Wookiee Hut Movie Reviews presents:
The Da Vinci Code
Review by Rosie

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Adapted from the novel by Dan Brown

Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen

Rating: Victory Star Destroyer

I really liked this book and movie. Yeah, I know a lot of groups were up in arms over the premise of the book, but it is a premise that has been around for quite a while. The author, Dan Brown, made no secret of the fact that he referenced among others the work of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh Holy Blood, Holy Grail. That is called research. Until the runaway success of Brown's book, theirs had seen only moderate interest, but subsequent sales skyrocketed. Baigent and Leigh sued Brown for plagiarism but the British court ruled in Brown's favor. Brown even paid them what could be considered a compliment by naming one of the main characters with an anagram of their names. Ah well…

The story was an engrossing, mentally challenging treasure hunt through history involving the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci for whom the story is named, and Sir Isaac Newton, as well as the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion, and Opus Dei and a (fictional) hidden council within the Catholic Church. Robert Langdon, the protagonist of the story and portrayed in the film by Tom Hanks, is drawn into the mystery because his name is found beside the murdered body of the Louvre Museum's chief curator, Jacques Sauniere, laid out as Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and written in the victim's own blood and by his own hand.

Soon, the director's estranged granddaughter and police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu played by Audrey Tautou, appears on the scene warning Langdon that he is the chief suspect. After temporarily throwing the police off their track, Langdon and Neveu decipher the code her grandfather left, but it leads them deeper into the mystery and deeper into danger. With a crazed albino monk, the police, and finally even Langdon's colleague, Sir Leigh Teabing — the aforementioned anagram — whom they had turned to for help, all trying to either force them to solve the mystery or kill them to prevent it from being solved, a heart-racing chase from Paris through London finally reveals the secret: The true nature of the secret the Priory of Sion had protected for two millennia.

The question is: is the world ready to learn the secret?

Did Ron Howard managed to capture the essence of the story? Some might say no: too much exposition; not enough chemistry between Hanks and Tautou… I disagree. The film is not perfect. It is a little long and parts of it are talky without properly informing the audience enough to follow the characters' thought processes. Overall though, I felt that it followed the book well and made the audience believe that within the context of the film, these revelations were truly of earth-shattering consequence. We were brought along on this journey of discovery and felt the power of each revelation along the way. One weak point though was the nature of Sophie's estrangement from her grandfather. That is handled much more clearly in the book. And related to that, in the book and the movie Sophie's grandmother is revealed to her, but Langdon only moments before that tells her that he thinks Sauniere is not actually her grandfather. This I believe is an error in the adaptation from page to screen.

I did like that Director Howard included several references to Langdon's claustrophobia. It fleshes out his character as the story moves forward. Ian McKellen's eccentric Sir Leigh Teabing was delightful to watch — especially humorous challenge at his gate before he would admit Langdon and Neveu. McKellen portrayed his character's obsession with the mystery believably, yet sympathetically until the revelation of the extent of his involvement in precipitating the events in the story.

Tom Hanks is believable as a professor of symbology. The longer hair that some might complain about makes him seem more concerned with matters of the mind than physical appearance. His apparent stiffness can be attributed to feeling more at ease in the realms of academia than interpersonal relations. The ending of the film sums up his character perfectly. A final symbol leads him to the truth and he pays homage to it.

Whatever fuss and fury this film generates, it is a well executed translation of a work of fiction from page to screen and deserves to be seen as such.

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