So, it’s bad.
I bet you dollars to pesos that ten years from now we might catch a rerun of this movie on TBS or TBN or something and find ourselves scratching our heads and thinking… “What exactly was the big deal?” With a $77 million opening weekend, the joke’s on us, present company included. In time, I sincerely believe the joke will be at the expense of the creative forces behind this project. I am sure they will sooth the stinging pain of our laughter by curling up in a warm bath next to a fireplace where they are burning stacks of hundred dollar bills.
The biggest problem with the book is that it is essentially an overglorified airport novel. You know… one of those novels with names like, “The Shadow Matrix,” or, you know… ”Tribulation Force.” Airport novels are about 400-500 pages long, long enough for you to look at it at the newsstand and think that it will sustain you to your trip to Honolulu / Des Moines / Federal Prison.
You are incorrect.
You will finish it as you’re waiting for your connecting flight in Houston which is for the best, because Sgt. Azzkicker doens’t allow new inmates to have outside reading material.
Airport novels have characters with names like Rock Blackwell, or Black Rocksoff, or Rayford Steele. Rock Blackwell will not be able to form a coherent sentence, but chances are that he will have some pretty hot sex and most likely save the government / universe / hot chick.
When I first heard about “The DaVinci Code,” people were talking about it as if it were a serious, historical novel. I was underthe impression that it was something like a Michener piece.
The DaVinci Code makes Tom Clancy’s latest technothriller read like Tolstoy. Dave Barry writes more believable characters. If you think about it, there’s not really a story in DVC. There is zero character development, in fact, the characters are there only to serve one purpose, which is the Big Reveal.
No one changes, or really makes a serious choice. The only character who undergoes any sort of shift is the character of Sophie Neveu, and, frankly, what passes for character development with her is essentially the big reveal of her true family of origin. She’s completely passive in the whole process.
Robert Langdon? Leigh Teabing? Bishop Arreggllaggalaraggah? Nothin’. They believe the same things at the end of the story that they do at the beginning, except that they’re either now dead, in jail, or still sporting silly hair.
Ironically, the one character who experiences anything resembling an actual story arc is Silas, the murderous nekkid uber-honkey monk with a whip fetish.
Now, the screenplay adaptation for The DaVinci code was written by one Akiva Goldsman. He won an Oscar for his adaptation of A Beautiful Mind. Good for him. A Beautiful Mind, if you remember, was a very well written, twisty, delicate piece of work. It set up the big “gotcha” twist in a way that I found compelling.
Unfortunately, most people do not realize that Mr. Goldsman also wrote the screenplay for a small, independant art house film named Batman and Robin. I cannot miss this opportunity to type the following phrase for the second time since I started blogging here.
Which Mr. Goldsman showed up for this gig? The latter, I’m afraid. The screenplay does nothing other then reveal the inherent flaws of the source material. Dan Brown should send Akiva Goldsman a giftbag filled with poisonous scorpions.
After the first 25 minutes, which are actually pretty good, The Explaining starts happens. The Explaining will continue to happen until Tom Hanks’ Big Speech at the end of the film. Oh sure, The Explaining will be paused for a moment or two for more whipping, or diabolical priests, or corrupt Catholic police officers, but don’t worry, it will return soon. Your new worldview will be explained in just a few more minutes. Ok, maybe a few more. Just a few more. Good grief… how long is this thing?!?!
Audrey Tautou’s Sophie is the person on the business end of the vast majority of The Explaining. The one upside to all this is that Audrey Tautou makes confusion look sexy, which is good, since her main job is to ask leading questions in comically French-accented English. Her delivery is so stilted, that after about the first hour, she started reminding me of the sidekick on infomercials:
“You mean… zee ginzuu weel cut zee carrots AND zee celery with only one stroke… and I am zee offspring of zee Messiah? Sacre Bloo!”
Author’s note: I neither know the correct spelling or actual meaning of the expression “Sacre Bloo!” But it’s damn funny.
Hanks does his best with what is a terribly thankless, lackluster hero. I honestly don’t have much to say about his performance. I think it could have been much worse had he not been there. His character displays, for a brief instant, a little spunk when he is arguing with Teabing in one scene, but it’s all show. He’s back to Explaining in no time.
