Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Da Vinci" reax?

Dear readers,

Please allow me to take the day off. I am going to Atlanta to see my parents, and probably see a movie (most like Mehta's "Water," but I'll let you know). As I said before, what I won't be going to see is "The Da Vinci Code."

I am curious, however, to see what people who actually like going to the movies thought of it instead of just hearing from the critics who pretty much universally panned it.

So feel free to leave your comments about "Da Vinci" and let me know what you thought. Peace out.


odienator said...

I'll bite.

For the record, I'm a very lapsed Baptist who received an undergraduate comp sci degree from a Jesuit institution (translation: they made me pay for six credits of Catholic theology, where I was told I was going to Hell because I wasn't Catholic. Nice to know there's ONE thing Catholics and Protestants can agree on--the final location of my soul!)

I read The Da Vinci Code, finishing it about 8 hours before I saw the movie last night. The book is a work of fiction, and I'm afraid that I can't even comment on the logic employed in an earlier post comparing this to the NUMEROUS movies that made slavery appear fun or the Holocaust non-existent. I'm a Christian and my ancestors were slaves. I'm far more pissed off when I see slavery misrepresented than someone taking a swipe at De Lawd.

Besides, Jesus doesn't need my defense, and if He does, I need to find another religion. Jewish people are encouraged to question and process the details of their religion, but as Christians, the mere mention of having a thought that wasn't punched into your head by the preacher, priest or the Pope and HOLY HELL THE WORLD IS ENDING! It's controlling bull ess, and I refuse to subscribe to the notion that any mortal man has dominion over my Divine relationship. I came here alone, and I'm leaving alone.

Questioning my faith is how my faith gets stronger. Lapsed I may be, but I'm still here feeling my way through my spirituality. If my religious upbringing hadn't been strong enough to tolerate all I throw at it, I'd be an atheist by now.

It's OK to ask questions, people.

I also take issue with folks who want to complain about something without seeing it. (Save me the "I know what the sewer smells like without having to see it?" How did you know? You smelled it before, darnit!) If one doesn't want to see it, that's one's prerogative. But if you want to protest, at least go see what you're protesting.

I sat through Birth of a Nation because if I, as a critic, were going to point out what's wrong with it, I needed to see it. Nobody tells me what to think.

With that said, The DaVinci Code movie is offensive because it's so damn bad. The entire book is exposition, and the filmmakers, in their attempt to please readers of the book, tries to cram as much exposition into the movie as they can. It's like the class where the professor rambles on and on forever.

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou (who doesn't get a pass, I don't care how cute she is) are so dour and glum that they can't make the pages and pages of dialogue they spout come to life. In the book, at least, you could feel the excitement of the characters' quest. Here, Ron Howard and company seem to be asking forgiveness by making the movie as lifeless as possible.

Butt naked Paul Bettany and (mercifully clothed) Ian McKellan liven up the proceedings; they know they're in a goofy thriller and milk their performances for all they are worth. When they are onscreen, the Da Vinci Code takes respite from the ho-hum foot dragging of its leads. They save Da Vinci from being an F. I settled on a C-.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for your thoughts Odie ... sorry you had such a bad time!

Ollie said...

I saw it. In Atlanta, no less. I liked it, but then my personal library contains books that give fictional and non-fiction historical reference and versions to Biblical stories. I liked it...although Opie could have cast the lead FAR better. No real chemistry between the two characters as was in the book.

Reel Fanatic said...

I just feel bad for Audrey Tautou .. she is capable of so much more!

Linda said...

Here are the comments I posted on my blog:
The Da Vinci Code has been heavily promoted over the past year. I was hoping for a good film....oh well. The beginning is slow and painful to watch, Ian McKellan's performance salvages the middle and the end lacks the drama that the final reveal deserves. I have always felt that it is very difficult to interpret a book to film, but the fantastical theories of Dan Brown, that made the book a popular page turner, sound ridiculous in this film. I will say that the cinematography and visual techniques used, as the characters explain theories, are excellent. Ron Howard knows how to craft a film, but the tempo, acting and writing are way off. Where there could have been suspense and wonder, we have predictability and tedium.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think Ian McKellen could have given a good performance in Ishtar ... there isn't a finer actor working today

Ollie said...

Audrey Tatou was wonderful and Jean Reno was woefully underused in this film, gotta say.

ryang said...

I'll take the middle of the road here. DaVinci Code isn't the worst movie ever made. It has its moments of suspense and humor, and it is beautifully shot (and with the Louvre, Paris and historic London as its backdrop, there would be some 'splaining to do were it not).

But flashes of brilliance and pretty images aren't enough.

Tom Hanks, a man who at one point in his career did 14 consecutive projects that I either own or have watched repeatedly, is miscast as symbologist Robert Langdon. He does not mesh well with his largely European co-stars. He came off as dull. The producers went with star power instead of chemistry and it shows.

