John and I snuck out to a movie last night to round out the long weekend and saw The da Vinci Code. We both have read and enjoyed Dan Brown's novels and thought that it might be interesting to see what was done with this one cinematographically. The book is fast-paced, fairly systematic and lends itself to a visual depiction, so we were hoping that the movie would be fun; an interesting evening's entertainment.
We weren't expecting revelations or shockingly disturbing shifts in our mental and historical preconceptions, after all, we've read the book and knew the plot. I've also done a good bit of academic work on the historical life of Jesus (when I did Religious Studies at MUN) and am quite able to shift out the speculative from the probable. It is also not our religion or its history that is debated (in this work of FICTION, and it is definitively fictional, folks), so we weren't really influenced by media hype one way or the other. We just wanted to be entertained.
The actors and actresses were good. Audrey Tautou was quite convincing as Sophie, Ian McKellan looked like he was having a rollicking good time as Teabing and Paul Bettany did a superlatively job of making a rather one-dimensional character (fanatical monk-assassin) seem almost pitiable. Jean Reno was okay, but his character wasn't really given a chance to develop and Alfred Molina was fine; nothing superior, but adequate. The only actor that really didn't fit how I pictured the character was Tom Hanks. In the novel, Langdon is an academic. Tom Hanks simply couldn't pull off an academic's fascination with ideas and an ability to lose onesself in a possibility, however briefly. In contrast to Ian McKellan, he fell a bit flat, which is a shame.
One of the things that I was hoping for was to be able to get a glimpse of the locations mentioned in the book and to enhance my mental picture with some screen footage. Never having visited the cathedrals, castles or museums in question, I found the depiction of them fit my personal visualisation rather well. Because of the pace of the movie, though, there was not much in the way of gratuitous eye candy, which is something of a shame. In a film so preoccupied with history and the traces of a puzzle left in history, there should have been a little more accentuation of the milieux is which the story was happening. Instead, we saw more usage of cellphones than was, perhaps, necessary to accentuate the contrast of present technology with past and there were simply too many historical flashbacks for my taste.
Perhaps the overall effect was that the movie was a bit rushed. Supporting characters didn't have a chance to really develop, scenery went by in a flash and there wasn't any real…. emotion or passion on the part of the good guys, if they can be so called. The viewer was as detached from feeling for the main characters as Sophie was from her "grandfather" and there was no chemistry between Hanks and Tautou (which wasn't necessarily a problem, but did contribute to the overall effect). At the end, the viewer was left feeling rather numb towards the protagonists, who were caught between two groups of passionate people and belonged to neither group.
All-in-all, it was a strange film. Too detached and hurried for my liking, although I may feel differently if I see it again when it comes out on video. Until then, save your pennies and wait for the rental. I don't think it gained much from the big screen.