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ron howard

The Da Vinci Code is by no means an instant classic of a novel, but it is an engaging thriller filled with twists, turns, and enough whodunits to really make you think and turn the page over and over again. After all, that’s what makes a really good book. But what makes a really good movie or better yet, a really good book to movie translation?

The Da Vinci Code as a movie is a passable affair that brings some of the book’s mystery to the big screen and manages to successfully interpret Dan Brown’s novel into something more visual and easier to grasp on to. The novel has a great advantage over the movie simply because there’s much more time and real estate devoted to the characters that a two and a half hour movie cannot afford unless your name is Peter Jackson and the book contains elves and talking trees.

With all the controversy surrounding the book’s basic plot line, Sony couldn’t have paid for any better advertising and weekend box office returns certainly show this, but even with the free marketing, an all star cast headed by Tom Hanks, and an Oscar winning director The Da Vinci Code still feels somewhat odd when viewing it. Repeat viewings may solve this uncanny feeling, but after the initial run through, you can’t help but wonder why the movie feels so empty in the end.

Most adaptations that I’ve previously seen, whether it be comic book or novel, have one thing in common, I read the book before seeing the film, and in those cases everything seemed to work out well as the visual style of your imagination was filled in by the director’s interpretation. The Da Vinci Code is different in the way the movie makes you feel when viewing it. I read the book a full year before seeing the movie, so the material was still pretty fresh in there, but you can’t help but feel as though reading the book may dumb down the movie because you know all the plot points and the sense of thrill you usually experience from movies in this genre is severely crippled.

The cast, for the most part, does a great job of bringing the characters to life and infusing them with faces, mannerisms, and personalities that may only be hinted at in the book. For examples, Inspector Fache (Jean Reno) comes off more likable and competent in the movie than in the book whereas Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) seems to be an unmistakable genius in the movie but struggled a bit more with conclusions in the book. Silas (Paul Bettany) is as menacing as you would expect and the graphic scenes of him “atoning” for his sins are sure to make you flinch. Director Ron Howard’s vision of the book is uncompromised and the camera angles and cinematography matched up well with what I expected.

A lot has been said about the ‘preposterous’ nature of the movie’s central storyline, that Jesus married and a bloodline exists today, but the story’s validity in the real world shouldn’t weight down the movie, and it doesn’t, except for the few who can’t understand the meaning of the word “fiction.” Whether you believe in the book’s claims or not, The Da Vinci Code brings up an intriguing, fictionalized story for you to follow along with.

Fans of the book and thrillers will find something to like, just not everything, as the story does seem plodding towards the middle only because the movie has to end after 150 minutes whereas the book has no set number of pages. While sure to be a success around the world, Code is by no means award winning cinema and fits in perfectly well with the other summer movies which don’t immediately require us to challenge our brains, only bring money for popcorn, butter it up, and try to enjoy the ride.