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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

At this point, everybody basically knows what this movie is about, how it came from a best-selling novel, and all of the associated controversy, etc. So I'll just get right to the point: I liked it. A lot.

Which is not to say I disagree with the vast majority of reviews out there - it's very detailed, very hard to follow, and very slow moving at times. I just don't see why this makes it a bad movie. In fact, having read the book, these are the very things about the book I enjoyed most. So the fact that the same traits exist in the movie doesn't put me off, it meets my expectations.

At the end of the day, this is not a summer/popcorn movie. It's a murder mystery wrapped in an Indiana Jones film, served on a bed of James Bond. It makes you think. If you're the kind of person who has to go back in the book and re-read chapters to understand the backstory, the movie might be frustrating for you. If that's the case, I suggest seeing it twice (Note to Ron Howard: please send the check to my home address), or renting the DVD when it comes out so you can pause and rewind to your heart's content.

Ironically, the movie does a very clever job of bypassing some of the most tedious scenes in the book. [Don't worry, I'll avoid spoilers here, I promise.] The one that jumps out in my mind is a long scene in the book where the main characters go to a public library to research one of the story's many riddles, running various queries through the library's super-computer to eventually discover the answer. In the movie, they borrow a cell phone from a stranger, and use the phone's web browser to find the answer on the first try.

The other thing about the movie that surprised me was the degree to which the main character, Dr. Randall Langdon (Tom Hanks) disputes the theories that have caused all the controversy in the real-life press. Other characters (most notably Ian McKellan's Lee Teabing) advance the theories of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, etc., and Langdon rushes to point out that all of this is unproven theory. Teabing eventually wins the argument, of course, but Langdon is always in the background, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. Even when educating the overwhelmed and naive Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), Langdon couches his explanations in phrases like "Some people claim..." and "The story goes that..." At one point, Neveu asks Langdon, "Do you really believe all of this?" and Langdon responds, "We've been sucked into a world where people do believe it . . . enough to resort to murder." Some of this exists in the book, but it seemed much more prominent on screen. I would call it a nod of respect to the Catholic Church by director Ron Howard, but the Church has been so vocal about the movie before seeing it that I can't imagine they'd acknowledge it at this point.

If I had to offer any criticism of the movie, it would be the lack of chemistry between the two main characters. These folks go through hell and back together (no pun intended), so one would naturally expect them to grow close to each other, worry for each other's safety, rejoice in escaping a close call, etc. In the book, there's even an undercurrent of sexual tension, with Langdon noting his attraction but putting it on hold while the actions swirls around him. In the movie, the two seem to be all business, all the time. At the very end, when the excitement is over, there's a touching scene, but it comes across as the blossoming of a romantic interest, rather than the satisfying opportunity for the couple to stop, take a breath, and acknowledge their feelings for each other. After reading the book, I assumed the two would begin dating the very next day. After seeing the movie, I think he might wait a few months and then decide to ask her out for a casual cup of coffee. Opportunity lost, if you ask me.

To sum up: if you liked the book, I think you'll like the movie. If you haven't read the book, I think you'll like the movie even more (my wife loved it), but only if you're willing to put your thinking cap on and pay close attention.

Also, I heard that if you re-arrange the words in the closing credits, they form a quote from the New Testament.

(Just kidding).

posted by Brian at 10:53 PM


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