While on a book tour in Paris, Robert Langdon, professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University finds himself framed for the murder of Jacques Saunière, the curator of the Louvre Museum, whom he has never met. His analytical skills and Saunière’s granddaughter keep him one step ahead of the police as the search for the killer reveals an elaborate plan that could shake the foundations of world history and alter life as we know it.
As one of the over 60 million readers of Dan Brown’s book, I knew how the film ended yet I still enjoyed watching the puzzles get solved and the stories get told. However, I am not sure the film is completely satisfying because the story is much better suited to a novel.
The Da Vinci Code has a great deal of exposition and back-story that doesn’t seem intrusive when relayed in a novel. The film comes to a halt many times as numerous flashbacks inform the viewer of relevant information. Even when the plot moves forward, the pacing is slow because Langdon isn’t your typical movie hero. He’s very passive, usually reacting to situations rather than initiating them, and there’s not a lot of action as he thinks about the puzzles. The structure of the story throws the film’s pacing off as well.
The action and conflict reach a climax when the villains are caught, but there is a lengthy denouement as the film continues because the major puzzles have yet to be solved.
The Da Vinci Code looks great, although when you are shooting in the Louvre Museum that is to be expected. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman focus too much on the illustration of the puzzles and the back-story, causing neglect in other areas. The performances were adequate in the service of moving the plot along, but none of them were especially memorable except for Sir Ian McKellen, who is one of our greatest living actors. Even the normally reliable Tom Hanks doesn’t bring much to his role, which could be due to the subdued nature of Langdon.
In spite of the problems, fans of the book should enjoy the film, but I can understand if this adaptation doesn’t work for them. If you didn’t like the book, you won’t like the film. Those who haven’t read the book might be better served watching it on DVD. Some scenes will require repeat viewing to take in all that is happening and the film’s pacing is unintentionally conducive to taking many breaks.
Ultimately, I would recommend reading the book and skipping the film, which fails the major test of not enticing a repeat viewing except for committed devotees of the conspiracy theories presented.
I have my own puzzle to solve and that is discovering who the ghostwriter for Akiva Goldsman is. I loathed all the films I saw of his throughout the ‘90s (the two Batman movies, the aptly named A Time to Kill) and couldn’t understand how he continued to get work. My hatred peaked when his hatchet job on A Beautiful Mind was rewarded with an Oscar. It subsided a little with I, Robot and I enjoyed both Cinderella Man and The Da Vinci Code with no signs of illness or physical discomfort.
Obviously, there is treachery afoot; The Akiva Code must be solved!
Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Akiva Goldsman
Based on the novel by Dan Brown