National Treasure 3 still hasn’t happened – here’s why

National Treasure 3 still hasn’t happened – here’s why

Earlier this week, the first two episodes aired National Treasure: Edge of History premiered on Disney+. The series is a clear spin-off set within the same universe as National tax films: 2004s National tax and the 2007s National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It has now been 15 years since the second film hit theaters and left audiences with a cliffhanger that strongly hinted at a third film on the way. However, after all this time, the threequel still hasn’t arrived. Although fans of the franchise are hungry for answers and further American history-based adventures helped by Nicolas CageBenjamin Gates, a third film remains nothing more than a nebulous concept, locked in development purgatory.


‘Book of Secrets’ set up a third film back in 2007

Nic Cage in

Midway National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Gates kidnaps the president of the United States (Bruce Greenwood) to access important information about the book of the same name. After the President confirms the legendary book’s existence and gives Gates clues as to where to find it, he leaves the historian with the vague advice to check out page 47. This does not come up again until the film’s finale, after Gates finds the treasure and reports back to POTUS. The president asks him if he actually looked at page 47. Gates confirms that he did, describing the information on the page as “life-changing”, much to the excitement of his fans and the confusion of Gates’ colleague, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger).

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Despite this clear hint at a follow-up film that would deliver on the promise of something “life-changing,” the concept still hasn’t materialized. However, the reasons behind the lack of a third film are almost as mysterious as the franchise’s clues themselves. After all, both National tax the films did well at the box office, and although critical responses were mixed, the films gained a significant fan following, especially among younger viewers. At the time, the franchise served almost as Disney’s more family-friendly alternative to Indiana Jones franchise.

Jon Turteltaub and Disney were ready for “National Treasure 3”

Benjamin Franklin Gates holds a flashlight

Right after The Book of Secretsrelease, the makers seemed eager to lock in a third film. The first two films’ director and producer, Jon Turteltaub stated in a 2008 interview with Sun Media that another sequel was already in the works. While he further noted that the creative team was taking their time to make sure the story was done right, he seemed confident that the wait wouldn’t be too long. Shortly after, Disney also registered the franchise’s IP domain, with a third, and perhaps even a fourth film in mind.

However, as the 2010s approached, development on the project seemed to stall. In 2013, Turteltaub said he expected a third film in production within the next couple of years. However, the following year, franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer noted that a new team was taking over the script, and in 2016, Nicolas Cage told Collider that a script was still being written and fact-checked for historical accuracy. In 2018, Turteltaub explained that finished versions of the script had been drafted, but that Disney was not yet satisfied. He particularly cited the company’s desire to make money, and its lack of faith in National tax as a franchise to make money.

Chris Bremner signed on to write the script at the worst possible time

secret national treasure book

Over a decade had passed by this point, and the situation remained precarious. Then, in early 2020, news of a third film came once again, this time naming Chris Bremner as the project’s definitive new screenwriter. Bruckheimer, who had just worked with Bremner on Bad Boys For Life, was also confirmed as continuing to produce the film. While this provided some long-awaited good news regarding National tax 3, it came at the wrong time. 2020 did not go as planned for Hollywood. Although not explicitly reported, it is very likely that the messy film schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold again. No further word on Bremner’s involvement emerged, and when a Reddit user asked Nicolas Cage if there would be a third film during an April 2022 AMA thread, he bluntly replied “No, the priority was to turn it into a TV program, so I would say probably not.”

Now it’s possible that Cage pulled one Andrew Garfield and lies outside of sworn secrecy to Disney. However, the public should not hold their breath. With everyone National tax development hiccups since 2007 (some more overtly explained than others), the prospect of a third film has become increasingly likely. When the first National tax came out, it was a different time for Disney. The Legend of Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean series proved that adventure-filled films could be appealing and successful on the big screen even when not tied to an existing franchise. Today, Disney seems to be reserving the theater for Marvel, Star Warsand Pixar releases, with Disney+ as a buffer for less financially reliable projects.

Agent Peter Sadusky and Jess in National Treasure: Edge of History
Image via Disney+

Fittingly, National Treasure: Edge of History is an exclusive Disney+ series. While the first two episodes feature appearances from the franchise veteran Harvey Keitel, reprising his role as Peter Sadusky, the show focuses primarily on a younger cast of original characters. Still, there’s still hope that more ties will emerge throughout the series, as Justin Bartha will reportedly reprise his role as Riley Poole later in the season, and recently reported that Nicolas Cage may return as Benjamin Gates in season two.

Edge of History could thus serve as a springboard to restore (or at least gauge) current interest in the franchise before committing to a third film. While the mystery of Page 47 could be revealed and solved in the Disney+ series, it would feel all the more satisfying to see it explored through a new cinematic adventure, with Cage’s Gates once again as the protagonist. This will be especially true after such a long wait, because despite potential waning interests in the franchise over the years, enough time has passed for National tax 3 may feel like an older sequel, bringing together nostalgic fans of the early 2000s films with those more recently introduced to the franchise via Disney+. All questions of fan service, marketability, and development complications aside, National Treasure still has questions to answer, and stories left to tell.

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