Friday, May 19, 2006

Review of The Da Vinci Code

With all the hoopla this movie is causing in Asia, I've decided to review it myself as I differ with most of the reviews out so far.

To start off with I'm not a big movie buff and mostly watch independent-type films. I rarely see Hollywood blockbusters unless I'm tagging along on a family outing.

Also, I was not one of the 50 million or so people who read the Da Vinci Code book. So many of the scenes may have been more suspenseful for me than for reader-viewers. My expectations might also have been lower although I was not immune to all the publicity. I've seen more than a few documentaries and news specials devoted to the theme of Dan Brown's novel.

Another thing that might color my opinion is that I have more than a passing interest in things like "symbology," history and archaeology. So parts that may have bored others waiting for more action-packed gore, I found quite stimulating.

Character depth and development probably suffered because this film had a lot of historical matter to convey to the audience in a relatively short time. You won't find much going on romantically here, no heat generated between Langdon (Hank's character) and Sophie (Audrey Tautou).

That fact alone may have disappointed some critics. The need to relay much information cuts down on the time needed to convey emotion. Therefore, the action is not of the roller-coaster type and there are some disconnects in the emotional train.

However, the flashback scenes, especially the cuts to the medieval period are well done. The film has a fairly good medieval air, which is important to the atmosphere that one expects.

Sophie's character could have used more development in certain dimensions that are best not revealed here. The audience really needs to connect with her more in the early parts of the film. The car scene, though, when she flashbacks to her childhood is memorable.

Overall the acting is good, but not sensational. Probably the most intriguing relationship is that between Silas, the albino hitman, and the Opus Dei leader. Silas' character is well-developed from the emotional perspective.

Ian McKellan also does a great job as the scholarly expert on the "Priory of Sion." His acting though falls apart a bit, in my view, near the end.

Action in this film was quite good enough except maybe for hardcore adrenaline seekers. Not the type of thing that keeps you gripped to your seat, but more mental movement in trying to solve the next step of the puzzle. That could be a negative issue for those who have read the book, although as I understand Howard made some important story alterations with this in mind.

Not sure why the last 10 minutes of the film drew chuckles at the Cannes pre-preview. This was the same part of the movie that was cut out by Thai censors, but latter allowed after Columbia Pictures appealed the ruling. The ending to such a film must have been tremendously difficult and I think it was pulled off reasonably well.

In the end, it seems like the idea of the "sacred feminine," an underlying theme in the movie is ticking off both the church and critics, but maybe for different reasons. That might be an interesting study in itself. Some Catholic church leaders have characterized the book and film as the greatest challenge the faith has ever faced, which in my view is perplexing.

For those who like a good mystery, or a film that examines thoughtfully the history of the human condition, this film is recommended. Otherwise, you may want to follow Howard's advice and wait for reviews coming through the grapevine.

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