The Da Vinci Code (2006)

*. You often hear the comment made of some films being “critic proof.” I guess The Da Vinci Code fits the label as well as most. It’s based on a megabestselling novel that everyone acknowledged was awful, something that itself showed how little effect bad reviews have. The movie, in turn, had a whack of money and talent behind it so there was no way it could lose. In fact, I suspect most people thought it was going to be an improvement on Dan Brown’s book because, well, how could it not be?
*. I’d put myself in that camp. I only read the first couple of chapters of the novel before deciding it was garbage. I figured that the movie would be more fun.
*. It’s not. To be sure, it’s just as stupid as the book, right from the title on down (it should be The Leonardo Code). I had hoped it would be silly. There is a difference between silly and stupid. Silly you can enjoy. Stupid you just have to put up with.
*. In case you haven’t heard, the premise here is that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene, leading to a bloodline traceable down to the present day. This has some cryptic connection to the Holy Grail, which I think is meant as a metaphor. Anyway, a secret Catholic sect wants to erase the descendants of Jesus because . . . if word got out about all of this then the Church would be brought into disrepute. Or something like that. Then there’s another guy (Ian McKellen) who wants to find the descendants of Jesus in order to . . . expose the hypocrisy of the Church? Honestly, there’s no sorting this garbage out.
*. A lot of Christian groups were upset, or at least pretended to be upset, over The Da Vinci Code. For obvious reasons, but perhaps also just because the story is so ridiculous. If any of this had even begun to make sense I think they might not have been so bothered by it. Or maybe if the descendants of Jesus had some super powers, making them into a kind of Holy Justice League. Instead, all Sophie can do is cure headaches by the laying on of hands.
*. I don’t think there’s any point going over how incoherent the conspiracy theory/treasure hunt plot is. I think people have done this already in a lot more detail than I want to go into here. Instead I’ll just say a few things about the movie.
*. Two-and-a-half hours. Ugh. I guess that comes with taking itself so seriously, and not wanting to cut any part of the book that (apparently) people loved so much. But it sure makes for a dull movie, with terrible pacing and acres of expository dialogue. In fact, I wonder if there’s ever been a screenplay with this high a percentage of lines being used solely to explain the crazy plot and bring us up to speed.
*. At some point when making the translation from page to screen you have to bite the bullet and make some cuts. Plenty of opportunities suggest themselves here. To take just one: Why bother including Langdon’s claustrophobia? It plays no role in the plot and doesn’t tell us anything important or significant about him. And yet they keep playing it up as though it might mean something. If they’d left it out they could have also cut the whole scene with Langdon and Sophie escaping in the back of the armored van.
*. Poor Audrey Tautou. I really mean it. Apparently several actresses wanted the part but Ron Howard always had his eye on Tautou. I can think of few recent leading roles so embarassing. At least Tom Hanks gets to look as though he’s always about to break out laughing at this garbage script. But Tautou has to play it straight, even with Hanks and McKellen grinning at her over their “V is for Vagina” hand signals.
*. I’m on again about how they went wrong playing what should be silly fun as something serious. Tautou should have hammed it up. Howard should have definitely cut an hour from the running time. Instead, Brown’s novel was taken as scripture, with predictable results.
*. This might have been the end of it, but studios around this time were becoming solely fixated on franchise filmmaking and the box office had not disappointed. More, and less, was to come.

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