National Treasure: Edge of History TV Review

Last Updated on December 14, 2022

Plot: Jess Valenzuela’s life is turned upside down when an enigmatic stranger gives her a clue to a centuries-old treasure that might be connected to her long-dead father. Jess has a knack for solving puzzles, and her skills are put to the test as she and her friends follow a series of clues hidden in American artifacts and landmarks. But can Jess outsmart a black-market antiquities dealer in a race to find history’s greatest lost treasure and unbury the truth about her family’s past?

Review: Whether you appreciate the over-the-top silliness of the National Treasure movies or have a hankering for some Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code-style puzzles, odds are you are looking forward to the new Disney+ series National Treasure: Edge of History. Picking up the mantle from the feature film duology, National Treasure: Edge of History is a tangential sequel cum reboot that moves the Nicolas Cage action franchise to the small screen with a Gen Z twist. Led by Lisette Olivera, this ten-episode series is a far cry from Benjamin Franklin Gates stealing the Declaration of Independence and suffers from a lack of Jerry Bruckheimer flair for a show that doesn’t quite have the energy or originality of the movies that inspired it but still makes a decent attempt to replicate the formula for a new audience.

National Treasure: Edge of History opens with a narrated summary of the artifacts that will be the central goal of this series: three cubes, each representing the Inca, Mayan, and Aztec Empires and which have since been lost to history thanks to centuries of colonizers and slave-drivers. The key falls into the hands of a man trying to protect it from another man whom we can assume is the villain based on his violent henchmen. This heroic man sends the pendant needed to unlock the artifacts off with his wife and infant daughter, who flee from Mexico to the United States. If you have seen any action show or mystery adventure movie before this, you will know that child grows up to be our main character, Jess Valenzuela. Played by Lisette Olivera, Jess dreams of becoming an FBI agent and gaining American citizenship to do so (she is DACA, which is driven home early and often). Jess works at a storage facility and hands out with her trio of friends in an apartment that puts the NYC flats on Friends to shame.

It becomes obvious very early in the series (four episodes were made available for this review) that Jess, despite not having any formal training, is good at solving puzzles. We know this because we see her mental processing on screen in the form of highlighted clues that make sense only to her. After seeing her solve an intricate escape room, Jess quickly deciphers hidden messages that lead her to retired FBI agent Peter Sadusky (Harvey Keitel), who begins her quest for the hidden cubes. Keitel’s presence is nothing more than a glorified cameo meant to connect this series with the movies, but it feels very forced. This entire series feels forced as Freemasons and Benjamin Gates’ actions from the movies seem common knowledge to everyone. Aside from a cameo from Justin Bartha as Riley Poole, Edge of History shares virtually no connections to the National Treasure movies, and that includes a sense of urgency and originality.

In true Disney+ fashion, this series feels like an intentional shift away from the PG movies and their rip-roaring sense of adventure in favor of something with a smaller scale. Lisette Olivera is quite good as Jess and leads her friends well. Each friend has a specific role in the group: Tasha Rivers (Zuri Reed), an aspiring influencer, is the best friend and sassy partner in crime. Ethan (Jordan Rodrigues) is the lovelorn best friend with a sense of reason. Oren (Antonio Cipriano) is the goofy and naive extra member who doesn’t catch the same references as the rest. They are joined by Liam (Jake Austin Walker), the grandson of Peter Sadusky, who has a vested interest in protecting the hidden treasure. There is obvious chemistry between Jess and Liam, but it never feels vital. Most of National Treasure: Edge of History feels like a watered-down, teen-safe take on the movies. There is nothing remotely energetic here to match Nicolas Cage’s presence in the movies, which is part of what prevents this series from working.

The villainous Billie Pearce (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a treasure hunter searching for the same thing as Jess, is nowhere near the level of diabolical a story like this needs to work. Zeta-Jones does her best to chew the scenery and seems to be having a lot of fun despite an unconvincing blonde wig and a lot of time trying to be menacing from a distance. Similar to her limited capacity on Wednesday, Zeta-Jones is close enough to the action to allow the series to benefit from her name but never enough to make this series feel like it utilizes her well. Developed and written by National Treasure screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, National Treasure: Edge of History tries to deliver some of the same goofy dialogue and charming puzzle-solving antics, but with the stakes scaled down significantly, this ends up feeling more like director Mira Nair never had a chance to elevate this material beyond a bland exercise in maintaining IP.

When it was announced, I never really had very high hopes for National Treasure: Edge of History, but the initial trailer gave me some hope that this story could benefit from a reboot on the small screen. Unfortunately, despite Jerry Bruckheimer’s name appearing as an executive producer, this National Treasure never really delivers the level of thrills that his name typically represents. With a heavy reliance on Gen Z slang and commentary tied to citizenship, DACA, and the message of the American Dream, National Treasure: Edge of History doesn’t strike the same vibe as the movies that preceded it. Had they even managed to land Nicolas Cage for a cameo, this show may have felt a little more interesting. Lisette Olivera has a future on screen, but she needed a little more of Nicolas Cage’s zeal to make this series work. The puzzles here seem far too easy, and the stakes far too low to warrant the ten-episode commitment it will take to see this story through to the end.

National Treasure: Edge of History premieres on December 14th on Disney+.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.