May 18, 2006|
Symbolism and historical analysis made the The Da Vinci Code novel a fascinating read. Pity none of this is in the movie version.
Piggybacking on the success of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was always going to be risky. The film version may bring in the box-office dollars, but it’s certainly no masterpiece. We all know that the novel The Da Vinci Code was no literary masterwork either, but it did manage to combine intriguing historical facts and theory with a reasonably interesting plot to make a compelling page-turner. No such luck for this disaster directed by Ron Howard (Cinderella Man). The movie is a blatant and poorly executed attempt to cram the entire book into one easily digestible money-making cinematic cash cow.
If you’ve picked up one book in the last two years, it would have been this one about academic Robert Langdon’s (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump) adventures uncovering the secret of the Holy Grail by decoding Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings. The film is absolutely true to the novel’s plot. However, Howard has removed all the interesting analysis of art symbolism and all the strength of the French cryptologist character Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou, Amelie), who is assisting Langdon in the case. When Langdon and Neveau learn that they are being set up, the duo escapes via a series of deceptive tactics and high-speed chases that appear routine onscreen. Complicating the plot are mysterious dialogues with high-flying Vatican priests and murders committed by a tortured albino monk (a creepy turn by Paul Bettany, Wimbledon).
The compelling intellectual ideas are glossed over, and theories that seemed so potentially convincing in the printed word seem superficial wishful thinking on the big screen. The scholarly theorizing is reduced to a shallow and somewhat confusing list of theses without any substance to support them. What we’re left with is a slightly tragic bachelor’s fantasy of the balding nerd who saves the world and wins the gorgeous girl (who, by the way, is glaringly passive throughout the film).
The Da Vinci Code movie is a bare-faced bid to ride on the coat tails of the wildly popular novel. Unfortunately, this is its undoing. The proximity of its release to the book’s success only invites comparisons between the two, and in these situations the movie rarely comes out the winner. It certainly does not in this case.