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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Da Vinci Code — Movie Review

A project that involves Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and one of the most popular books in recent history probably had little chance of living up to expectation. While I disagree with the relatively poor reviews The DaVinci Code is receiving, the book definitely was better.

If anyone actually hasn’t read the book, or at least heard about the plot, a murder in the Louvre leads to a hunt through code after code for a religious secret. Clues are hidden in paintings of DaVinci, and reveal a “the greatest cover up in human history” that has been protected for 2000 years by a secret society, the Priory of the Sion.

The movie was at a major disadvantage for me, as the best part of the story were the historical lessons intertwined in the plot. Already having read the book, I didn’t have the same eye-popping reaction to the lessons being revealed. (Despite the Catholic Church’s “father knows best” message about the movie, the revelations are fascinating.) While the book managed to bring the reader along without slowing things down, the movie just wasn’t able to pull off the same magic for the viewer. Although, for those who haven’t read the book, this may not be the case.

There was an effort to compensate for pace issues created by the history lectures, with special affects blending historic and present-day scenes. Maybe I’ve lost my ability to be awed, but I couldn’t do much more than appreciate them as decent.

The film did have a couple advantages over the book, however. With so much of the plot tied up in Da Vinci’s work, it was a major plus to see the paintings (obviously). Seeing The Last Super, along with the affects used to explain the hidden messages, may have been the best part of the movie. I was disappointed that they glossed over the explanation of the Mona Lisa, though certainly its lack of importance to the plot made the move understandable. In fact, I was surprised at how little was skipped from the book.

I also found the ending significantly clearer. I should probably go back and re-read the book’s ending, but I felt like the reader was just sort of led to the conclusions. The movie didn’t leave any doubts.

Tom Hanks, portraying symbologist Robert Langdon, didn’t do anything to hurt the character. Audrey Tautou was equally ok as Sophie Neveu. With so much story to be told, there wasn’t much room for acting to matter much.

If you read the book, you’re going to see the movie regardless of anything some reviewer says. But, for the record and the rest of you, The Da Vinci Code is worth watching.

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