a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

I never read the book, but boy was I underwhelmed by the movie.

Just a short list of the things that bothered me --


-- I never felt that what was happening was all that important. In fact, if you look back at the whole movie, the only thing it all achieves is to let the girl learn who she is, something that wasn't a huge mystery anyway (and which became pretty obvious about 2/3 of the way in), while apparently that whole town knows anyhow; as it is, it's not even clear what the revelation really changes in her. It's unclear why her grandfather couldn't have just sat her down, told her "I know we've had our differences, but there's something you should know", and then told her. It would have acheived the same thing as the whole movie, but with a lot less albino monk angst.

-- The MacGuffin is pointless. The bad guys don't want it revealed, the good guys don't want it revealed. Only Ian McKellen wants it revealed, but he's a stupid villain, because if he had half a brain he would have just let Tom Hanks lead him to the answer, rather than trying to pull off the completely pointless reversal in the middle of the movie.

-- Important plot twists are contrived. The dying man has enough time to plant a million clues all over the museum, while even though he sets off an alarm, no one responds to it. The villains conveniently kill each other off, so that Tom Hanks and Audrey Tattou never have to get their hands dirty. Ian McKellen leaves his footprints in the only dusty place in the whole movie. Tom Hanks is able to remove a clue from an intricately designed clue holder and then put it back together with no one noticing, even though that's not what it was designed for. And the good guys make two different places have the exact same clues describe them, for no apparent reason other than the writer thought it made sense.

-- The confrontations are all really rather generic and dumb, and Tom Hanks never has any real problem escaping.

-- The puzzles were boring. There was never really the sense we ever had enough info to try and puzzle them out ourselves, so it was just all about waiting for Tom Hanks to figure them out.

-- The religious stuff was superficially handled. No one in the movie really has an interesting conversation about what impact this would all really have, while the late attempt to convince us that it really shouldn't make any differences to Christians even if it were true just makes the movie seem even more pointless and muddled.

I have no idea if the book makes more sense, but it's clear that in boiling it down to feature-length they must have lost an awful lot. I guess that's what happens if your main impetus for making a film is "the book sold a hell of a lot of copies", rather than "it's a fresh, original story that would kick ass on film".


At 12:13 AM, Anonymous Charles K. said...

The book suuuucks. What you wrote about the dumb confrontations -- I completely agree. I haven't seen the movie, but your comment covers the book, too. Seems like any time Dan Brown writes a confrontational scene between the hero and the villain, he takes a cheap way out. He likes to make the bad guy senselessly drop his weapons.

And did I mention that the book suuuuucks? It's not the concept so much as the execution. What a terrible awful ridiculous writer this man is.

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anil Khedun said...

You've nailed the book to a tee even though you've only seen the film! I read the book and it is one of the most boring books I've ever read. I agree with charles k. It took me 2-months to get through it because it never compelled me to turn the page and the library kept hassling me to return it. I would never see this film based on what I read. The concept, as a flight of fancy, is interesting, but the way it's executed is just full of holes, so it's poorly written in the first place. There's never any excitement, period. It's dull, dull, dull, dull, dull, and heaven help us as I'm sure more of Brown's books will be adapted for features too.

At 6:24 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Don't mean to play Devil's Advocate, but the book sold a bajillion copies and I know more than a couple of people who absolutely loved it. I'm guessing there are legions of people out there who think the book is riveting.

I have not read the book, but I saw the movie, and I would be remiss to say that I wasn't hanging on every scene and just glued to my chair. I didn't feel like I could get up even for a pee break. That said, I don't disagree with many of your technical points Scott.

There are many movies that make technical errors yet still tell a compelling story. For me, Da Vinci Code does just that.

My experience is that once you become disinterested in a movie, the flaws just start to flood in. Most of your points didn't occur to me because I was into the story. If the story has me, I don't worry about convienient facts and character arcs.

I saw X-Men and M:I:3 last weekend. X-Men annoyed me, and every little thing bothered me while M:I:3 was damned fun and while I suspected there were problems, I didn't dwell on a single one because I was enjoying the story.

At 6:31 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

"I would be remiss to say that I wasn't hanging on every scene and just glued to my chair."

Sorry. That bit is confusing. Should say:

I would be remiss if I didn't say that I was hanging on every scene and glued to my chair.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I actually enjoyed X-Men 3 more, though I admit it's flawed. MI3 is the best of the three, and even it has logic problems, but I generally noticed them less.

There's even a fundamental flaw in The Da Vinci Code that I didn't mention, and it is this -- the basic premise doesn't even make sense.

The tale opens with this man being brutally gunned down, by the albino monk, who is killing for a group that wants to find the "grail" and basically destroy any evidence that Jesus might have been human.

At this point, the guy who has been shot should be deeply concerned that this might happen, and be hoping that the evil organization is simply unable to find the well-hidden evidence. The best defense, as they have been doing, is to simply stay deep underground.