With all the hoopla (and hoo-hah) surrounding this movie, I walked into the theater expecting to be offended. No dice. DVC's premise doesn't line up with my religious beliefs, but the script does such a shoddy job of building its case that I barely felt challenged, and certainly never angry. Just a bit bemused for a pinprick of a moment, and it passed quickly.

The main characters were introduced in a cursory way and barely developed. You learn nothing more substantive than who they are related to and a brief flashback or two indicating how they got involved in this mess (and this only for Audrey Tautou's 'Sophie' and Paul Bettany's 'Silas'). The one foible Hanks' character reveals plays such a trivial role in the story that you wonder why Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman bothered including it in the movie.

Tautou's screen presence is so pleasant that she manages to salvage a scene or two. She isn't given enough to do, though, with Hanks character seeming to come up with the answer to every quandry.

Which brings me to my biggest problem with this movie: It's too easy. A riddle that has confounded for centuries is laid bare in the course of a day by two people who hardly know one another. Each time they are confronted with a new piece of the puzzle, Hanks has it solved before the audience can mull it over. He's Rainman with anagrams, instantly converting meaningless phrases into sensible clues.

Again, it's not the worst movie ever. Just a disappointment considering its typically entertaining director, talented screenwriter, fantastic cast (Hanks, Tautou, Bettany, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina), and its basis in a book that sold 60 million copies.

Bottom line: For a movie that professes to be deep and disturbing, DVC is remarkably shallow and harmless. The only controversy should be over how much buzz and talent this movie squandered.

Reel Fanatic said...

Interesting stuff Ryan ... I just worry that some dingbat is going take the book a little too seriously and toss a rock through that beautiful pyramid cieling at the Louvre to get to "the truth"

Netter said...

I walked into The Divinci Code not expecting much...but that is the way I approach most movies.

I enjoyed the book when I read it years ago and I have never been happy with a movie adapted from a book that I enjoyed.

I wasn't bored during the movie. That is a good sign. I didn't feel the need to look at the time. Not a bad sign either. Was I annoyed because the ending was different. Yeah, but it was I shouldn't complain.

I didn't hate it. It won't be one of those movies that I watch again, unless I am sick and there is nothing else on TV.

odienator said...

I just worry that some dingbat is going take the book a little too seriously and toss a rock through that beautiful pyramid cieling at the Louvre to get to "the truth"

They wouldn't be any more a dingbat than some of the French folks who have tried it. The French HATE that pyramid, and having been to the Louvre, I can say it really is jarringly out of place.

There were Da Vinci Code tourists there who were walking around saying "wow, this is where such and such happened!" I hadn't read the book yet, so I couldn't make those connections while in Paris. Hanks and company were rumored to be there shooting as well. The biggest "conspiracy" I uncovered there was that, as the classic blues song went, the Mona Lisa really IS a man. It's Leonardo Da Vinci.

Nothing could have saved The Da Vinci Code except a different script. I'm not as enamored of Akiva Goldsman as most people are. His problems with too much dialogue and scene structuring require a director who can overcome them. Opie did a fine job with Cinderella Man, but I thought the twist in A Beautiful Mind was so poorly handled it was laughable. This script is that level of incompetence times 50.

As for Ryan's question as to why they kept Langdon's well trauma, the answer is simple: Goldsman was trying to serve two masters. He wanted to cram as much in so that readers wouldn't be disappointed, but he also tried altering events and outcomes to make the film less offensive to people who had not read the book.

I never walk into a movie expecting the book, and anyone who does is setting themselves up for disappointment. The Godfather is a TERRIBLE novel, a piece of dime store garbage, and they got two (out of three) great movies from expanding and altering the material.

Movies that try to give the reader everything in the novel are incredible failures (see Coppola's The Great Gatsby). Book and film are two different media. The Shawshank Redemption is an incredible adaptation, but the changes from King's novella are what help elevate the film to its deserved classic status.

Books are active, movies are passive.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm like Nixon when it comes to architecture ... I don't know anything about it, but I know what I like .. and call me a charlatan, but I LOVE the pyramid at the Louvre

phipps said...

I personally thought the movie was a poor adaptation of the book. It is always very tough for a director to take a book and put it on the screen, since most people already have a preconceived idea of how it should look. But with that said, good directors are always able to take the screenplay and make it jump out at you and really capture how it should be portrayed on the screen. Meaning they basically pick up the "slack" of creating the images where you left on in the book. So anytime a director is able to visually create it more then I could with my mind, I enjoy the movie.
However I feel this was not the case with this movie. I feel I could have created a better movie than Ron Howard. He always seems to do cookie cutter movies, yet he receives great praise. This bothers me.

Reel Fanatic said...

I too, Phipps, have always wondered why Howard receives such high praise .. I liked him best on "Arrested Development"

Belmondo said...

I've just posted my review on Cinema Flinte and was horribly bored by the movie. I loved the book, but as someone already pointed out - a lot of it was exposition. The movie failed badly. Still had a great opening weekend though. We'll see if it has legs.

Reel Fanatic said...

Never one to accept defeat graciously, I'm still hoping it has a steep dropoff vs. X-Men, but it's not likely