10 February 2015

The Da Vinci Code

This movie version of the Dan Brown classic was one of the most controversial and intriguing, and I doubt there is/was/will be someone else out there who would question that.

Before anything else, let us first establish that "The Da Vinci Code" was not an outright attack to Catholic religion conservatives nor was it an entertainment exclusive for those who had completed their Dan Brown (Langdon) series or their Holy Grail collections. The good thing about this film was that anyone could watch and understand it. Oh no, there was nothing cryptic at all with this Ron Howard masterpiece.

Some Brown followers and mystery aficionados might have regarded the movie as too bland or too... anti-climactic, but let us be clear: "The Da Vinci Code" was an adaptation. So, comparing the screen version to the book did not make much sense. It had to be expected that the movie would be just like those Harry Potter books, where there were also portions not included in the picture, anyway.

As much as I have nothing against books being transformed into films, I beg to disagree on the argument that "The Da Vinci Code" was not loyal to the novel. If anything, I believe the gist being presented and kept alive on the screen was just appropriate and fitting, especially for those who had not gotten close to hearing the author's name.

Basically, the plot took a head start in one of the Louvre's chambers, where a curator was murdered and had left various enigmatic messages on the museum's interiors for his granddaughter, Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), and symbologist, Robert Langdon, to find. In attempt to discover the culprit, the pair was led into a maze of clues and anomalous and elusive figures. Eventually, they were attended by Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen), who turned out to be the nemesis (or more suitably, since this is not that kind of pumped-up suspense -- the antagonist) in the end.

As I have mentioned, this was not exactly comparable to those high-flying adventure or sci-fi hits, with all the explosions and incredible stunts. There were a few car chases in the streets of France and in the woods, though. But that was all contained in the novel, anyway, and I doubt Howard would have wanted to greatly disappoint the viewers with a totally made-over picture. I guess it was quite logical, in this sense, to believe that the film lacked some creatively driven climax or a high momentum. Yes, these shortcomings all boiled down to the pre-existence of the basis of the whole movie -- the best-seller book.

What really made the picture worthwhile was the mental stimulation you got from absorbing all those data and information in one sitting. Amazingly, the clarity and simplicity by which the information and other historical accounts were laid out were commendable. Regarding that so-called religious controversy, I assure you, there was no need to be queasy or uncomfortable regardless of what faith (or lack of it) you belonged to. Akiva Goldsman, the film's screenwriter, made sure that the audience were also kept on track with the plot and not got lost with seemingly unfamiliar labels such as Priory of Sion, Opus Dei or The Knights' Templar.

Another area where "The Da Vinci Code" was considered to surpass other movies in its genre was the special effects. I am not talking about action-powered, egoistically snazzy effects. Just the inclusion of digital graphics during the brainstorming moments of Langdon were certainly remarkable.

The crew also deserved a thumbs up when it came to the amazing set and background. I know it is difficult to recreate a church's interior, especially if you are not allowed to shoot in one (the original location, that is). Not to mention that at the same time, you were also embarking on one of the most anticipated movie ventures of the previous two years (since the release of the book).

On the other hand, the details may have also seemed a bit too bluntly or obviously laid out, in such a way that these were supposed to be the whole point of the film. Well, the details were of the essence, but as reiterated, the producers could have gone a bit farther, say an insertion of some inducing music or some scene-enhancing elements, to reduce the monotony or the tone down the nerd-like quality of the movie.

Some scenes could also have done without the excess drama or intellect, if you will, like the one where they were supposed to retrieve the curator's safety deposit box and enter a specific code (lest they may never gain access to the much-coveted cryptex ever). Then again, these were the directorial efforts in putting some spice (or action) in the mystery hunt.

When it comes to casting, "The Da Vinci Code" brought together an international cast, all of whom were fitting and brilliant in their roles. Pressure from the novel's reputation may have played a part, but all in all, the actors were convincing as they could be and the movie treated all characters on an equal footing.

In general, "The Da Vinci Code" merited an applause, not just for its relatively loyal adherence to the best-seller, but also for bringing together an ensemble performance and story that considerably realised (and delivered) the popularity and magnitude of the project.

Submitted by: The Loupster

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