This movie version of the Dan Brown classic is one of the most controversial and intriguing, and I doubt there is someone else out there who would question that.
Before anything else, let us first establish that “The Da Vinci Code” is not an outright attack to Catholic religion conservatives nor is it an entertainment exclusive for those who have completed their Dan Brown (Langdon) series or their Holy Grail collections. The good thing about this film is that anyone can watch and understand it (provided, of course, that there are practically no restrictions when it comes to cinema admission). Oh no, there is nothing cryptic at all with this Ron Howard masterpiece.
Some Brown followers and mystery aficionados may sit and spend a full two and a half hours and regard the movie as too bland or too… anti-climactic. Let us be clear: “The Da Vinci Code” is an adaptation, so comparing the screen version to the book does not make much sense. Yes, expect the movie to be just like those Harry Potter books, where there are also portions not included in the picture.
As much as I have nothing against books being transformed into films, I beg to disagree on the argument that “The Da Vinci Code” is not loyal to the novel. If anything, I believe the gist being presented and kept alive on the screen is just appropriate and fitting, especially for those who have not gotten close to hearing the author’s name. Basically, the plot takes a head start in one of the Louvre’s chambers, where a curator is murdered and has left various enigmatic messages on the museum’s interiors for his granddaughter, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), and symbologist, Robert Langdon, to find. In attempt to discover the culprit, the pair is led into a maze of clues and anomalous and elusive figures. Eventually, they are attended by Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), who turns out to be the nemesis (or more suitably, since this is not that kind of pumped-up suspense — the antagonist) in the end.
As I have mentioned, this is not exactly comparable to those high-flying adventure or sci-fi hits, with all the explosions and incredible stunts, so expect zilch of those. You can expect, though, a few car chases in the streets of France and in the woods. But that is all contained in the novel, anyway, and I doubt Howard would want to greatly disappoint the viewers with a totally made-over picture. I guess it is quite logical, in this sense, to believe that the film lacks some creatively driven climax or a high momentum. Yes, these shortcomings all boil down to the pre-existence of the basis of the whole movie — the best-seller book.
What really makes the picture worthwhile is the mental stimulation you get from absorbing all those data and information in one sitting. Amazingly, the clarity and simplicity by which the information and other historical accounts are laid out are commendable. Worried about all that religious controversy? I assure you, there’s no need to be queasy or uncomfortable regardless of what faith (or lack of it) you belong to. Akiva Goldsman, the film’s screenwriter, has done a fair job of making sure that the audience are also kept on track with the plot and not get lost with seemingly unfamiliar labels such as Priory of Sion, Opus Dei or The Knights’ Templar.
Another area where “The Da Vinci Code” is considered to surpass other movies in its genre is the special effects. I am not talking about action-powered, egoistically snazzy effects. Just the inclusion of digital graphics during the brainstorming moments of Langdon are already and certainly remarkable. The crew also deserves a thumbs up when it comes to the amazing set and background. I know it is difficult to recreate a church’s interior, especially if you are not allowed to shoot in one (the original location, that is). Not to mention that at the same time, you are also embarking on one of the most anticipated movie ventures of the last two years (since the release of the book).
On the other hand, the details may also seem a bit too bluntly or obviously laid out, in such a way that these are supposed to be the whole point of the film. Well, the details are of the essence, but as reiterated, the producers could have gone a bit farther, say an insertion of some inducing music or some scene-enhancing elements, to reduce the monotony or the tone down the nerd-like quality of the movie. Some scenes can also do without the excess drama or intellect, if you will, like the one where they are supposed to retrieve the curator’s safety deposit box and enter a specific code (lest they may never gain access to the much-coveted cryptex ever). Then again, these are the directorial efforts in putting some spice (or action) in the mystery hunt.
When it comes to casting, “The Da Vinci Code” brings together an international cast, all of whom are fitting and brilliant in their roles. Pressure from the novel’s reputation may have played a part, but all in all, the actors are convincing as they can be and the movie treats all characters on an equal footing. Of course, I cannot do without commenting on Audrey Tatou’s attempts at English or the lousy haircut Tom Hanks has in the movie, but truth of the matter is, all of them shine in the portions where they are supposed to be shining. Heck, I even forgot my earlier distaste of Tom Hanks being casted as Langdon when I saw how other actors are perfect for their respective roles. Take, for instance, Ian McKellen. I can really feel his laid-back yet enthusiastic approach, not just to the role of the Grail’s obssessive collector, but also in playing the part in a summer movie.
In general, “The Da Vinci Code” merits an applause, not just for its relatively loyal adherence to the best-seller, but also for bringing together an ensemble performance and story that considerably realized (and delivered) the popularity and magnitude of the project.