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A Personal Word on “The Da Vinci Code”

Scott on May 20, 2006 at 9:00 pm

So, John and I (along with our wives and a few other people) went to see “The Da Vinci Code” Saturday night (night #2 after its release). I didn’t really speak with John about his impressions, which I am sure he will share in this post or another in the near future. Because of all of the hype, I feel the need to “unburden” myself and share my personal opinion of the movie.

Putting aside the controversy connected to Dan Brown’s claims about the Church, Mary and Jesus, etc and looking at the movie as a translation of the book…I was quite disappointed. As we left the theater I wanted to run up to the people waiting for the 9:30 showing and yell, “I deciphered the code and it told me that you should save your money and go see something else!” I almost did. (If I had, I also would have thrown in a gratuitous “Soylent Green is People!” reference just for the heck of it.)

Part of why the book works is the thought process of the characters AND the devotion that all of the characters have to their particular motivation. Part of why the movie DOESN’T work is that it contains only a shadow of both.

The major events in the book, the lynchpins of the plot, are the puzzles that must be deciphered and unlocked to move to the next stage of the “quest.” The book is engaging because of the process that the characters go through in unlocking the clues, puzzles, etc. You are able to follow the internal thought processes and you feel as though you are part of their quest. Though I may have issues with Dan Brown’s bogus take on history, I do give him “major props” for being able to convincingly create the internal workings of a characters mind.

Also, in the book none of the characters are acting out of avarice, greed, lust, or any of the other deadly sins. Each of the major characters does what he or she does out of devotion to a primary motivator…be it honor, or family loyalty, or love of God, or love of the Church, or devotion to a truth (be it real or imagined). Brown’s book illuminates those motivations in such a way that you understand the motivations of the characters, even the bad ones, and even sympathize with them to one extent or another.

In the movie, we get very little of the puzzle-processes and even less of the primary motivations. The puzzles are just an aside; a clever gimmick that the characters have to muddle through…as opposed to amazingly intricate and clever, ingenious master works of the brightest mind of the Renaissance. The motivations of the characters are barely visible or understandable. Each character is following the story line, but at no point are you convinced that the characters believe what is happening to them or actually buy-in to the action and the goal they are heading toward.

In the end, the movie disappoints. I would give it a 5/10, and that’s because Ian McKellen was REALLY good.

Ron Howard would have done much better to use Dan Brown’s other book “Angels and Demons.” I think the story line would have translated better, though the Catholic Church would have certainly objected even more to that movie than they have to “The Da Vinci Code.”

My advice, go see “Over the Hedge.”

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Category: Books, Movies |

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