I was one of those people who got caught up in the buzz to see the movie. I like thrillers. A thriller with murders, code-breaking and shocking twists is even better. And hey, it’s probably the most anticipated movie of the year. What kind of a movie buff I’d be if I missed it?
If you’re not one of the 40 million people who read the book, here’s how the story goes: The curator of the Louvre Museum had been murdered. The corpse was locked inside the Grand Gallery, but the killer was nowhere to be found. As if that’s not mysterious enough, the curator arranged himself in a position according to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man and left a message in codes beside his body. A symbologist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) was brought in to analyze the meaning of the curator’s final act. Without his knowledge, Mr. Langdon also happened to be the prime suspect of the murder. Then an agent from the Cryptography department, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), showed up, claiming that she had cracked the code. With some surprising revealations, Sophie brought about even more questions than answers. Langdon and Sophie followed the trail of codes and puzzles embedded in the works of da Vinci, as they went on a hunt for the supposedly greatest secret in human history.
And if you have not been living under the rock for the last year, you’d know the secret is the true identity and location of the Holy Grail — the Christ’s wife, Mary Magdalene.
I guess I didn’t truly grasp the significance of this controversy. For me, it was just an entertaining movie. And I understand how difficult it is to adapt the bestseller for the silver screen. I was satisfied with the result. I don’t understand why this movie got such stinky reviews. Perhaps they are the reason I set my expectation low enough to enjoy a decent film?
Obviously, it’s not the best movie from the director, Ron Howard. But it was also apparent that he worked hard to make the storyline slightly believable and fast-paced, despite the 147-minute running time. Here’s why I don’t understand the critics’ argument that the movie is too long and talky. The book contains much, much, much more descriptions of the documents or historical figures to support the author’s theory. It even goes to the point to involve hidden symbols in classic Disney movies. At least the movie only leaves us with what’s necessary to understand the next clue. Even that may not be enough, as my sister, a veteran in Bible Study, still could not understand a few parts of the race to the Holy Grail. And a couple of crazy car chases were even added to spiced up the film. How can you not see he’s trying?!
The attempt to tone down the controversial theory was clear. In the scene where Landgon and Sir Teabing were explaining the "true story" of the Holy Grail to Sophie, Longdon rather strongly opposed Teabing’s idea that the Church was behind a cover-up scandal. I don’t recall such a strong reaction from Longdon in the novel. On the other hand, when Langdon and Sophie reached the location that the code suggested where the Holy Grail was, the revealation of the last piece of the puzzle was cheesy, for lack of a better word. I was fighting my distaste near that moment ("Oh please…Don’t go there…"). However, I was pleased to see that these two main characters did not get romantically involved. I know many could feel very differently, noting the absence of chemistry between the two. But it would be such a cliche if they ended up like that.
Performances from the tortured albino monk (Paul Bettany) and the franatic kighted scholar Teabing (Sir Ian McKellen – Yup, he is a knight in real life, too.) should be applauded. Bettany’s Silas was silent yet aggressively violent. His physical transformation and accent was right on target. It’s a shame that the movie did not have time to give a proper introduction to his background, which would have allowed us to appreciate the progress to his final breakdown. McKellen was the only one that seemed to be having fun filming the movie. While he’s physically challenged, he is the most vigorous character in the movie. Although some may consider his performance too outrageous for the part, I thought it was fitting for the character who lived and breathed for the Holy Grail.
Many criticized the casting of Tom Hanks in the role of Professor Robert Langdon, and I tend to agree. He seemed very uncomfortable thoughout the entire movie. Sure, I know he’s being suspected and chased by the police, but Langdon, as a symbologist who knows a great deal about the "true story" of the Grail, should also be extremely excited about the journey. Sadly, the audience could not see that. Instead, I’d develop a headache if I had to see him frowning for 10 more minutes. The usually charismatic Audrey Tautou was also wasted in her tight spot as agent Neveu. The character was confused but still had her moments to shine in the novel, but she was reduced to a typical female character that was simply dragged along for the ride. There were some brief moments when Tautou could almost showed us why she had been adored by international movie-goers for years. But they’re short and insignificant to the story development, one would probably miss them anyways.
Alright, it was not an amazing film, but The Da Vinci Code was good enough to be called a decent thriller with its twists and turns. Of course, for a thiller to succeed, the audience should not see what’s coming. And for a movie adapted from the No. 1 worldwide bestseller, it is very hard to achieve. So my conclusion is: Maybe this movie should not be made at all. Why mess around with something that has already taken shape in so many people’s minds? Then again, it’s Hollywood. No money should be left in people’s pockets when there’s a way to get them to pay up, right?
- The book definitely has more detailed information about the thoery behind the Holy Grail. Regardless of one’s religion, it’s a good read for those who have patience and an interest in history, religion, arts, codes, etc.
- From the trivia for The Da Vinci Code in IMDb: Ron Howard’s first envisioned choice for the role of Robert Langdon was Bill Paxton. Paxton was interested but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. Russell Crowe was then seriously considered for the role but ultimately Howard decided on long time friend Tom Hanks for the role. Other actors considered for the part were Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Jackman and George Clooney. (Who’s your ideal Robert Langdon?)
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