The Da Vinci Code Reviews
You'd like to think that Ron Howard, one of the most successful and populist directors around, wouldn't fall into this trap. He is, after all, the man who produced a cracking drama in Apollo 13 despite sticking rigidly to the in-flight transcripts of the Apollo crew. Having turned his talents to subjects as varied as mermaids, firemen and mathematics, you wouldn't bet against him being a dab hand at the theological thriller. But whatever the appeal of its source material, The Da Vinci Code is a total clunker.
Like so many of its predecessors, any discussion of The Da Vinci Code has to begin with a dismissal of the religious hysteria surrounding it. It's certainly not the first film that's drawn the ire of the Catholic Church, and based upon said church's ridiculous response, it won't be the last. We are dealing with an organisation which stationed nuns outside screenings of The Exorcist in America, sprinkling paying punters with holy water as they went in and giving them support numbers to call on their way out.
By calling for a boycott of the film, the Catholic Church (or individuals and elements therein) played completely into the hands of both the filmmakers and the church's critics. Such a gesture, on whatever grounds, serves to paint Christians as thin-skinned sheep, seeking to shut down a debate which they should be having and encouraging. The smart thing that any Christian should have done then, and should do now, is to give the film a fair run, if only so it can prove how ridiculous it is, and then use it to start a dialogue that potentially could open up the Gospel to people for real.
The claims of Dan Brown's book have been comprehensively dispelled by numerous authors and documentary filmmakers, with even sections of the church pointing out inconsistences and misappropriations in his work. There is no evidence at all that Jesus had a physical bloodline, or for a physical relationship with Mary Magdalene, or for the existence of a Holy Grail, whether physical or conceptual. But even if any one or more of these were true, to worry obsessively over them is to miss the point, focussing on superficial matters rather than the deeper truth of Christianity.
Of course, from a filmmaking point of view, it doesn't matter in the slightest that Brown's ideas are fanciful beyond belief. Many films have used bizarre, apocryphal or just downright silly aspects of religion to tell a gripping story and often illuminate a deeper truth. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has very little basis in historical fact, but it's still a powerful statement about faith and the dangers of placing material gain before spiritual fulfillment. Likewise, The Last Temptation of Christ speculated on Jesus having sexual relationships, but it used this provocative idea to explore temptation, desire and the burden the Messiah faced during his time on Earth.
The most illuminating comparison here, however, is with The Ninth Gate, Roman Polanski's preposterous late-1990s thriller about a gateway to demonic power contained in books. While its initial premise was promising and its first ten minutes forbidding, the film quickly descended into a quagmire of plot holes and poor special effects, culminating in a totally botched ending. But while The Ninth Gate sees Polanski showing contempt for both his audience and the material, The Da Vinci Code commits the far lesser sin of well-meaning incompetence.
The first and biggest problem with The Da Vinci Code is that it treats its audience like idiots. Every single detail of the plot is spoon-fed to us as if we are incapable of joining the dots ourselves. While there is a lot of terminology to deal with, and therefore some exposition can be justified, having actors do nothing but explain the plot does not make for compelling drama. The screenplay comes from Akiva Goldsman, who did a good job on A Beautiful Mind but also wrote Batman and Robin.
A related problem is that the film takes itself far too seriously. Any theological thriller worth its salt has to acknowledge the suspension of disbelief needed to accept its ideas, or at least must offer something on a structural level to keep our attention if we can't. But while Last Crusade could be enjoyed as both a big adventure and a moral insight, The Da Vinci Code demands that you take it seriously and comes out all the more po-faced and boring as a result.
Brown did the production no favours in this regard, claiming that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals are accurate." Had the film taken the approach of its stars, positioning itself as a good story containing a lot of nonsense, that would have been much more appealing. Instead, the expository tone and grave delivery of the actors robs us of any thrills and reduces the whole thing down to a drudging lecture.
This drudgery is reflected in the visuals. Salvatore Totino is a workable cinematographer: he worked with Howard on The Missing and Cinderella Man prior to this, as well as shooting Any Given Sunday with Oliver Stone. But whatever sharpness and brightness he brought to those productions has been replaced here with dimly light, poorly-composed scenes where the actors and camera barely move. It's no wonder that Mark Kermode's natural response was to scream "turn the light on!" when reviewing the film on BBC Radio 5Live.
The one genuinely enjoyable scene in the film comes when Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou drop by the house of a grail expert, played by Ian McKellen. This is the one part of the film where Howard allows his actors to unspool freely and relax into the sillier aspects of the plot. While the arguments being put before us are still complete hokum, it's watchable hokum and it actually feels like the plot is going somewhere. But once that scene is over, it's back to the pompous and ill-informed conspiracies for what feels like another seven year.
The performances in The Da Vinci Code are bafflingly below-par. Even if Hanks' terrible haircut can be tolerated, he still spends most of the film stumbling from scene to scene totally confused, like it was his very first film. Tautou has none of the grace or joie de vivre that she showed in Amelie, coming across as annoying and out of her depth. Paul Bettany is wasted in a role that becomes meaningless when played dead straight, and Alfred Molina is largely phoning it in. Only Ian McKellen gets the room he needs to express himself, and we miss him whenever he's not on screen.
The Da Vinci Code is a dismal and disappointing thriller that is more insulting for its poor scripting than its theological pretentions. Howard's direction is utterly lacklustre, most of the cast seem puzzled as to why they are there, the script has very little nuance and the whole thing is far too grim and serious. If you want a serious examination of Christian theology, this is definitely not the place to come. The only thing this film can produce is boredom or unintentional hilarity.
