My Thumbnail Review
Earlier today, MSNBC carried an AP story which reported that Ron Howard's movie "subtly softens" the material of Dan Brown's book. The Associated Press couldn't have it more wrong.
Yes, Tom Hanks' Robert Langdon does find some new dialogue in his mouth courtesy of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, words that at least play devil's advocate with Ian McKellen's Leigh Teabing. But in the end, the cinematic Langdon becomes much more of a true believer than does his literary counterpart.
Three major innovations introduced by Howard's movie:
First, his film portrays Opus Dei and the "shadow council" of the Vatican as really being in cahoots, really conspiring to kill people in the name of God, really trying to supress intellectual inquiry, really turning its back on truth and righteousness. In short, Ron Howard turns the Catholic Church into a genuine villain. Shameful.
Second, the movie further fabricates ancient history, making the charge that history is unclear whether the Roman Empire or the Christians were the first agressors. Please!
Third, and most importantly, the film invests significant energy in validating the Magdalene myth. While in Brown's book Marie Chauvel basically leaves the existence of the Sangreal documents and Magdalene's bones to the world's imagination, Howard has Langdon and Neveu discover plenty of material evidence to back up the claim.
Where's the mystery that feeds the soul? Where's the adventure? You'll have to find it in the book, I'm afraid. There's no codebreaking here, just polemic.
And in the end, Brown's book, whatever its faults or strengths, worked far better as a book than Howard's film works as a movie. The packed house I saw the movie with—a completely partisan crowd that didn't have to pay a dime to get in—was underwhelmed. They didn't giggle and hoot the way the crowd at Cannes did, but they were hardly enthusiastic.
I would not be surprised to see this film crash and burn; but then, I said the same thing about the Narnia film, too. So what the heck do I know?