‘The Unbearable Weight of National Treasure’: The obvious next step in Nicolas Cage’s evolution

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There’s no other actor in the business quite like Nicolas Cage, who appears to be preparing for the next step in his constantly-evolving career after finally extricating himself from the straight-to-video doldrums he occupied for a decade to try and save off financial ruin.

The star first broke through by establishing himself as one of the most fearless and daring performers in Hollywood, one who was happy to go to some seriously strange places in order to get into character. It yielded a string of excellent performances and bizarre anecdotes about the lengths he was willing to go to, but it nonetheless signalled a generational talent was in Hollywood’s midst.

The peak of that era came when he won an Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ thanks to Leaving Las Vegas, which segued neatly into his next stage. His first three movies after winning the most prestigious accolade in the game were The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. Just like that, he was an A-list superstar and action icon.

He’d then balance the best of both worlds by alternating between acclaimed projects like Bringing Out the Dead, Adaptation, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and blockbuster escapism such as Gone in 60 Seconds, National Treasure, and Ghost Rider, which unfortunately gave rise to the downturn years where seeing Cage’s name attached was virtually the opposite of a quality guarantee.

Things are looking up, though, with Mandy, Color Out of Space, Pig, and Dream Scenario winning him some of his best notices in years. And yet, as exciting as it is to see him back on top form and being weird as hell on-screen, the perfect way to encapsulate the man, the myth, and the legend that is Nicolas Cage would be with a self-aware metatextual hybrid of sequel and crossover.

For almost two decades, supporters of the National Treasure franchise have been calling out for a third instalment. Cage isn’t against the idea, but he doesn’t think it’ll happen. Still, the duology comfortably cleared $800million at the box office combined and functions perfectly well as a 21st-century Indiana Jones-lite, but that’s not where the real money is.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent saw Cage carry his baggage from decades past into a dual role as both a heightened version of himself and the eerie, dead-eyed and somewhat sinister de-aged Nicky Cage, who openly lambasted his middle-aged counterpart for not being a big star anymore. Throwing action comedy elements into the mix was an inspired move, but director Tom Gormican has an even better idea for how to follow it up.

It would require Disney’s approval, which is no easy thing to attain, but who wouldn’t want to see The Unbearable Weight of National Treasure? As Gormican explained to Screen Rant, it would take place in the real world and find the leading man of the film series get involved in a real treasure hunt with returning members of the cast, who would also be playing themselves.

“He believes that the treasure map is real and goes to Jon Voight and says, ‘Forget this. I’m talking about generational wealth. We should just find this,’” the filmmaker explained. “And they take the treasure map and find themselves basically in a National Treasure-like situation, where he has to channel his character from National Treasure in order to get himself out and save his family.”

It sounds insane, but that’s kind of the point. In a ‘have the cake and eat it, too’ kind of way, The Unbearable Weight of National Treasure would allow fans of the franchise to get that third film; it comes backed by a recognisable and marketable brand, carries the warm glow of nostalgia, embraces the meme culture inherent to Cage’s 21st-century standing, and serves as the sequel to one of his most popular releases in years.

On paper, it’s a slam dunk that this latest phase of his career has been building towards, but the downside is that the Mouse House would never sign off on it.

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