Robert Langdon is a symbology professor who gets called into a criminal investigation that gets him wrongfully implicated. On the way to figuring things out for himself, he begins a quest to discover the truth about the Holy Grail, the details having some very shocking revelations.
I really liked the book. It's a standard thriller sure, but it's so well written and thought provoking. In the end, you need to just put personal beliefs aside (same here) and just accept it as riveting and entertaing fiction. Even though it is just fiction, the details of the truth behind the Holy Grail are so well argued that Dan Brown's ideas actually do seem like a realistic and plausible scenario.
With this adaptation, it seems a little stiff, and more overly serious than the book, but it's mostly faithful, for the most. Some details had to be changed for time concerns, others for content, but the end result here could be far worse. I enjoyed this a fair amount when I first saw it, but in revisiting it, some of that has worn off, and the film's not as good as I initially thought, but it's hardly a failure. It's just not as gripping and suspenseful as the book.
The film is really well cast though, and their performances are better than average, especially those by Bettany and McKellan. The location shooting is good, the direction is fair, and having Howard as director ensures that the film has some decent clout and production values.
All in all, it's okay.
"Break The Code"
I've tried to watch this movie on many occasions, but have never successfully made it through to the end; until today. The movie never made me want to finish it, but today I made an effort with it and was more then disappointed with the entire film. First off, there's going to be big expectations, when Ron Howard is directing and when Tom Hanks is acting. Then they throw in a pretty talented supporting cast with the likes of Paul Bettany and Ian McKellan. It should be great, but it isn't. It's weird, too, because I actually like Angels & Demons. But when it comes to the first in the Dan Brown, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks series; I hate it.
It's not nearly as entertaining as it should be, unlike the second which I find very entertaining. The acting isn't very good. It seems like they are joking around with each other with the horrible dialogue, yet the cast is totally serious. Its length kills it too. Length is something that doesn't bother me, if the movie is entertaining and completely engaging, which this isn't. A good 20 minute trimming would have been nice.
I wish I wouldn't have watched the entire movie now. I wish I would have just left it at the short glimpses I had of it before hand. Then at least I wouldn't have known what I total disaster it was.
Dan Brown's book, 'The Da Vinci Code' was a huge success and blasted its way to top all bestseller charts. I was part of the hype, as I read the illustrated edition. I like pictures (said with a Ralph Wiggum voice). I have to admit that I enjoyed it a lot, as the atheist that I am. It was just a matter of time before an adaptation would be made, But since it is one of the most controversial and successful books ever made, the filmmakers have not taken any risks with the adaptation. The film follows the book almost word by word. But which one is better?
I'm sure that most of you know, even though you haven't read the book, what the fuzz is about. But in short, here it is: Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a world famous symbologist, is called to assist the French police on a murder that happened in the Louvre. Suddenly he finds himself as the key suspect. Together with Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), an investigator of the police and relative to the murdered curator Jacques Saunière, they start to solve the mystery that Saunière left behind him on his dead body. The Catholic church is also after them, as the biggest secret of theirs is on risk to be solved.
From the beginning of the film to its end, 'The Da Vinci Code' is a continuing search for climaxes and a snarl of historical/religious references. The main problem is that the clues and mysteries that come in front of the two leads are either so obvious that they have to embark in dull conversations which last forever or so difficult that megamind Langdon solves them in a second.
The script and storyline is in my opinion too uneven. The film lasts nearly 3 hours but the book took me almost a week. Everything in the film develops too fast. But I guess it would be hard to film a thinking Langdon with his own inner monologues so the choice to make the film a more adventorous one, has probably been the easier choice to make.
Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou have like zero spark between them two. I like 'em both but it just feels as if Hanks is not in his game and Tautou is too cute for her role. She's just not fit for thriller/action scenes. But Sir Ian McKellen lightens the otherwise dull performances. His character is full of enthusiasm and exuberance (hard word, had to use the dictionary to find out the word in english!) so he brings some needed energy to the cast. Paul Bettany, as the albino monk Silas, is one freaky character. Enjoyed his adaptation of the books character.
'The Da Vinci Code' is a long movie but it never feels dull. The pacing is good, a bit too fast actually. There's no time to catch a breath as the gang goes from Paris to London on their search for the Holy Grail. Everything just feels a bit too easy for Langdon.
The book is pompous for starters but so is Ron Howard's movie too. Howard is in my opinion one of the most overrated directors of his time and he tends to make big scenes/movies to hide the hollowness of the script ('Apollo 13', 'Ransom').
But what I like about this all is that the Catholic church made this book (and movie) even bigger than it deserved. In the end, its just a fictious story and who says that filmmakers and writers can't use the most famous fictious book, The Bible, as the source for their own works. The Catholic church tried to make people boycott the film but they should know better. Of course people will see it if the Vatican cries about it. They've tried to forbid so many things and how's that worked. Premarital sex? Anyone?
So to answer the question, which one's better? The book or the movie? I enjoyed them both, but this time I would choose the paper version. The film is entertaining and all but in no ways a future classic. This one will be forgotten in the future, just as the book has been forgotten already. But the quote is awesome and every librarians dream words!
I only watched this cause I saw a Documentary called "The Real Da Vinci Code" which pretty much revealed that it was all theory and not fact. A bunch of factual inaccuracies.
However, I must say that "Dan Brown" is a skillful writer. The puzzles and cryptic messages were harmonious in logic and the twists were in the right places both in story-telling and characters.
I'm not a "Ron Howard" (Director) fan but what a terrific Job! A stylish thrilling adventure!