In Los Angeles, last month, the billboards advertising ‘The Da Vinci Code’ were telling the world (or at any rate the denizens of Hollywood) to “BE A PART OF THE PHENOMENON”.
Has the phenomenon turned out to be what everyone at Sony Pictures hoped it would be or what they feared it might be?
And, anyway, what is the phenomenon? Being one of zillions daft enough to spend good money to see a film that’s been described as “The Greatest Turkey Ever Sold”?
Well I’m just back from being part of the phenomenon and am ready to tell you exactly what I think… As if you cared! If you’re going to see it, you’ll do so whatever I say; and if you’re not going to see it, well nothing I am about to say is likely to make you change your mind!
The trouble is, the film has managed to preserve the worst aspects of Dan Brown’s shoddily-written novel - the ludicrous situations and risible dialogue - while failing to capture the book’s few virtues: it’s cracking pace and page-turning urgency.
The story is hopelessly mired in a slavish attempt to make cinematic sense of Brown’s page upon page of exposition, which here becomes an even messier hodgepodge of history, theology and wacky fringe hypotheses cobbled together with less insightfulness than an average issue of ‘The Reader’s Digest’.
The characters (with exception of Ian McKellen as the two-timing English knight with a bit of a Holy Grail obsession) are empty husks with nothing to make us care about them or the fate of their crackpot quest. Tom Hanks looks permanently anxious (as well he might) and has a relationship with Audrey Tautou that has just about sufficient electricity to light a very small forty-watt bulb.
The vague, bleached out, blue-washed flashbacks add little or nothing to our understanding of the characters and, unlike the historical flashbacks (Emperor Constantine becoming a Christian on his death bed with vestal virgins shimmying on the palace steps), don’t even have the benefit of raising a faint smile.
Is it the worst movie ever made? No. Is it dull, ponderously plodding and deeply unfulfilling? Yes! I’m just glad I saw it at the Clapham Picture House (at members’ discount ticket prices) rather than in the West End for twice as much money.
Still, at least I have the satisfaction of having been one of the first to become part of the phenomenon, which feels well, pretty phenomenal…
[Image: © Brian Sibley]