A comment to one of my old Da Vinci Code rants reminded me that I let the movie come and go at the theater without bothering to post anything about it.
I went to see it opening weekend with every intention of writing a review and found that it left me uninspired. It was a very competent movie that fairly slavisly followed its source, about like the first Harry Potter movie–nothing overwhelming, just very workmanlike.
I understand why they made the movie. Name recognition and “brand awareness” insured a huge opening weekend and a profitable run. But what a terribly dreadful book to make into a movie, and I don’t mean that as a generic slam at Dan Brown.*** The main action of the book consists of either 1) an expert explaining something that he or she is an expert in or 2) an expert coming to a sudden realization of the solution to a puzzle. Neither of these is visually compelling.
Ron Howard, the director, did his darndest to make it into movie material. So, we’re treated to elaborate CG effects that are meant to represent the inner workings of the hero’s mind as he solves the puzzles. Never has more money been spent dramatizing an anagram. Take this scene from the movie:
On a piece of parchment, scrawled letters glow blue and begin swirling.
In a voice over, Tom Hanks mutters, “Acidic Drunk, Oval Nose… what could it mean?”
An “A” twists out of the scrabble of letters, soon joined by L I V E. A peal of thunder, and the quartet rearrange to form a crimson E V I L. More thunder, several flashes, and it spells out: “AN EVIL ACCORD SKIDS ON U”
A tight closeup on Amelie’s face: “What iz zis? Surely, Francis Bacon would not use ze ‘leet’ speak.”****
“Wait,” breathes Tom Hanks, and the letters reappear: C A R S I C K. A disco backbeat starts up, as the letters groove into position across a mirrored CG ball: A SUDDEN CARSICK VIOLON
Amelie scowls, “But… doez not ze violin have an “i” instead of ze “o”?
Again, the letters reappear, and one by one drop into formation: LEONARDO DA VINCI KUSCS–cue ominous bass chord as the final word begins to rearrange…
“I never knew Francis Bacon hated da Vinci so much…” Tom Hanks proceeds to dance across a giant piano in drag while checking his AOL account in celebration.
“We call him ‘Leonardo,’ because da Vinci iz just where he is, ‘ow you say, from?”
OK, so I just made that up. But you get the point. An overabundance of anagrams does not a taut thriller make.
In other Da Vinci Code news, the movie has been banned by Muslims in Pakistan, Coptics in Egypt, godless communists in China, Christians in Goa*****, and someone in the Russian city of Vyazma.****** I know Ron Howard got down on his hands and knees and cursed his fate when he found out about all the receipts he’d lose his percentage of in Vyazma.
*Please note that you did not say ‘no crosses count’.**
**I know. I find it irresponsible and baffling, frankly.
***I’ve gotten enough of those in already.
****Leet-speak, or 1337-$p34k, is what the kids do on the internet when they’re not at the soda shop buying malts or jitterbugging.
*****The smallest state in India, rich in minerals and ores–and apparently, religious nutjobs.
******Apparently, it was also banned in several other Indian states, Shri Lanka, the Solomon Islands, and so many other places that the humor value of linking to news articles about them was far outweighed by the work of having to cut and paste them into my blog. Oh, and this just in, the United Republic of My Pants just announced that it is joining the boycott. Said a representative of my pants, “Just because there are no movie theatres in our great land, does not mean we cannot ban things we find inappropriate. The Solomon Islands also lack movie theatres, and you know the old saying, ‘If it’s good enough for the Solomon Islands, it’s good enough for your pants.'”