No audience member left behind. Asleep maybe, but not behind.
For the few happily living under their rocks who haven’t heard: Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is a Harvard professor of symbology brought into a police investigation to investigate concerning a murder that literally has Leonardo DaVinci’s name all over it. With the help of a police cryptologist named Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), Langdon tries to solve a 2000-year old mystery while avoiding arrest by the police (Jean Reno) or being killed by an albino monk (Paul Bettany). Does an old colleague (Ian McKellen) have the missing pieces to the puzzle, or will Langdon and all those he comes in contact with meet the same sticky fate as all those who tried to reveal the secret before him?
It’s not that the mystery isn’t compelling or engrossing. The story treads in the realm of secret societies and of God himself, the very foundation of the Catholic church and of all Christianity. The entire production is punched up to be so self-important (from musical cues to aerial crane shots) that you can’t help but wonder when Jesus Christ himself might make a personal appearance on screen. But the most compelling mystery concerning the theatrical version of The DaVinci Code is, why oh why did it have to take so long to solve a mystery that wasn’t that hard to solve to begin with? Was director Ron Howard so sure that The DaVinci Code was sufficiently complex that he couldn’t help but spoon-feed every detail of the story to each audience member individually to ensure everyone could keep up?
Here’s a better comparison: National Treasure. A DaVinci Code ripoff before the fact? Check the facts on the final products. Nic Cage and company start off trying to find a treasure based on clues established by America’s forefathers into a compelling (although not especially religious) mystery; Cage’s Ben Gates is driven like a man who knows what he’s doing and KNOWS he’s being pursued. Hanks’ Langdon plods along like a man who thinks he’s gonna be let off the hook as soon as somebody explains to the police he’s not a killer; he’s solving “the DaVinci code” almost as an afterthought, something to bide his time until exoneration inexplicably falls into his lap.
If YOU were being sought as an international killer for no apparent reason, would you be in hiding, or would you be solving a mystery that, as far as you know, cannot clear your name even if you DO figure it all out? Langdon’s platonic relationship with Sofie doesn’t seem to be a motivator (just a convenience since she’s the only one who knows he’s not a killer), so Tom Hanks is left with almost no reason for the character he’s playing to continue on until we meet up with Ian McKellen (who’s character of Sir Leigh Teabing manages the impossible: injecting Langdon with a little motivational, historical passion!) But as soon as Teabing is left behind, we’re back to the same old unmotivated and plodding Langdon, and the rest of the film plods along after.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty to see, plenty to hear, puzzles to solves, and mysteries that question the very foundation of faith and God’s relationship with man. And it’s all told with the enthusiasm of trying to stay awake in church while hearing the story of Noah and his wondrous ark. And be sure to stay for the three separate endings, one for each hour it took to get there. However, if you’re really looking for a fast-paced mystery through history with a sure-fire payoff, watch National Treasure; if you want to question your tenants of faith, try John Carpenter’s underrated Prince of Darkness. If none of this review has warned you away from seeing The DaVinci Code, try the extra-large drink to help keep you awake or at least take your coat inside to use for a pillow.
(a two skull recommendation out of our)