Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code: Movie Review

The Da Vinci Code (DVC) movie continues to do well at the box office - it is currently in second place in the United States, and has enjoyed even stronger ticket sales worldwide.... Having read (and enjoyed the book, I went to see the movie - and was hoping that it would be a great movie - but it wasn't. Don't misunderstand me - this is not a bad movie - it is just not the great movie that I hoped it would be....

The continued popularity of this movie underscores the fact that there is something about the DVC story (based on the best selling book by Author Dan Brown) that has captured the minds of people everywhere. I personally enjoyed reading the book, but never believed that the basic gist of the story could be true (Dan Brown weaves a tale where Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, who at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, was carrying his child - which if found to be true - has some incredible implications).

I enjoyed following the clues along with the lead characters as they tried to make sense of the ever deepening story and plot coined "The Da Vinci Code" (from so-called hidden clues and messages that artist Leonardo Da Vinci had left in his famous painting, "The Last Supper").

About half way through the movie I was reminded what a huge task it is to take a novel like the DVC and convert it into a workable (and enjoyable) screenplay. Although I can't point to all of the reasons why, the movie did not work as well as the book did. I know that I can't blame all of the movies shortcomings on screenplay writer Akiva Goldsman (who has enjoyed previous success and academy award recognition).

The movie is comprised of many good elements: Popular actor Tom Hanks plays the lead character Robert Langdon (I liked his roles in many of the films that he has starred in), who is joined by a slew of a handful of talented actors (including solid acting by Sir Ian McClellan as Holy Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing) , filming on location (spots that I would want to see for the first time or re-visit), rich photography, a good musical score (by Hans Zimmer), coupled with the directing skills of Ron Howard.

You would think that a movie, based on such a popular book (the DVC is now the number- two all time best-selling paperback book - outsold only by the Bible!), would have been an absolute smash hit (Sony Pictures pumped up pre-release interest in this movie - by some good marketing and also by putting a lid on any advance info being leaked prior to the films premiere opening). The sum of all these elements never seem to come together to produce a movie that is at least half as enjoyable or exciting as the book.

The lack of solid character development (especially for the 2 lead roles) made following the lead characters on their path of discovery a mediocre journey at best, and boring at worst. Tom Hanks never quite nails the role of the lead character Robert Teabing. He often comes off both wooden and flat as he attempts to deliver his lines (and this is being written by a person who has truly enjoyed many of Tom's previous and more memorable roles). His interaction with co-star Audrey Tautou (who plays Sophie Neveu) is lukewarm. This tone is somewhat understandable, as Sophie is the stranger, who into a crime scene (purporting to be someone who needs help to solve a mystery of biblical proportions) and expecting to be believed - and followed - is a stretch - which takes more than the movie could offer in order to make this tale believable (even though the book somehow did).

The movie takes the viewer on an almost never ending gallop from location to location as the characters are piecing together "The Da Vinci Code". In addition to these places of interest, their are some key moments in the film that help the viewer better understand the genius of Da Vinci (as it ties into "The Code"), including the "Cryptex" - a special metal and wood secret code only entry chamber that contains a concealed message written on papyrus, and potentially ruined by the enclosed vial of vinegar - if broken by the entry of a wrong code (made me want to examine both the inventions and art of Leonardo Da Vinci all over again!). Seeing the Louve Museum was also fascinating - with the screen shots of numerous works of art, including the famous Mona Lisa (one of the most recognizable paintings in the world, and a Da Vinci classic).

I don't know if I would have perceived the film much differently if I had not read the book prior to seeing the movie, as the difficulty of following all of the details and clues, without having had the time to already absorb some of the material, may have made it even harder to watch.

I had hoped that this movie would be as good (or as fun to follow) as the book - but this was not to be. I still think that it is a good film to see, as the movie tackles some issues and covers some ground that provides some rich food for discussion (for more info see The Da Vinci Code News blog on

My advice: if you have not read the book yet - consider reading it - and then also consider viewing the film. Don't expect the movie to be as good as the book - but listen carefully to what is said (literally, read in between the lines) - and then follow the clues to see if they lead you to any of the same conclusions as portrayed in the movie. I won't list the many good resources that are available - as the books that have been written about the original DVC book are numerous and easy to access (check out the group of essays posted on the HollywoodJesus website that provide a good deal of info for those who want to follow the clues).

Even though the content of the movie is pure fiction (just like the book), people have wondered and asked themselves, "what if?". After checking out some of the clues, as presented in both the movie and the book, you will discover that there is no veracity to the story as told - proving that this work of fiction is - simply, a work of fiction (even if Author Dan Brown makes it seem otherwise).


Anonymous said...

Greateview Jim! I love reading your work, You have such an open prespective on these kinda things!
~ Matt

12:54 PM  

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