The Da Vinci Code

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Review #128 of 365
Film: The Da Vinci Code [PG-13] 149 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.25
Where Viewed: Lincoln Square Cinemas, Bellevue, WA
When 1st Seen: 19 May 2006
Time: 2:30 p.m.

Review Dedicated To: Dylan D. of Montana--now I can read the copy you gave me.

Hans Zimmer - The Da Vinci Code (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

At last, I can read Dan Brown's book! Never has there been a more obvious example of why I adhere to my strict “Don’t Read the Book until after Movie Policy” than this one. I did not enter the theatre with any preconceptions as to either what the movie was about nor whom should play Robert Langdon. So, unlike many critics, I can honestly review the film unfettered by images, idea, notions, and emotions that normally get planted in the mind when reads a book.

The Da Vinci Code was not intended, I don’t believe, to be Dan Brown’s stunning revelation of the truth but, rather, a ‘what if?’ novel."
First, because I do my reviews very close to or after the date of a film’s release in my area of the world, I am all too aware, due to pop up news ads and promos on television, that there have been many, many protests world wide over this film and that many critics have already panned it. Of course, I make it a practice not to read other reviews until I formulate my own. So, I can begin with surprise over both the international protests and the panning of the film by other critics. Clearly, this book is a work of fiction. You can search for it at, or just click on the handy icon for the book below and you will find, indeed, it is in the fiction section. I am surprised, actually, to think that anyone would confuse it for fact. The film this most reminded me of was the Nicholas Cage treasure hunt, National Treasure. Was there any protesting over the lack of reality in that film? The Da Vinci Code was not intended, I don’t believe, to be Dan Brown’s stunning revelation of the truth but, rather, a ‘what if?’ novel. Plenty of people have had fun with this sort of story concept over the centuries. Well, what if the prophet Jesus had really been the companion of Mary Magdalen? There is no real evidence one way or the other. As we all have learned now more than ever, there is a lot of stuff that goes on every day on our planet even now in the age of instantaneous information delivery that we still don’t know anything about. In any case, I hope that no one will think I am mocking their faith by saying that my view is that Dan Brown had a lot of fun playing with historical fact and the fiction he created to go along with his ‘what if’ story. Therefore, I found The Da Vinci Code film version of the story entirely fascinating. I never once, however, got the idea that any of this was necessarily true. Again, I don’t know how, in the end, we know the truth with much certainty about things that happened over 2000 years ago, when we cannot even get the truth out of corporate executives and world leaders about policies in place in our current times. So, my advice would be not to take this so seriously and remember that the point of movies, by Hollywood’s own admission, has never been to teach history. This is not a documentary, and it doesn’t play like a documentary.

Second, as to the critics all panning the film, I’ll be interested to see what they didn’t like about it. I hope I don’t read one person who says, “The book was so much better, more thorough, more well-researched, more well-presented, the characters in the book were so much more detailed,” etc. Of course this is almost always true except maybe in the case of The Chronicles of Narnia where, actually, the directors and writers had to fill in a lot of gaps which C. S. Lewis left up to the imagination—read the book now after seeing the movie and you’ll seriously be amazed. Books can be hundreds and hundreds of pages long. Movie scripts tend to be around 120 at most, and a lot of that is special formatting space and directions, not 10 pt. Times. Honestly, this is why seeing movies first is the way to go. Now, if they found that Tom Hanks was not the right person to play Robert Langdon, well, I’ll have to agree. Or if they found the film was basically a big treasure hunt, like National Treasure, and they don’t like films like that which involve solving clues and finding things long hidden, fine, that is a stylistic preference we all have to accepts as one of those, “We’ll have to agree to disagree” stalemates.

