Review: The Da Vinci Code

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  May 19, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

The foundation of academia is debate, speculation, and interpretation. Why should we not apply this to man's greatest debate, religion?

The Da Vinci Code stars Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, a symbologist who is approached by a French police detective to come to the famed Louvre museum. It turns out that the curator of the museum has been murdered. The body has dozens of clues on it that only a trained professional such as Langdon can interpret. The body also seems to link Langdon to the murder, or is it trying to say something else?

The clues lead Langdon and the curator's granddaughter Sophie (Audrey Tautou) on a mystery that will shake the foundations of Christianity and shatter the "Holy Grail" myth for all eternity.

Hot on their trail is a conflicted bishop (Alfred Molina) and an albino assassin (Paul Bettany), who have their own agendas when it comes to the Holy Grail.

Best-selling author Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has sparked numerous debates, electrified readers, and has brought up so many questions. The book is more famous for being condemned than the story it tries to convey. Is the Catholic Church that threatened by popular media?

Over the course of history, as in the novel and in the film, there have been dozens of interpretations and ideas that flatter and condone what Christianity teaches us.

No matter what you believe, the true nature and myth of the Holy Grail is fascinating for anyone who loves history, mystery, or debate. It is that foundation that has driven the success of the novel.

The film focuses more on the ideas of what is in the novel than trying to become a quick-paced suspense thriller, like maybe The Bourne Identity. No matter how the filmmakers decided to make the film, they would never have been able to match the novel, mainly because Brown conveys a lot of information and connections in the novel that would have to be over-looked for pacing reasons. So the filmmakers made a decision, which some fans are surely not to like.

Another pitfall that plagued the filmmakers was the book's central hero. He is reluctant, claustrophobic, and most of the novel is within his carefully meticulous academic mind as he uncovers the clues. It's like reading a Sherlock Holmes story, only this time he doesn't constantly interpret the clues to Watson as he goes.

I guess I am one of the few critics who liked the film. The reason why I liked it is because it was more about ideas than thrilling an audience. I admit there is a lot wrong with the pacing in the film, but with any novel adaptation, that is bound to happen. Anyone remember the first two Harry Potter films?

I really liked Sir Ian McKellan, Paul Bettany, and Jean Reno as the more colorful members of the cast. They needed to allow the Langdon character to relax more because Hanks plays him as so utterly serious and often useless. Sure, he is an academic, but not a buffoon. Tautou is a brilliant talent and her Sophie is vulnerable, conflicted, and intelligent. It's just the detailed characterizations of Sophie in the novel that don't come across very well on screen. That truly is a shame.

I just really wish Alfred Hitchcock was alive to tackle this novel and its subject matter. Now that would have been a brilliant film.

This film isn't by far a Hollywood summer blockbuster, but it is a lot better than they are saying. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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