Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Disappointment

Hindsight is a lovely thing. It’s the perfect opportunity for people to glibly say ‘I told you so’. Some books just are not meant to be turned into movies. In hindsight, the Da Vinci Code is one of them. And I have heard so many people who warned me not to go watch it say ‘I told you so’ that I think I should take advice more seriously.

As I’ve said before, I unabashedly loved the book. However, I had no similar expectation that the movie would be brilliant. I knew it would be mediocre at best. Nevertheless, I was going to watch the movie with the enthusiasm of viewing a thriller and although I thought I would re-read the book before hand there was absolutely no time and as it turns out, no need. I must say I was sorely disappointed.

Books turned movies will also always be beset by critics looking for flaws, discrepancies in what they believe should have been told and what was told. I believe that the book form is always more telling, with detail, and it allows the reader to picture the scene and characters in their own minds. This is short-lived luxury when books become movies and some actor takes the place of the ‘man in my mind’. Tom Hanks (whom ordinarily I like very much) was so completely wrong and bland for the part of Robert Langdon. He looked wrong, acted badly and brought nothing to the character. The same can be said of all the other actors. None of them brought joy to the screen – or looked at all happy about being there (and I don't mean giggly just enthusiastic). Each one lacked depth (the monk Silas was alright) and looked tired, almost as if their performance was being forced – poor casting and subsequent poor direction was probably the reason.

Another basic problem was the amount of historical detail that the book goes into. Directing a book into a movie is always going to have its shortfalls – how much detail to keep and what pace to follow? With such a short time to tell such a long story I think they did a great job of breaking up the historical detail into important info bytes. So all the basic information was in – but lots of colourful detail was lost. And putting in lots of theory into the narrative meant that the movie was rather slow – not a thriller in any sense. The interesting bits were about the art and symbolism and this was depicted well.

It was a disappointing movie. The story was clear but did not flow well. The characters were shallow and fleeting. I don’t know if any other director could have done a better job. Big budget does not mean much if the story is so cumbersome and heavy with detail that it needs 6 hours rather than 2 to tell it. The telling of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code would have made a much better 6 part TV drama but I guess there’s not enough box-office money in that.

The movie makeover of the book is drawing full houses and beating box-office records. That’s understandable considering the hype that religious groups are bringing upon it by trying to get it banned. Even those who had no intention of watching it were forced into going out of sheer curiosity. To see what all the fuss was about. Oh what a letdown! Anyone who watches the movie will quickly dispel the myth that it is trying to bring down the church. The movie is not strong enough to bring a wry smile let alone bring down an ancient institution.

I’ve been anti enough. Now I’ll tell you what I liked about it. I liked the way they depicted historical moments – in black and white shaky film. I liked some of the pictography – beautiful settings in the Louvre, the images of which had disappeared since our trip to Paris. And finally, the musical score – which was exquisite, both in content and delivery. It’s definitely a soundtrack worth buying.

I still plan to watch it again – with V once his exam is over this Saturday. Will I notice things I missed last time? Will I love the music even more? Will Tom Hanks seem better or just more out of his depth? Will the story seem more insipid? Will Audrey Tatou be less Angelina Jolie poutie? Will I love the art even more? Will I dislike it more or find some redeeming quality? I suspect I know the answers to all these questions: Yes. Yes. More. Yes. No. Yes. More. We’ll see.
Have you been 'told you so' yet?


  1. This post, especially towards the end is sooo novel like. Lol!!! :p You watching it again huh.. :( And I haven't even watched it once.

    And hey you don't seem to be around much.. whats up with that..

  2. n I forgot.. you're birthday is coming up.. 31in2006.. :D

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