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The Da Vinci Code (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Just because the book was poorly written, had zero character development, a ludicrous story, and was completely uninvolving didn’t keep it from being a huge bestseller. So I guess that the fact that Director Ron Howard’s movie is far too long, has a lame script (Akiva Goldsmith), no premise, and mediocre acting and directing won’t keep it from making money.

If this isn’t Tom Hanks’ (Robert Langdon) worst performance of his career, it’s certainly right down there near the bottom. His face looks puffy and he appears as if he’s going through the motions uninvolved. He’s not helped by the bad script and uninspired directing. It looks as if Opie was out fishing with Andy Griffith during much of the shoot, because this sure isn’t “A Beautiful Mind” or “Apollo 13.”

Forget the anti-Catholic and anti-Christian themes and the lame-brained theology, the book wasn’t very good and the movie is just too silly and full of incredible plot holes to hold interest.

By now everyone must know the story. The Holy Grail isn’t the cup at The Last Supper, it’s Mary Magdalene. According to Brown and Howard, Jesus married and impregnated her before He was crucified. Mary split and lived the rest of her life in France (which, incidentally, didn’t exist in the year 33 A.D.; it was called Gaul and, before Caesar invaded 80 years before and defeated Vercingetorix, was divided into three parts).

There was a lot of silly stuff in the book, and most is carried over into the movie. The most ludicrous was that Leonardo Da Vinci knew the secret and told the world about it with his painting “The Last Supper,” which, according to Dan Brown and Ron Howard, shows that Mary, rather than the Apostle John, was sitting next to Jesus at The Last Supper.

Oy Vey! Let’s deal with this. First, how silly is it that a man from history, Leonardo, knew this? Leonardo lived 1500 years after Jesus died. This would be like someone in the year 2550 saying that someone in the year 2006 wrote something that revealed who King Arthur really was and because in 2550 someone in 2006 is ancient due to the fact that the past is flat while the future is three-dimensional, he would have credibility. Why would Leonardo know the secret facts of something that happened 1500 years before he was born? Why is that evidence of anything? And if it was a big secret and Leonardo was part of the cabal keeping it, why would he reveal it to the world?

Second, Brown and Howard want us to believe that because the Apostle John is shown without a beard and sort of effeminate, he wasn’t the Apostle John at all, but was really Mary Magdalene. Oh, that sounds interesting. Except John, almost from the very first Century, has been pictured beardless and effeminate. It wasn’t just Leonardo who pictured him that way. Everyone did. If Leonardo had pictured a woman at The Last Supper, it would have been revolutionary and people would have been commenting on it at the time it was painted. It wouldn’t have taken 400 years to look at it. No, what happened is that 400 years later, ignorant people looked at it and drew a conclusion that in Leonardo’s time would have shown their ignorance had they raised the issue.

Here’s the plot: Langdon has been called in to check on the death of a Louvre curator, Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle), where he meets Sauniere’s foster daughter, French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou). Since Langdon has been set up by the police, he and Sophie spend the rest of the movie alternatively running away from the police and trying to figure out what Sauniere was trying to tell them in the way he arranged his death scene. Also trying to figure it out is an evil Monk, Silas (Paul Bettany), who is a killing machine doing the bidding of a mysterious voice who talks with him on the phone.

Through it all they are instructed by Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), who condescendingly debunks all of Christianity’s cherished beliefs, as if anybody who could believe them is the dumbest of fools (people, I guess, like Roger Bacon and Thomas Acquinas and Thomas More).

In fact, there is a gratuitous dialogue between the two protagonists, Sophie and Robert, near the end of the film that I don’t remember from the book, but which  seems to set forth the filmmakers’ agnostic credentials. Since this dialogue is between the two people we are supposed to like, because of the tone and substance of the conversation, it is clearly intended to sway the viewer into thinking that there is no rational basis for Christian belief.

The locations and the sets were the only parts of the film that impressed. Even though they did film at The Louvre, Production Designer Allan Cameron constructed part of it at Pinewood Studios, with all the paintings reproduced. The movie is enhanced by the actual locations in Paris and Teabing’s home, the Château de Villette, northwest of Paris, although the interiors were shot on a sound stage. London locations also add to the enjoyment of the film (and, God knows, it needs something to add to it).

If a filmmaker is responsible he recognizes an obligation, when dealing with factual bases for a fictional story, to be as accurate as possible. Here Brown and Howard are dealing with the Roman Catholic Church and Opus Dei, two real life organizations. Yet Dan and Ron paint them with broad, Nazi-like strokes. Worse, they are both taken in by the hoax of the Priory of Sion and put it out there for everyone to believe, even though it is the hoariest of hoaxes. That alone would rob the story of the verisimilitude it needs.

Brown originally tried to say that most of his story was based on fact. That has been thoroughly debunked and I’m not going to go into it here. Suffice it to say that Howard has done a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the book. The movie is slow, boring, factually inaccurate, and absurd. Bring lots of caffeine.

May 18, 2006