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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code Reviewed, Book and Movie

 
There is absolutely no justification for the acclaim, interest, and infamy which Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (2003) has received.  Unfortunately, although it has a solid plot for the average work of fiction, the prose is far from any literary merit — the writing 'style' (loathe to even call it that) and the flow of the prose are hackneyed and clunky at best, the characters never come near breaching two-dimensionality, and were it not for the potential "let's get the freaky-religious folks in an uproar" factor, this book would never have deserved to be published in hard-cover, at best as a dime-store paperback.

I was hoping that in the hands of a good screenwriter, the story would be served better — Brown's atrocious prose would not be present, and perhaps the screenwriter would also improve the dialogue, and a good set of actors could breathe life to the wooden characters.  Add a masterful director and editor to serve the story's necessarily breakneck pacing, and a cinematographer and art director who between them could conjure up something of a "Name of the Rose" feel and look to the project, and the movie could easily deserve the obnoxious amount of money it is bound to make simply due to its notoriety.

Akiva Goldsman's script is not that script.  It is mediocre, not brilliant — the dialogue is never fluid, not once transcendent.  Even the film's supposed climax and denoument are curiously lacking in dramatic depth already in the writing: Langdon's final monologue to Sophie Neveu reads like a speech from a bad revival meeting.  The poor actors who valiantly try to bring life to their characters are outright vanquished by the vapid material.

Ron Howard's direction is slow and ponderous — the required speed and flow that would have been required to pull the movie together are simply not there.  The editing is by-the-book unsurprising and devoid of any artfulness.  The cinematography is commonplace, there is little beauty or awe created, no moments of sublime visuals captured — and considering what one could have done with all the locations and artwork present, it is absolutely ridiculous how mundane all these masterpieces of art, architecture, and nature have been made to look.  The art director must have been sleeping — a PBS documentary Art Director could have pulled more out of the project on his worst day.

Audrey Tautou, of Amélie fame, is a good casting choice for Sophie Neveu, and she acquits herself well in a project that is downright ungrateful due to the lack of artistry on the part of the entire artistic personnel and a screenplay which never throws her a bone.  Tom Hanks, however, is entirely vacuous as Robert Langdon, a part that might have been better served by someone like Gary Sinise — an actor of such intelligence and charisma one could buy his leaps of symbological genius with ease.  While Tom Hanks is often voted America's favorite actor, nothing about him says to me Harvard-professor-of-astounding-mental-acuity, nor does anyone buy that a police commissioner would think Hanks a murderer, whereas Sinise has that questionability.  So Tom turns in a solid but charmless, immemorable performance.  Ian McKellen is the only one who transcends the lackluster script and does a beautiful job as a zealous British nobleman/grail historian.  Sadly, nobody else in the movie even bears mention.  Their performances were so bland and weak they don't even deserve to be panned.

I wish this movie had been directed by an artist, the other aspects handled by a creative team worth their salt.  For example, had this movie been done by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator) or Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), heck, even Grand Master Hack Steven Spielberg, or any one of a number of great action/adventure directors, this project would not have been the bland, bleak SNORE it was now.

Yes, of course you should go see it — goodness knows everyone you know will be talking about it.  So you might as well go see it so you can chip in your own 2 cents about why you did or did not like it.  Bring lots of candy and soda, though, to keep you awake.


Tags: Movies | Books

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3 Comments:

Blogger Istanbultaye said...

i'll pass ^.^

May 22, 2006 11:49 PM  
Blogger The Lion Sleeps Tonight said...

heh, I did indeed fall asleep. Tried to blame it on the midnight showing but....

May 23, 2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger Mark A. said...

I agree with you on just about every point except for Audrey Tautou. But I must admit that with the pitiful dialogue given to her character I'm not sure if anyone could have saved that role.

I gotta say though, that I truly think someone like Doug Liman, combined with a competent screenwriter, could have salvaged this movie. That SmartCar chase represents one of the many occasions in the movie where Ron Howard just completely dropped the ball. That whole chase lacked any sense of excitement or tension, the cuts were just dreadful, and at no point did I feel that the possibility that they might not get away existed. Stuff like that is all Ron's fault.

But then you have the dialogue of Tautou, most of which was along the lines of "Surely you don't mean..." "Who..." or "Qua..." I can almost hear the suits at Sony telling Ron Howard and the script doctors "Look, it seems a bit dense. Why don't you have one of the characters ask these questions that we've written down so it all gets explained nice and simple."

And you're right about the book, too. I never did understand all the hype over it. As I said in my review over at Hyperliterature (strump, strump, strump) it seemed like Dan Brown simply took all the conspiracy theories about Christianity he could find, compile them and organize them into a half-way cohesive whole. Nothing wrong with that. Lot's of authors do it, but for some unknown reason Brown's book hooked the mouth of casual book readers everywhere.

I'm not bitching, mind you...anything that gets more people reading is fine by me. And I'm not blaming Brown for writing a hackey, expositional, prosaically boring book. If I could write one I'd already have it at Kinko's getting printed and bound. I'm not even sure if Brown set out to enrage religious wing-nuts with this one. "Angels and Demons" came out before "Code" and it contains a lot more blasphemous and dangerous ideas. If anything Brown toned it down for "Code."

I enjoyed it…I mean, it ain’t literature by any means, but it beat sitting around watching reruns of “Highlander.”

Anyway, that's my 2 cents, such as it is.

May 24, 2006 12:23 AM  

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