Friday, May 19, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Can I Play Sudoku Instead?

This movie is becoming as controversial as the book. Since the day it was announced that it's gonna be made, there were protests against it being done, and it has escalated to calls for boycotting, or banning the movie altogether. I'll not waste time and go into its controversies, nor discuss what's real and what's not. Neither will I explain in detail the plot, as I believe most of you readers would already have some vague idea of what it's about, or have read the book, since it's on the bestsellers list for months.

Rather, I'll evaluate the movie as it is, on how well it entertains. Those who wish to preach in my comment box, prepare to have those comments deleted, at my discretion. This is the stand I shall take, that this movie is entirely fictional, based on events which are used loosely, for the sole purpose of weaving a storyline that tries to be believable. I think some have already mentioned it's too successful in doing that, and may mislead people into thinking its theories presented, are real. However, don't take it too seriously, and if you wish to, use another proper platform to debunk the myths, not my movie review blog.

The structure of the movie, is exactly the same as the book. There is no change to the ending, despite some rumours that it will be different. Naturally, some of the detailed explanation that's given in the book, especially many three-way dialogue between Sophie-Robert-Leigh, have to be summarized in order to pace this movie into 2 1/2 hours. Herein lies the challenges. For those who've read the book, the movie offers nothing new, other than the gratification of watching events and characters play out on the big screen. For those who haven't read the book, the movie version should be decent enough to make you want to pick up the novel and read more into the controversial theories explained.

However, having being familiar with the plot and how the story unfolds, red herrings, character motivations, twists and all, it may leave those who've read the novel, a page-turner in every sense of the word, a bit wanting, that the pace could've been improved. Undoubtedly the pacing sags when it's time for some dialogue heavy moments, but I suppose that is unavoidable when you're revisiting material.

Its presentation of these controversial dialogue moments coupled with special effects, will either make you go wow, or no-big-deal. Truly, the technique is nothing original, and some of the visuals used looked like Return of the King and Kingdom of Heaven rejects, but as a whole, combined with the narrative, it helps to present the controversies in a more palatable manner. It also uses special effects to bring forth Langdon's innate ability to solve and crack codes.

Casting, I felt, was spot on. Tom Hanks makes Robert Langdon pretty accessible, given Hanks' everyman demeanor, and Audrey Tautou makes a believable Sophie Neveu. Ian McKellen, probably THE actor with 2 summer blockbusters back to back (the other being X-Men 3), is convincing as the rich grail hunter Sir Leigh Teabing. Paul Bettany is chilling as the albino killer Silas, and Jean Reno and Alfred Molina round up the star studded cast as the detective Captain Fache and Bishop Aringarosa.

Much is said about the haunting soundtrack, but as far as I'm aware, there's nothing scary about it. Silas, in his scene of self-cleansing, is horrid enough though, as are some scenes of unexpected on screen violence that hit like a sack of potatoes falling from the sky.

In the end, in spite of all the controversies, perhaps Robert Langdon's line is poignant - if given a chance, would you rather destroy faith, or renew it? The book and the movie have provided an opportunity for the faith to renew itself, to debunk the myths and theories (which were developed loosely to make the story flow of course), and to generally point the curious to the direction and light the faith wants to show.

Otherwise, this Ron Howard movie makes a good summer popcorn flick, with the usual thrills and spills you'd come to expect with its superb production values.

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