Daily Archives: November 18, 2019

Inferno (2016)

*. The end. At least of the first Robert Langdon trilogy. I suspect he’ll be back however.
*. I find the success of these films almost entirely inexplicable. Yes, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was a huge bestseller and the movie was able to ride that wave, especially given its A-list talent and huge budget. But it was a terrible movie that wasn’t even much fun as a train wreck.
*. It was followed up by Angels & Demons, which was just more of the same, albeit a little crazier and more up-tempo. Which brings us to Inferno, a movie nearly as stupid as the others and even less enjoyable. Box office was disappointing and, at least for a time, the franchise was put to bed. Long may it slumber in peace!
*. What is the appeal of these films? Are they just fantasy travelogues, with Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, accompanied by a beautiful young woman, running around famoust tourist locations and looking at Renaissance artwork — which he has near godlike access to, and which he gets to inspect privately while crowds mill about outside? That would be appealing — have you seen the lines to get in to the Uffizi? — but alas there is, as always, the stupidity factor to be accounted for.
*. Mark Kermode, who had a lot of fun ranting on these films, thought Angels & Demons the stupidest movie he had ever seen, and referred to the plot of this one as “intergalactically stupid . . . mind-pulverizingly dumb, despite the huge amounts of high art references in it, it is a film of lowest-common denominator stupidity.” Is that then the point? That people who do know a bit about Renaissance art, or Dante, or the Bible, can laugh at this hokum? Are these stupid movies for smart people, or movies that are meant to make stupid people feel smart because of all their cack-handed highbrow references?
*. I don’t know. Langdon, for example, strikes me as being impossibly thick. Despite being an expert auhority in all this stuff it seems that he knows neither Latin nor Italian. Which makes him more of an Everyman, if that is a good thing. Even I, however, knew that we were going to the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul before we got to the tomb of Enrico Dandolo, not because I’ve read a lot of Byzantine history but because I’d seen From Russia With Love.
*. Leaving these matters aside, there’s . . . not much else to say. Basically this movie is a total rehash of the plots of the previous two. As already noted, Langdon and his female companion run around looking at art and solving really simple puzzles.
*. Of course in any franchise the individual films resemble one another. But in the case of these movies they are so similar, and so long and so slow-moving in the bargain, that you actually start to get exasperated. This is particularly the case with the big “twist” in Inferno, which is so blindingly obvious right from the start that even if you didn’t know how Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor both turned in the previous films you’d still know Felicity Jones was playing for the other team here. You don’t even get a spoiler alert for that one.
*. Even the villainous billionaire with a plot to cull the human herd — a figure who has become rather popular in recent films, from Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service to Dr. Isaacs in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War — is bungled. I mean, he’s dead at the beginning of the film, which means he has to keep being reintroduced through repetitive flashbacks where he seems to be delivering the same TED talk to different audiences. Meanwhile, there’s a whole subplot involving some organization that basically runs a version of The Game that I couldn’t figure out at all. The plot isn’t just stupid, it makes no sense.
*. Despite all of this Inferno could have been entertaining. But Ron Howard can’t direct material like this and make it interesting. Actually, I think Howard is a very limited director who has a lot of trouble making anything seem interesting. Looking over his filmography I’m a little in awe of how someone could have such a long, successful career making movies that are at their very best good-natured and bland. Is it so profitable, so important, just to be competent and inoffensive?
*. Maybe it is, but if you’re making a suspense/action thriller I don’t see where his talents even rise to the level of competence. These movies are all dull, dumb, and forgettable. I really feel bad that I wasted my time watching them, and that’s something I don’t even say about most of the third-rate exploitation cinema or horror flicks I watch.
*. So, like I say, I expect more of these movies. They may be better, however, with Howard and Hanks moving on. I’d like to say they couldn’t be worse but I feel like that would be tempting fate. Let’s face it, there’s always another, lower circle of hell in Hollywood.