Then there’s Ian McKellen. Sir Ian is not exactly sympathetic to Christianity. I would guess he relished the thought of taking it down a few pegs. His delight is his undoing. He has been given the most amount of Explaining to do, and he is so painfully obvious in his disdain for Christianity, that it undermines his performance. Anytime he utters the word, “The Church,” it is in a manner that should be followed immediately with a tight zoom on his face and scary music. I am a fan, Sir Ian. I am. You can act your ass off, and I give you props. Don’t let your idealism interfere with your art; it’s beneath you, sir.
Opie’s direction is pretty good, with one exception. This movie is flashback happy. We get flashbacks of young Silas, young Robert, young Sophie, Knights Templar, burning of witches, ancient pagan rituals, and so on and so forth.
I’m going to take a wild guess here. I bet these shots were among the last to be completed, and I bet by that point the budget was mostly blown on Hanks’ hairdresser. The flashbacks look like heaping piles of dog vomit. The flashbacks on America’s Most Wanted are more believable. Dear Imagine Entertainment, using After Effects to add the ”Grainy” look in post is not going to change the fact that it looks like you shot ancient Rome in ancient Burbank.
I’m not just being nit-picky here. These scenes are supposed to help us get the big picture of The Church’s History of Horror. Instead, it kind of looks like band dorks going to the Reinassance Faire.
Look, The DaVinci Code is a book with an agenda. So is Left Behind Part 45 : Still Here, Still Tribulating. Stories that favor agenda over character will fail, every single time. I don’t care if Billy Graham or Satan himself is producing.
Aly and Ash joined us for a Mother’s Day lunch, and she said something that I think is really true, so I’m going to reprint it here without her permission. I think she was elaborating on an idea Brian MacLaren has been discussing publically, but I don’t know that for sure. Aly has, in the past, had an original idea or fifty, so I have no doubt that she may have come up with this one on her own. I’m sure she’ll articulate further.
She said something to the effect that the only really interesting thing about the DaVinci phenomenon is not the question, “Is it true,” but “Why do people want to believe it’s true?”
I totally agree. The historicity of the book is a total farce. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but the more I look into it, the more I am convinced Brown was just gleefully messing with us. Erica wondered if there was some sort of intentional irony in the statement at the beginning of his book regarding accuracy. Perhaps it’s some sort of statement or… symbol… in and of itself.
No friends, the debate about accuracy is quickly over. The History Channel spent the entire weekend running debunking specials.
The only interesting question left, the only one that really matters, is why it’s struck such a chord. The Church can get all giddy about the lack of quality of this piece of pop art, but the truth is that we have a larger problem that must be dealt with.
Fundie Christians like to say that the Gospel is inherently offensive, and that’s why the world doens’t like us. They’re halfway right. The Gospel is still marvelously offensive. If we were to actually live it out, our entire social order could be upset, and we would again see Christian martyrs being executed in the public square as the government tried to restore it’s power. I believe this with every fiber of my being.
But that’s not the reason most of the world hates us. I think a lot of the world hates us because a lot of us are insufferable assholes.
Jesus was many things, but the only people who found him to be an insufferable asshole were people in power who had a lot to lose and they had to silence this guy who told their customers to sell everything they had and give the proceeds to the poor. Or, they were religious leaders who were offended by Jesus’ claims of divinity and the threat to their own status in the religious order. Or, they were the unwashed masses who were pissed off at Jesus for not leading a violent revolt against the oppressive, occupying foreign military force in their promised land.
Most of the people who dislike us feel so because they feel oppressed by us. They don’t even have a chance to be offended by The Gospel, because they don’t really have any idea what it really says, because we’re not really living it out. What we tend to be, is afraid. We feel like our “Christian” nation is being stolen from us, so we’re clamoring for power, relationally and politically. Are there organizations and individuals who are determined to destroy our faith, and faith in general? Sure. Without a doubt. But they consider themselves liberators, people.
Please, pastors of the world, candidly ask yourselves and your congregations the question “why.” Please, Christians of the world, ask yourselves if The Gospel is offensive, or you are. Please, Dan Brown, pick on Islam next. Their response will make us look like we have the righteous wrath of grammar school crossing guards. I am sure that, “The Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi Code,” will be another big hit for you.
Oh, by the way, if there are any Christians out there who are offended by my choice of the phrase, “Insufferable asshole,” you may be one; so, do try to relax.