The Da Vinci Code -- *
Cannes Film Festival
I've just seen the godless "Da Vinci Code" and you'd think the Devil would have made a more entertaining movie. As fellow Cannes-goer Mike D'Angelo put it, the book is such a phenomenon that the movie can't help but be a big hit. Everyone's either read the book or heard of it so everyone will see it. No one will like it -- not the people who read the book and certainly not the people who haven't read the book. But it will all happen too fast for word of mouth to have any effect. (No wonder they're opening it on 11,600 screens around the world.)
Here are my first notes: Badly done and very silly. People enjoy the novel because it's silly and a page-turner and they get to pretend they've learned something...like reading James Michener. ("Did you know Hawaii...?") But the movie is confusing and flits by so quickly you're just lost. They don't even explain what the Fibonacci Sequence is. (That's the sequence where each number is the product of the two previous numbers -- hence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 and so on.) And obviously Ron Howard and Akiva were petrified by the idea of people standing around and talking. Never mind that the book includes a lot of fun talk (wild conspiracy theories, salacious historical tidbits, etc.). Never mind that the book is also a country-spanning adventure with multiple murders, an albino assassin who self-flagellates himself, guns, poison, narrow escapes and so on. Despite all of that, they panicked over the thought of Hanks delivering a lecture, so every time he makes any historical reference, we get a black and white flashback to that event. If Hanks mentions the Crusades, we get a glimpse of knights laying seige to castles, with blood flowing and swords flying. If he mentions the slaughter of the Templar Knights by the Pope, we see the blade go in. In fact, the movie is filled with unnecessary flashbacks. Did we really need to see the backstory of the albino assassin? (Mind you, Paul Bettany could bring a lot of new members to Opus Dei.) And I defy anyone who hasn't read the book to explain what the albino's flashbacks were about. If most viewers are gonna be puzzled, why include it? That goes doouble for the Vatican intrigue, which is poorly explained. No one who hasn't read the book (and that's about six billion minus 45 million) will have a clue as to the power sturggles going on. Finally, Cannes traditionally has a terrific sound system, but I wondered if my seat was a problem. I had a great deal of trouble understanding Audrey Tatou -- I had to keep checking the French subtitles and translate those BACK into English to keep on track. Obviously, American audiences won't have that option. And other people had the same complaint. At the jaw-dropping moment of revelation, the audience actually giggled. Sure, they're cynical godless journalists, but I'll bet the same thing happens for a general audience. it's one thing to read it in a book. It's quite another to hear it laid out so bluntly. Howard does everything to soften the book's religious comments. The godless Robert Langdon is even seen sort of kneeling in prayer at the last moment, which certainly goes against the tenor of the book. This is one of those movies -- like the last three Star wars films -- that everyone will see but no one will like.
SPOILER: And the Church just looks silly for complaining and warning people against it. For heaven's sake, didn't they read the book? The Church IS NOT THE BAD GUY. One renegade bishop doesn't besmirch the Church's name and in fact the Pope and the Cardinals are depicted repeatedly as genuinely religious men.