Da Vinci Code
A Review by Tom
(St. Martin Province)
Famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon is called
to the Louvre museum one night where a curator has been murdered,
leaving behind a mysterious trail of symbols and clues. With
his own survival at stake, Langdon, aided by the police cryptologist
Sophie Neveu, unveils a series of stunning secrets hidden
in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, all leading to a covert
society dedicated to guarding an ancient secret that has remained
hidden for 2000 years.
REVIEW: It’s difficult
to imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t
heard about Dan Brown’s phenomenally successful best
seller. It has certainly become an industry unto itself, spawning
countless books, articles, lectures, and television shows.
Recently, both the History Channel and the Discovery Channel
were airing their Da Vinci investigations at the same time!
I read the novel three years ago, and thought it was a enjoyable
read, once I got over its totally unfounded theological presuppositions.
Now we have the next chapter in the phenomenon: The Da Vinci
Code: The movie.The novel was transferred to the screen by
the Oscar winning team behind A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella
Man: producer Brian Grazer, director Ron Howard, and screenwriter
Akiva Goldsman. I wondered how they could make a movie of
the novel so many people had read. Focus on the suspense?
The religious angle? Conspiracy theories? The controversy?
A related issue was the response of the Catholic Church (or
other Christian Churches). How would they react? Boycotts,
pickets, or discussion groups?I
don’t think the Church has much to fear from the movie.
It just doesn’t make much of an impression. The shock
value of Brown’s theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene
were married and had a child has long since worn off. The
movie includes lots of long diatribes about Church history,
art, codes, cults, French police work, Opus Dei, and the Holy
Grail, to name a few. The film bogs down in all the details
of the heavy plot. If nothing else, the novel was a page-turner,
but there’s surprisingly little suspense on screen.
Howard even uses the odd device of brief sepia-toned flashbacks
to the life of Jesus, the Council of Nicea, (to my knowledge,
a cinematic first!) the Crusades, and even the funeral of
Sir Isaac Newton. Halfway through the film, I recalled one
of the best pieces of advice I ever received in a preaching
class: Keep it simple!
Another drawback is The Da Vinci Code’s total absence
of humor. Even Hamlet had comic relief! Instead we are treated
to scenes of the naked albino Opus Dei assassin flagellating
himself. (A caution: despite its PG-13 rating, the film is
very violent.) Tom Hanks is certainly one of our best actors.
No doubt Grazer and Howard were thrilled to sign him to play
Harvard professor Robert Langdon. Unfortunately, Hanks has
little opportunity to exercise his fine acting skills. There
is no chemistry between him and French actress Audrey Tatou.
Ms. Tatou’s English line readings are so awkward I think
she would have been better served to speak in French, with
subtitles. Only the great British actor Sir Ian McKellen seems
to relish his part as a Grail expert.
Despite all the controversy surrounding it, there have been
no major protests surrounding the release of The Da Vinci
Code. I understand that some churches asked their congregants
not to see the film. But there has been no picketing of theatres,
nor letters to editors. (Compare this to the reception of
The Last Temptation of Christ, a much more substantial film
on a similar topic.) Even though Da Vinci is a hit in its
first weeks, the flatness of the film is its own worst enemy.
Where pickets and organized campaigns could backfire, bad
word of mouth is box office poison.
I’ve talked to several people who have seen the film,
and most have had the same reaction: a shrug of the shoulders.
Even though The Da Vinci Code has done very well in its first
couple of weeks of release, I think it will be forgotten long
before the summer is over.
Tom Condon, OP
does the DaVinci Code remain popular? America Magazine offers
MPAA Rating: PG-13
for disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material,
brief drug references and sexual content.
The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting
classification is O -- morally offensive.