Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code (Film)

This year we've seen very few films at the cinema. (Match Point, Syriana, Inside Man, M:I:III). This one was long awaited, and actually we had to wait an extra hour cos we decided not to book in advance and the previous screening was sold out. We got our first glimpse of the new James Bond in action and the news that Captain Jack is back (soon). And then came the film we'd been waiting for.

The story is no surprise and Ron Howard sticks close to the book. Its a classic hollywood film with big sweeping views and great settings - particularly when it comes to the Louvre. The action of course moves on fast from there to several lesser locations, before landing in some classic London spots... and along the way it feels like he's joining up lots of different films without much cohesion.

Hanks and Tautou work well in the lead roles, though it is McKellan who steals the show. Meanwhile, Bettany is pained in his flagillations as Silas, accompanied with a slightly odd accent. Reno and Molina provide good support. The film suffers from the books flaws, travelling from a murder in Paris to a church cellar in Scotland, its always slowing down - albeit with occasional bursts of pace through a Parisian woodland and the streets of London.

The dialogue is pretty wooden and it sticks loyally to the book's riddles, to which we already know the solutions... further diffusing tension. They were clever enough first time around, but this isn't the first time. Essentially, it's a victim of its own familiarity... even with the grand vistas of the Louvre it was never going to be as gripping as those pageturning moments late at night when we first read it.

Much of the hype has been over the way that the history of the early church is distorted - and that fault remains in the film. I can't see it swaying too many people. The Catholic Church has a bed reputation as it is... and personal contact is more than capable of reversing bad corporate image. Further, Silas' efforts at self-atonement are easily refuted from a few minutes with an open Bible... and present possibly one of the most straight forward opportunities available.

All Christians ought to know enough church history to know what the council of Nicea actually did, along with the simple business of refuting the gnostic gospels that Leigh Teabing cites to support his theories. It does matter whether Jesus had a child or not... it does matter whether he is divine or not. And we Christians really should have answers to those questions. The conspiracy theories are pretty vaccuous, but they might just get people thinking... we'd like the world to be full of significant symbols and deeper meaning...

After 2.5 hours we're left man who wont worship Jesus as divine but is happy to kneel before Mary's dead body.... a "serious" historian who thinks sentiment matter more than facts and sense.

At the end of the day its not the worst film ever made, though given the quality of the people involved the scandal really is how bad it is (rather than the big scandal the "story" is trying to reveal). Its softer round the edges and lacks all the tension of the book. The ending goes all gooey and sentimental and existential... and throughout its pretty slow and saggy. Mr Howard, The Da Vinci Code is not the best material in the world to work with, but we know you can do better than this.

Other reviews:
Robin at Long for Milk
Matt at Darkmatters
Michael Spencer, Internet Monk
Amy Wellborn
Michael Collender, Audio Review

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