So dull the con of Dan (and Ron) The wife and I watched The Da Vinci Code last night. Director Ron Howard's interpretation of the Dan Brown book was more satisfying than I'd anticipated, based on the reviews I'd read (almost all of them pans). Of course, the movie paled in comparison to the book -- as most big-screen adaptations do. The movie doesn't work as escapist fantasy -- the stuff of most summer blockbusters -- nor does it carry even half the intrigue or stimulate a fraction of the thought that the book does. I'd give it a C+ grade.
Part of the problem with translating a book like The Da Vinci Code into a big-screen blockbuster is that the novel lacks any sort of grand physical action. There is one car-chase scene early on in the movie, but it is not the least bit thrilling. The fights and gunplay seem incidental. And there is no sexual tension between the main characters. The most graphic part of the movie -- Opus Dei monk Silas's self-flagellation ritual -- is disturbing, but doesn't seem to add much to the story.
Most of the book's suspense comes from Brown's ability to sweep us into the story of the big cover-up -- and to get us to actually participate a bit, by thinking through the anagrams and other puzzles as we read along. We're more engaged in the book than in the movie.
In the movie (as in the book), the characters are flat, the dialogue wooden, and the action more cerebral than physical. Unlike John Grisham or Tom Clancy fiction, Brown's novel just doesn't translate into blockbuster entertainment.
Also, anyone who hasn't read the book will probably have a tough time following the plot. Dyann, who hadn't read the book, had trouble following the story. I probably would have, too.
I won't get into the theological inaccuracies of Brown's novel, but instead will refer you to a couple of decent online articles that address those issues:
USA Today: "Theologians debunk 'Da Vinci Code' dogma". The Q&A quotes evangelical author Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ), whom I wouldn't consider a theologian (his background is journalism), but others who are probably credentialed to respond to some of these issues.
"Decoding Da Vinci", from ChristianityToday.com: Advice for Christians who wish to use the movie or book as a starting point for discussing spiritual matters with non-Christians, with a handy "fact-vs-fiction" sidebar that offers talking points for responding to some of the novel's assertions.
From The Guardian comes an excellent essay by an atheist, "A Conspiracy of Dunces", which sees the popularity surrounding Brown's novel as a symptom of a larger issue, our culture's seeming obsession that "the world is secretly manipulated by various shady and sinister cabals." Says the author, Jason Walsh, "When considering the actions of the rulers of society, elected and otherwise, a seemingly increasing amount people immediately dismiss the possibility of stupidity, ignorance, greed, honest mistakes and naked thirst for power, let alone the time-honoured tradition of manipulating domestic politics by way of foreign adventure, and instead rush headlong into wild, and reason-proof, explanations for all manner of events, from the Iraq war to the attacks on New York or London." Personally, I think Walsh is part of a global conspiracy to try to deny the truth about global conspiracies. But that's just one man's opinion.