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The Da Vinci Code 2 reviews

The Da Vinci Code
Directed by Ron Howard
149 minutes
Rated M

The movie is never as good as the book. That is a fair statement.

While the Da Vinci Code basically follows the plot of the book, screen writer Avika Goldsman and director Ron Howard got around having to cut the 600 page book down to two and half hours of film time by merging plot lines and changing details.

I think my problem was that I finished the book the day before I saw the film so all the finer details were still imbedded in my mind. Having spoken with people who read the book a year ago, they didn’t quite share my level of disgust at what I saw as unnecessary changes.

Changes like the reason Sophie Neveu and her grandfather had not spoken. The film says it was an argument they had when she was in primary school about how her parents died, thus avoiding having to do a flash back to the Hieros Gamos ritual. That may have worked, except they do several flashbacks to the ritual but never explain it.

Simple things like the fact that they flew directly to England. The film says they were going to Switzerland but changed on route – Bishop Aringarosa’s storyline which was not featured or needed.

Understandably, the number of riddles and puzzles were cut down to cope with the film genre, but surely the Grand Master of the Priory would have gone to more trouble to hide the location of the Grail?

Perhaps the most frustrating change though was the nature of Sophie Nevue’s character. The film portrays her as a silly little girl who is just along for the ride. It mentions that her grand father trained her all her life to decipher riddles and puzzles and yet she solves nothing in the film. He character is almost unnecessary.

Audrey Tautou was great as Sophie Nevue, but was held back by the lack of strength in her character. Tom Hanks is vaguely believable as Robert Langdon, though why he needed terrible hair to be a believable Harvard professor is beyond me. Jean Reno (Captain Fache), Ian McKellen (Sir Leigh Teabing) and Paul Bettany (Silas) were particularly well cast.

There are some jump-in-your-seat moments provided by Silas and some comic relief from Teabing.

The brief history of Silas was confusing, as was the revelation of who the Teacher was (not helped by another character claiming to be the Teacher).
The film claims the knowing involvement of the Vatican. It shows the nun at Saint Sulpice with the names and phone numbers of all four keepers of the keystone written on a piece of paper, and the ending. Oh, the ending!

Some might think this is the most important part. The reason they kept reading or watching. Perhaps the filmmakers were running out of time or money. The film was wrapped up in a matter of minutes with more unnecessary changes. However, there is a nice lighthearted moment when Nevue attempts to walk on water.

I took someone who had not read the book. He found it confusing and snored most of the way through the film (through not as much as the person on my left!).

The filmmakers have done a wonderful job at making a good book into a boring film. At almost 2.5 hours, surely they had time to get the details right!

Mardi Lumsden

The code has come. Da Vinci is here. Dan Brown’s page turner is on the big screen. Against a backdrop of the Mona Lisa’s smile advertising posters encourage us to be “part of the phenomenon”. 

Apparently some in the Vatican are worried that the movie will make the church marvellously misunderstood. Some talk of boycotting the flick, others think it might change the course of the history of the church. 

Not on your life. Director Ron Howard, has served us up something as limp as wet lettuce leaf that has spent the past week languishing under a papal throne.

I didn’t mind the book. It was as harmless as it was theologically thin.  

The trouble for the movie is that all the weakness of the book, are thrown up on the big screen for all of us to see. There is no place to hide.  

An insipid plot, based around a weak – if ingenious – argument; with no character development and with major inconsistencies makes for a boring movie.  

The picture has some moments of seat jumping shocks as the drive
n Silas, played by Paul Bettany, attempts to kill off the lead characters. The initial chase scenes are visually engaging and zippy.  

But they can only take us so far in this film.  

Because it takes itself so seriously the picture becomes weighed down by history – or a rough interpretation of it – so the bounding pace and growing tension experienced in the book languishes away to a bland ho-hum conclusion.  

Against the backdrop of Rosslyn Chapel, Professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, (Tom Hanks) looks deeply into Sopie Neveau’s (Audrey Tautou) eyes saying she is the descendant of Jesus’ and Mary Magdalene’s sexual relationship.  

This means she is of the royal bloodline, the heir of the Holy Grail.  

This is the moment of revelation. We are supposed to be impressed but I found myself wondering: ‘so?’  

Instead of growing as characters throughout the film, these people lose their personalities.  

Sophie passes from a confident, quick thinking, sassy young policewoman, breaking into a bizarre murder scene at the Louvre even conning her more senior male investigators to free suspect Langdon, into a wimpish, semi-suburban aristocrat.  

Thank goodness Ian McKellen as the idiosyncratic Englishman Leigh Teabing, and Bettany as Silas bring some sense of fun and drama to the whole production.  

The Da Vinci code is fiction – even author Dan Brown says so. But because the action is so lumbering – cut by many flashbacks – it becomes fractured fiction.

So has the work got anything to say? Could Mary Magdalene be the Holy Grail? Could there be a royal bloodline, descendants from a union of Jesus and Mary? Was there a 2,000 year conspiracy by successive popes (all men of course) to keep Mary out of the action?  

Well, it’s just too hard to maintain the fiction as fact when the crucial Priory of Sion – the men charged to keep the secret of Mary and Jesus alive- was found to be an elaborate fraud perpetrated in 1956.  

No such clandestine powerful group, led by the likes of Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci, ever existed.  

Quotes from the so-named Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) and Gospel of Philip are given proof text status.  

But no one mentions that they are 200 years after the fact of Jesus.  

The lovely line from the Gospel of Mary (we only have 1,118 words of it!), “surely the Son of Man knows her very well, that he loved her more than us,” is not a quote by a real person, but a line delivered in an argument as to if the disciples should take a vision of Mary seriously.  

And the Council of Nicea, the famous gathering of about 300 of church leaders in the year 325, is said to be a device by Constantine to dominate the world under the idea that ether was just one God.  

Such a view, says the Teabing character, has caused wars ever since.  

Well hardly. Neither world wars were religious conflicts nor did the Crusades need Nicea to get them going.  

While Constantine was truly sick of bickering church leaders, the Council of over 300 bishops of the early church, actually debated the Arian controversy.  

That is, whether Jesus was created by God or ‘proceeded from God’. Yes, it gave us the Trinity, but not the notion of monotheism or one God!  

As it turned out only 17, then 5, bishops refused to sign on the dotted line. Of course there were politics there, but not even a Constantine, who was largely absent during the proceedings, could have engineered that.  

So sadly, the code is not real and the movie is not a thriller.  

Unfortunately the film that looks deeply into the relationship of Jesus with his followers, including one mysterious Mary of Magdala, has not yet been made.  

Rev Kim Cain is Director of Communications Victoria and Tasmanian Synod, Melbourne

Read more about The Da Vinci Code HERE.