The screen faded to black, and the credits slowly began to roll. Amid the few, less-than-uproarious rounds of applause, one statement could be heard over and over again, “The book was so much better.”
News flash: The book is always better. And yet, every showing of “The Da Vinci Code” at the Metropolitan Camino Real Cinemas sold out, in advance. It seems audiences could not help but hope the movie would live up to Dan Brown’s novel. Just like any screen adaptation, however, many aspects of the novel are missing from director Ron Howard’s version. Any moviegoer hoping for a true-to-the-book film will be sadly disappointed.
Tom Hanks (Robert Langdon) – bad hair aside – and Audrey Tautou (Sophie Neveu) put in fine performances in the lead roles. But, the truly outstanding performances come from Ian McKellen (Sir Leigh Teabing) and Paul Bettany (Silas). McKellen’s Teabing is the perfect loveable old man and comic relief, and yet later he effortlessly shifts into the role of scheming villain. Bettany is properly frightening as the albino monk, Silas, and yet he brings a fitting sense of sympathy to the role. And, just a quick side note for those that may be wondering: Bettany’s ass does indeed make an appearance in the film.
In what appears to be an effort to provide the audience with necessary historical and mythological background information, while cutting out as little of the action in the various side-plots as possible, the film makes interesting use of flashbacks and voiceovers. Scenes of Silas sneaking around, for example, are narrated with explanations about the history of the Holy Grail and the Priory of Scion.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is simply the ease with which the various codes that make up most of the movie’s mystery are broken. Langdon simply stares, sometimes at a puzzle, other times into thin air, and the answers literally come to light. The illumination of the various clues as they are solved is a bit much. It seems as though Howard did not trust the audience to follow the action on its own, a conclusion that is not surprising since little “detective” work is actually depicted.
Taken on its own, “The Da Vinci Code” provides all the action, mystery and character that an audience could ask for in a two-and-a-half-hour escape from daily life. Despite its flaws, the film is definitely entertaining. Anyone looking for more than that would do better to read the book.