Ron “Happy Days” Howard’s big screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s multi-million selling novel finally hits UK shores after months of religious protests, lawsuits and clandestine PR operations.
Everyone knows the plot anyway but … When the elderly curator of Paris’ world-famous Louvre museum is found murdered, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) sets out on a deadly quest that promises to unveil the resting place of the Holy Grail. Assisted by French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou) and stereotypical English aristocrat Sir Leigh Teabing (he loves Earl Grey and the Boat Race) Langdon races against time, the authorities, and self-flagellating albino monk Silas (Bettany) to uncover a conspiracy that will rock Christianity to its core.
At one point McKellen says: “You are about to witness the greatest cover-up in ancient history”. However, we would wager that the PR operation surrounding the film’s release would run a pretty close second.
Critics weren’t allowed anywhere near Howard’s “masterpiece” before its release (a few lucky journos got a sneak peek at Cannes 2 days before its release), the actors were bound to secrecy and the screenplay was kept strictly under wraps. But with an Oscar-winning director, cast and screenwriter surely they couldn’t go wrong?
Err … yes they could.
The main problem with this adaptation is the amount of exposition required to make sense of the plot - which is still a muddle despite the hefty 150 minute running time.
A strangely uncharismatic Hanks (complete with Sven-Goran Eriksson style haircut) comes across as a prep school divinity teacher, delivering one mind-numbing religious discourse after the other.
Howard’s action set-pieces are equally mundane - especially for such a big budget movie - and even the code cracking scenes (Howard handled these to stunning effect in “A Beautiful Mind”) are a mess, with the enjoyment had from trying to decode the clues yourself completely lost on the big screen. The best way to inject some life into proceedings would have been to include some humour (something which McKellen nearly achieves) but the only decent joke is saved for the final scene, by which time most viewers were too bored to laugh.
Much like the movie itself, the sparkling special features list looks amazing at first sight but offers little other than promotional rubbish. There is no commentary from the director or any of his big name stars, and the longest featurette doesn’t even break the half-hour mark. The most interesting extra is a 5-minute feature called “The Codes of The Da Vinci Code” which reveals a series of cryptic symbols hidden within the film.
For example, did you spot that the air freshener hanging from Collet’s rear view mirror when Langdon is summoned to the Louvre is in the shape of the Angel Gabriel, which represents the messenger of a call to duty? Or perhaps the scene where Teabing talks to Langdon while standing beside a two-headed statue of Janus – a symbol of double identity?
Langdon is described as “Indiana Jones in tweed” in the novel, and thinking back to Indy’s own quest for the Holy Grail in “The Last Crusade” reminded us just how badly “The Da Vinci Code” misses the target. Apart from these interesting diversions, however, why anyone would fork out £20 on this disappointing offering remains a mystery to us. Rating: 12A Staring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow Directed by: Ron Howard Extras: The Codes of The Da Vinci Code Feature, First Day on the Set with Ron Howard Featurette, A Discussion with Dan Brown, A Portrait of Langdon Featurette, Who is Sophie Neveu? Featurette, Unusual Suspects Featurette, Magical Places Featurette, Close- up on Mona Lisa Featurette, The Filmmaking Experience 2-Part Featurette, The Codes of 'The Da Vinci Code' Featurette, The Music of "The Da Vinci Code" Featurette