Monday, May 22, 2006

Oh, Draconian devil!

Confession one: I read The DaVinci Code two Christmas breaks ago.

Confession two: I saw The DaVinci Code on Friday.

I’m not sure why I feel slightly guilty about reading the book or seeing the movie. Probably because both are considered overrated by people I consider “intelligent.” But if you take them for they’re supposed to be (yes, I do have that song stuck in my head now)—which is a mystery novel/movie—they’re not bad. In fact, they present an interesting blending of genres, introducing academic/theological questions to the general public via the mystery novel. (And yes, I consider the general public all those people I growl at when I’m at the bookstore or the library or driving. . . and if you know me, you know what I would say.)

So let’s talk about the movie. Because I do think you should see it. And, let’s be honest. you probably are going to see it, if you haven’t already. I’ll try not to spoil it for anyone, but if you’re a wimp when it comes to critical reviews, back away from the blog now.

I read about halfway through the book again before I saw the movie. The biggest problem I anticipated was translating the long passages of explanation to film. Most of it was internal monologuing or explaining the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei and the history of the Holy Grail. And they did follow the kind of traditional flashbacking: showing the Knights Templar, etc., as they told the story. But the most effective moments of this (for me) was when they would layer time periods—not so much a flashback as walking through history.

The movie has the same problems the book has: it slows down in the middle. You can only watch people solve mind clues for so long before you want to tell them to throw it out with the Friday crossword. Also, for a book centered around preserving the idea of the sacred feminine, there’s only one female character. Where have all the women gone? We don’t freaking know. (If you think about it, the story is terribly male chauvinist: men protecting/preserving women. And I’ll continue with anyone who wants to discuss this with me, but I don’t want to spoil the plot. It’s not worth it.)

The movie is well cast. Tom Hanks isn’t annoying for once. Audrey Tautou wasn’t Amelie, but she wasn’t supposed to be. (I was annoyed that they gave Hanks a lot of her lines from the book.) Ian McKellen, always good, and particularly so here. Alfred Molina wasn’t used enough. And after that laundry list, I want to end on my favorite: Paul Bettany. His Silas is brilliant and awesome and terrible and sad—without becoming tragic or melodramatic. (Although, as Lady Jane observed, how many movies has that guy gone completely naked in? Can we count that high?)


Lady Jane said...

I agree on all points. Paul Bettney was fantastic--good call on the tragic. If you want to read a hilarious review, look up Roger Ebert's on National Treasurer (I usually get these at It was funny then, and even more funny now that I've seen DaVinci Code.

Saule Cogneur said...

I thought the same things when I read the book. Right now there are too many other good movies coming out for me to justify blowing $10 on this one, but I'll probably see it eventually.

Tolkien Boy said...

I hated this book. Hated, hated, hated it.

I hope that the movie is an improvement.

FoxyJ said...

Both National Treasure and The Mummy are movies I have watched without sound on airplanes and still thought they sucked. Oh, and they were completely intelligible without sound. That can't be a good sign.

ambrosia ananas said...

We saw the movie last night. Still not sure how I feel about the work as a whole, but I loved Silas. He's the only one of the characters whose death I could feel bad about. (How exactly does one simultaneously account for an event that *did* occur and several events that could have?)


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