Does he do this? No. Instead, he basically sends off his granddaughter and Tom Hanks on a trail that leads directly to what he has been hiding, even though it is the worst possible time to do it, since he knows that violent, evil men are lurking about ready to not only do harm to them, but to FOLLOW THE TO THE HIDDEN EVIDENCE.

And he's essentially putting the main characters here -- and the thing they have been hiding for 2000 years -- at extreme risk for no reason, other than to let the girl know the secret. Which from a risk-to-reward standpoint, doesn't come close to making sense.

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Alan said...

Since reading isn't a popular hobby anymore, many people who read The Da Vinci Code are only doing so because everyone else is doing it. Since they having read for pleasure in a long while, they confuse the joy they get from the act of reading itself with the quality of the story.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Twixter Scripter said...

Alan I like your theory.

Scott, I think you’re critique is right on the money.

Personally, I enjoyed the sleuthing through fictitious history and the interesting supporting characters. I thought the movie was worth the watch. That said, I wouldn’t see it again and I’m not compelled to read the book.

What I haven’t been able to get an answer to, is this:

The whole point of the movie was to find Mary Magdalene’s remains. Well even if they were able to link Sophie’s DNA to that of Mary M.’s (or Mary’s child) it would still not provide conclusive evidence that Jesus fathered a child. To do so, it would be necessary to have a sample of Jesus’s DNA which, as far as I know, no one has.

Did I miss something or is this the cliffhanger that sets up for Da Vinci Code II.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Yeah, not only that, but how do you even prove that Mary Magdelene's remains are Mary Magdelene's remains?

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Wouldn't it be great to be able to boil down everyone who likes/dislikes a certain thing into a clearly defined set of criteria?

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

With some movies, they just fly by, they're over with too quickly. with DaVinci, I felt E V E R Y F U C K I N G second

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

Twixter Scripter: I think it's the same affliction that affects us "aspiring screenwriters." Writing fiction as a past-time is even rarer... is my screenplay good? Or am I letting the joy I get from writing and re-writing convince me that it's good?

Who knows? Scott knows... :)

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Mac said...

Another thing that bothered me while watching the movie is that characters explain things to us that they have NO WAY OF KNOWING.

For example, the leading lady explains to the hero that the policeman really suspects the hero of the crime and so took him to the crime scene just to get a confession. So they must escape because otherwise the hero will be stuck in the legal system for a while. (This isn't a spoiler, it basically happens in the first 10 minutes)

What?? For a start, why would the detective take the suspected killer to the scene, just so he can drop his DNA/footprints etc everywhere, and thus lose important evidence that might link him later?

But not only that, why must he run away? After all, if the detective wanted to lock him up, he would have done it earlier. But most annoying, how the hell does the leading lady know all this?

It's almost an "As you know, Bob", but in reverse. "While I have no logical way of knowing this information, you and the audience must have it explained to them, so I'll give you the following info dump..."

This just makes the ending worse - if he had simply been arrested, he would have languished in the legal system for a while until his innocence was demonstrated (eg: Security cameras at the museum / hotel / etc) while the leading lady would have been safely out of the way of the killers, as she apparently had a whole community of people who knew the truth and wanted to protect her.

The solution to the 'clues' also seemed totally arbitrary. For example, they are looking for a 5 letter word about 'orb' & 'Newton'. There are dozens it could logically be (even ignoring that the answer was based on something that didn't happen) but it happens to be the modern English spelling of the first one he tries. They could have changed one line in the movie and had it come out to a totally different answer. (eg: 'EQUAL'. The puzzle is about Isaac Newton and a missing sphere, and in his Principia, he proved (incorrectly but he didn't know that) that an EQUAL (uniform) sphere can exert no force on anything inside - so we would be living inside a vast sphere and never prove it. This also fits in with Greek cosmology of the universe being made up of a series of shells - with the stars fixed in the outer one.)

An inane answer, but no worse than the actual one.

Like many people, I hadn't read the book, and was annoyed at the lack of logic in the movie.


At 7:35 PM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

I thought it would be interesting to respond to this on my blog since I had the opposite experience:

didn't see the movie, but just finished reading the book, and could see why the movie would be weak.

Check it out!

At 9:39 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Alan, it's the William Hung theory that believing in something with enough passion makes it good when in reality believing in something may only make it something to believe in.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Schrumpfkopf said...

For me, the most annoying thing (of all the many many annoying things) was the exposition. The moment a new character arruived, I was waiting for the speech. The moment somebody mentioned the past or memories, I was waiting for the flashback. My personal highlight is the fact that Tom Hanks' character has to look up something in the book he wrote himself, just so we can see what goes on inside his head. oh, and it's not just that he wrote the book hiself--the man, we are repeatedly told, has a near photographic memory. Aaaaaaaaaaaah.


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