Sunday, June 04, 2006

EVill Films: Da Vinci Code--*Sigh*

Yet another constipated, plodding, self-important piece of crap from Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman (see: Cinderella Man, see: A Beautiful Mind... Or, y'know: don't).

This movie is so bad it makes X-Men 3 look like a fucking masterpiece. Once upon a time, didn't Ron Howard make some good films? Splash, Parenthood, Night Shift?

Rather than correcting the book's flaws, the movie amplifies them with an overly faithful approach to the adaption and a huge helping of Howard's and Goldsman's own shortcomings.

The constant onslaught of those grainy, color-bleached or color-saturated flashbacks to tell us precisely how we should feel about what's on the screen--Nauseating.

The use of FX to literally illuminate what we should be focusing on at any given moment--Insulting. What are we, retarded?

Or is it just that Howard and Goldsman have no confidence in their ability to properly exposit information to the audience, so they employ an FX crutch?

Code fails as a mystery, and as a thriller. Course, so does the book, but not as badly. My hope had been that the film would improve on the source material, the way good adaptions do (e.g., Silence of the Lambs, The Hunt for Red October, Trainspotting, etc).

But their approach to the adaption is similar to the first two Harry Potter films: too faithful. What works on the page will not necessarily work on the screen... It's impossible to buy that a man who's just been shot in the stomach would be able to run around hiding shit and then, in his dying breaths, elaborately stage his own body, including extensive flesh mutilation. (OK, so maybe that didn't work on the page, either.)

This is a genre movie that doesn't *know* it's a genre movie. (Or is in denial about that fact.) And so it doesn't bother to follow genre rules (aka, conventions). It needed to be more Raiders of the Lost Ark (action-adventure and science fiction genre conventions), more Bourne Identity (espionage genre conventions), and less A Beautiful Mind, less Apollo 13.

Maybe they should've piled all those flashbacks to antiquity into a Lord of the Rings-style prologue ... to set the stage right at the top of the game, rather than doling it out in dribs and drabs throughout the course of the film. Then they wouldn't've had to explain everything to us every step of the way--They could have involved us in the process of solving the puzzles, which the book did successfully.

The movie does't even try to give us those "aha!" moments.

The movie doesn't want us to have to work for anything. It just vomits up what we need when we need it, which makes it top-heavy with all that awkward expository dialogue.

Maybe a voice-over narrator would've helped, too: say, the grandmother character who we realize at the end is telling all this to Sophie and Robert--a scene from the book that was curiously missing: the grandmother laying it all out on the table. Which any mystery absolutely must have at its conclusion.

Another genre convention ignored.

The film's one saving grace is Ian McKellan. Everything is better when he's on-screen. Of course, that's always true, isn't it?

For a much smarter and cooler telling of the exact same kind of story, I highly recommend a second season episode of Millennium called "Anamnesis," which was written by my friend Kay Reindl and her writing partner, Erin Maher.

Anyone who thinks the ideas of Da Vinci Code are interesting should check out that whole season--and only that season. The concept is, "what if the Bible isn't fiction?" The characters are Templars counting down to the End of Days.

Also worth a look: The Second Coming by the awesome Russell T. Davies. What if a loser from Manchester (Christopher Eccleston) realized he was the second coming, proved it, and announced to the world we had 5 days to come up with a New New Testament or it's Judgement Day. Very cool stuff.


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