last year that the real heirs to the inner circle of Knights Templar are the board of Hollinger International (the Speccie’s former owners).