From the moment that Tom Hanks was cast in the lead, from all I had heard about the book, I thought he was a risky choice. Unfortunately for Mr. Hanks, he has become Tom Hanks, and unlike Tom Cruise, he hasn’t quite figured out that he needs to take roles that call for Tom Hanks. There was not a moment in the film that I believed in Robert Langdon. To me, it was Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code. If you are a Tom Hanks fan, well, this is he. If you are a Robert Langdon fan, this is Tom Hanks. This is the same sort of problem that Robin Williams has. These two guys are so much bigger as personas than they are as actors that it’s very difficult to see them as anyone but themselves. Tom Cruise has the same issue by now, but you’ll notice he tends to pick roles where if you think, “Gee, that’s Tom Cruise, he’s so fierce,” you don’t mind because it just fits. This role did not fit Tom Hanks. So, who might have been better in the role? That’s a tough one. I was thinking and thinking about this all last night. Finally, I narrowed my list to two actors, ironically both are British (one Irish and one Welsh). I would have picked either Colin Farrell or Christian Bale. Not who you were picturing? Well, I’d love to have you post a comment as to whom you feel should have been Robert Langdon then, especially if you read the book already. Still, here’s why I went with these two, remembering I haven’t read the book yet. I am assuming, and I could be wrong of course, that Ron Howard chose an actor that bore some resemblance to physical characteristics of the character such as hair color, etc. in casting Tom Hanks. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Bale have similar physical characteristics facially only more youthful by now than Mr. Hanks who has entered the seasoned era of his career. Mr. Bale and Mr. Farrell both have played a fascinating and diverse set of characters. Neither has become an archetype of himself. They both have the ability to down play their looks a bit and can come across looking quite smart—have you seen either of them with specs? Yet they are young enough to have brought a bit more enthusiasm instead of skepticism to the role—much of the time I got the feeling that Mr. Hanks was constantly working to convince himself he made the right decision to take this role. Yet both are old enough to come across as wunderkind symbology professors instead of nearly stodgy—I apologize, Mr. Hanks, I tried to avoid using that word for so long, but finally, I couldn’t help it—and erudite professors of yore. Also, the chemistry between Robert and Sophie with either of these two would have been a bit more gratifying and less icky, maybe, due to a less fatherly figure feeling we got from Mr. Hanks???

Aside from these two things, Mr. Hanks’s casting and the fictional treasure hunt plot, what was there not to like about this film? I thought French actress Audrey Tautou was fantastic in her role as Sophie Neveu. Go back and see the film again and pay attention to how she changes from the beginning to the end. Notice the light and her aura blossom as the films moves on. She starts off as a mousey cryptologist and ends up, well, if you haven’t seen the movie nor read the book, I won’t ruin that for you. Further, Sir Ian McKellan as Sir Leigh Teabing was outstanding in every way. And to think this guy will open in nearly back to back weekends in two of the “summer’s”—hopefully most people realize summer solstice doesn’t technically begin until June 21—biggest films!

"French actress Audrey Tautou was fantastic...Sir Ian McKellan...was outstanding."
He’s absolutely on fire. Now, as for director Ron (has he come a long way since his days as Opie on the “Andy Griffith Show”?)Howard, who brought us recently two amazing movies, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, did not have a lot of experience in directing this sort of semi-action picture. He may have overcompensated a bit by not giving the dialogue-driven scenes their full due and sort of cutting too quickly at times to flash backs, still, I thought he did a very good job. One of the things he did really well was in conveying the structural symbology of the landscape of the scenes such that they would co-exist with that of the script. This was especially notable at the film’s end when Tom Hanks, oops, Robert Langdon was walking the rose prime meridian line in Paris.

You know, I really like National Treasure. I like these sleuth movies where the well-educated characters have to use their brains more than brawn to solve clues and a mystery. In the end, I really liked this film a lot. It was a very interesting and fun “what if” story. I did not find it to be religiously offensive, and I am incredibly sensitive to that issue. I especially liked the idea that repositions the positive contribution to the Christian religion by women. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that many sects of the Christian faith have been far more embracing to the role of women than Catholicism, and I know there are many Catholics who feel this is an area where growth and change is way over due.

"The Da Vinci Code is not deserving of a nomination for Best Picture as were Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man and A Beautiful Mind. [Still] certainly, though, this film is well worth a look."
It would be interesting if, to preserve patriarchal power in the Catholic Church and to suppress the roles and rights of women not just within the Church but within society as a whole, information about the life of the prophet Jesus was suppressed as it might have given credence to the idea that He believed in the rights of all of the sons AND daughters of God. Pure speculation, of course, but interesting to consider nonetheless. I cannot fault the film for giving us reasons to think and ideas to explore, whether fictional or non-fictional in nature. The Da Vinci Code is not deserving of a nomination for Best Picture as were Ron Howard’s other two mentioned films. Certainly, though, this film is well worth a look.

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