Tom Hanks is back in Ron Howard’s latest film based on the Dan Brown series – so here’s my look back at 2006’s adaptation of the literary juggernaut that was The Da Vinci Code.
Watching Blair Witch recently reminded me how old I’m getting. I know someone who was born in 1999! Like a real person was born after Pretty Fly For A White Guy, Manchester United won the European Cup and The Phantom Menace ruined Star Wars for at least one Usher. Trying to explain to them just how revolutionary The Blair Witch Project was (and why we all believed it was real) was an eye-opening experience. Only 90s kids will remember, I guess.
Another “you really had to be there” experience was Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a book that has sold 90 million copies to date. To put that in context – only the first of the Harry Potter book sold more than that. The Catcher In The Rye has sold 65 million. It was everywhere, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood made it into a film.Ron Howard snapped up the rights and Tom Hanks took the lead as Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor specialising in the history of religious symbols.
It is this expertise that sparks this story, as Langdon is called to The Louvre to meet Police Captain Bezu Fache (Jean Reno), who is investigating the murder of Jacques Saunière. Saunière was the curator of the Louvre, and in his dying moments he left a series of hidden clues around the museum that sends Langdon and his granddaughter, cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) on an increasingly dangerous journey to try and find Saunière’s killer, while on the run from the French police
Of course, we know that Saunière was killed by an albino monk Silas (the ever dependable Paul Bettany) who wanted information about The Holy Grail. Silas was a troubled boy who found salvation when he saved Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred Molina) from an assault, and joined Opus Dei under Aringarosa’s tutelage. Opus Dei is a secretive group in the Catholic Church that, with a mysterious figure called The Teacher, is working to protect the secrets of the Church – and are not afraid to resort to murder to do so.
Langdon discovers that Saunière was a member of Priory of Sion, a group once led by Leonardo Da Vinci and Issac Newton, founded to protect the Holy Grail. This leads to Langdon and Neveu meeting Holy Grail expert Sir Leigh Teabing (a scenery chewing Ian McKellen), more revelations and a trip to England. Can Landgon and Neveu unravel the mystery of Saunière’s death – or will it lead to more mysteries? Who will catch up with them first, the police or Opus Dei? And how deep do the conspiracies go?
A plot synopsis for a book that sold that many copies is a bit silly, as is try to avoid giving spoilers away, but the most important thing to take away is that The Da Vinci Code is a daft thriller. It has the ridiculous line “I need to get to library, fast” which should tell you where they are pitching the film. Heck, the film starts with an albino monk chasing someone through the Louvre. If that’s not enough Ian McKellan’s performance should dispel any notions of taking it seriously.
The problems with the film come straight from the book, and at nearly two and a half hours it loses the page turning essence of the book. Sure almost none of it is based in the real world (for example Opus Dei is hugely misrepresented by almost every account) but, as you might be able to tell, I still enjoy the ridiculousness of it all. And Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou are just so likable in the main roles, it’ll take more than a few half truths to put me off. Ok, a lot of half truths… ok, a whole bunch of nonsense. But believe me, the book has even more nonsense, and I’m not afraid to admit that is a guilty pleasure. So maybe that’s what this is: a load of bunkum, and I should know better – but I like it.
What happened next? The Da Vinci Code was met with lukewarm reviews but went on to take over $750 million at the worldwide box office. The sequel Angels & Demons took nearly $500 million, and although The Lost Symbol (it’s a really terrible book) never made it to the big screen, we now have Inferno, which looks like it will return to the roots of The Da Vinci Code – although if they stick to the same ending, it could be… problematic.
Inferno is released world wide on Friday 14th October.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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