Theatrical Review: The Da Vinci Code
Alright, in the interest of full disclosure… yes, I am a Roman Catholic.
Yes, I am offended by the way Dan Brown twists history and relies on falsehoods so that he can make the claim that his fictional novel The Da Vinci Code
is based on
historical fact. The "historical background"
that Brown used for the "factually accurate" basis of his novel is really nothing more than a bunch of distortions, misrepresentations, and mostly outright lies.
Having said all of that, I have to say that I did
make an honest effort to see The Da Vinci Code
with an open mind. I came up with a list of reasons why it was entirely possible
for me to enjoy the movie:
- Ron Howard has directed several films I've enjoyed to some degree.
- I like Tom Hanks a whole lot. The last time he worked under the direction of Ron Howard resulted in a darn good movie.
- I absolutely LOVE Audrey Tautou and I'm a big Ian McKellen fan, too.
- Most importantly, I decided that it was totally OK for me to put aside my personal beliefs and enjoy a movie based on a premise I believe to be a total fantasy. After all, I liked The Matrix a whole lot… and I wasn't offended by the fact that that movie is based on a premise that the world I know isn't real. If I approached The Da Vinci Code the same way… simply as an elaborate fantasy based on the idea that the world I know isn't real, I might be able to enjoy it, too… right?
So I gave this movie what I thought was a very fair chance.
And, yes, I did have a reaction to the way the movie misrepresents the Catholic faith and the foundation of Christianity. This paragraph will address those issues, and for the rest of the review, I'll just focus on the film as a work of cinema
. The lies and distortions about the history of Christianity that Dan Brown relies on in his novel… the libelous assaults on the Catholic church and the insinuations that Christians are blind followers of a transparent lie… those awful elements of the novel remain in tact in the movie. Yes, they did offend me. However, believe it or not, I honestly was able
to push that aside and watch the movie simply for what it was. Dan Brown, after all, is not the first person who ever profited from the public's penchant for conspiracy theories and fantastic lies. He's not even the worst
of that ilk. If people are too lazy to investigate on their own, then I can't really blame Dan Brown for making a buck based on the idiocy of the average schmuck.
So you can choose to believe me or not, but I promise you that I watched the movie objectively… and, objectively, I came to the conclusion that this movie had some really nice looking specific shots
… that it featured a really fun performance by Ian McKellen… that the other
actors in the film, especially Tautou and Hanks, didn't seem to want to be there… and that this movie tells one of the most insultingly stupid and implausible stories I've ever seen. The Da Vinci Code
is one of those thrillers that relies on twists and turns. So many twists and turns, in fact, that they turn into tangles, jumbles, knots and rubbish. Honestly, I've seen episodes of Scooby Doo
that were more credible than this movie. Forget the fact that the story is historically inaccurate. Forget the fact that the principle conflict of the story is based on the premise that 2000 years of human history were shaped by a lie. Forget the ludicrous argument that this movie makes about the Catholic church; that it's full of authority figures and zealots who know
that their faith is a lie and still choose to practice it
. Forget all of those insultingly obvious reasons to disregard this mess of a movie. Even without those absurdities, there are enough roll-your-eyes-and-throw-your-hands-up
moments in this film to disgust even the least
critical movie viewer. Here are just a few:
- A man with a fatal gunshot wound spends his final moments wandering around the Louvre Museum in Paris leaving bizarre coded messages… and then strips naked, carves a pagan symbol into his own chest, and dies. Now, the average person might think it a shame that the victim was killed before he got the mental help he so obviously needed… but not our heroes. Nope, they launch into a full-on adventure inspired by the messages.
I made myself forgive that, though. After all, if they didn't follow the messages, there'd be no movie right? but then....
- Did you know that it's possible to get a safety deposit box in some French banks that includes a "safe passage" clause… in which case, if the cops show up to arrest you while you're in the bank, the bank president is required to help you escape? Wow! Does the mafia know about this? They should look into it.
- Not that a "safe passage" clause is really necessary to make an escape in Paris. Apparently, every single place in France has a secret escape route for use in the event that you need to duck out quickly.
- And not that you should rely on anyone who leads you to any of those safe passages, anyway… because anyone who seems to be a good-guy is going to turn out to be a bad-guy in about ten minutes anyway. Honestly, this happens so often in The Da Vinci Code that I wish I'd brought a stop-watch so I could see who remained a good-guy the longest.
- And, by the way, if you get in over your head regarding subject-x and need help, the world's leading authority on the subject... who also happens to be a billionaire with a last-minute-escape-ready private plane... is going to be... oh, ten? Maybe fifteen minutes away? Twenty minutes at most.
- By the way, Many French people speak English in private and speak French when they're around English speaking people.
- Englishmen are obsessed with tea. They won't talk to you unless you prefer it to coffee and know which teas are best served with coffee and which are best served with milk.
- And the absolute LAST thing you should do is trust anyone who gives you valuable, secret information. Because obviously anyone who tells you dark, long-protected secrets is planning to kill you. After all, what's the fun in killing someone unless they know something you don't want anyone to know?
- It is, however, perfectly acceptable to let someone go if they've spent the past two hours trying to kill you. Just make sure that they promise to go somewhere safe and sit down and be good.
By the time this movie was over I was so frustrated and offended by the stupidity
of it all that I'd honestly forgotten
to be frustrated and offended by the way it misrepresented my faith.
As a subversive history lesson, The Da Vinci Code
is a total failure. You know that going in. What's especially disappointing is that it also fails as a cinematic experience. It's the kind of escapism that makes you cheer the closing credits so you can finally escape from it.
If you want to see a fun performance by Ian McKellen, stay home and rent… well, basically any
of his movies. He's always good. If you want to see a good performance by Audrey Tautou, rent A Very Long Engagement
, both of which are good movies. If you want to see a good Tom Hanks film… well, there are quite a few good ones to pick from. Just pick one.
If you want to waste two and a half hours of life, try decoding The Da Vinci Code
Any code that can be solved
must involve some sort of logic, even if it's just it's own internal logic. This movie doesn't even make sense within it's own
context. It's unsolvable… like those nonsense questions such as "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"
Questions like "If a tree falls in the forest…"
Or, more appropriately, "What is the sound of no hands clapping?"