... in this recent piece by Stephen Hunt. It's worth reading in its entirety, but here are some of my comments (no, my name hasn't changed from "Olson" to "Olsen." Just a typo on Hunt's part):
“My guess is that if they ‘soften’ it at all, it will be a lot of smoke and mirrors,” said Olsen. “To a certain degree, it’s easier to soften the premise in a movie than in a book, which has to be a more boldly stated fact." In a film, Olsen notes, "You can do it in the dialogue." Meaning that a potentially unreliable character — or characters — can state positions that may or may not ever be objectively presented. Even given that wiggle room, Olsen says, the film "will have to keep [the premise] to make the whole thing work. Otherwise, what’s the point? They shouldn’t even call it The Da Vinci Code.”
In the old days, there was a Catholic Film Board. Priests would actually warn against certain films — everything from a vampire film called Lemora to The Life of Brian to The Last Temptation of Christ — in their Sunday sermons.
These days, the Catholic Film Board has been replaced by Christian bloggers like Welborn, Olsen and Nicolosi. A common thread on their blogs and in interviews I did with Olsen and Welborn is that Hollywood — and mainstream American media, by and large — is "tone deaf" when it comes to the conservative Christian community.
“Stop insulting us,” Welborn said in a phone interview. “Stop making the Christian character in your movies the hypocrite, the villain.” Welborn referenced, in addition to Da Vinci Code, the film Saved. “Saved was basically a satire of organized religion,” Welborn said of the 2004 comedy starring Mandy Moore, Jena Malone and Macaulay Culkin. “It made fun of Christians. And I heard from someone that marketing people in Hollywood thought that they could lure the same people who went to see Passion to see a movie which essentially mocks Christians. I don’t know what’s in their head sometimes.”
“I’m a little bit cynical about Hollywood’s approach to traditional Christians,” Olsen said. “Starting with the ridiculous reaction to Passion of the Christ. Now, with Da Vinci Code, everyone is saying, ‘It’s just a movie, get over it.’ Well, if that’s the case, why was everyone so wound up about Passion? In the case of Da Vinci Code, here we have a novel that is completely historically inaccurate ... and is bigoted towards Catholics. If these themes come out in the film, why shouldn’t we be upset?”
Olsen wasn’t completely dismissive of the film, however. “In one sense, the movie has to be better than the book. Ron Howard is a competent, pretty good director. Tom Hanks is a great actor. And the supporting cast is pretty good. Did you know Tom Hanks is a practicing Greek Orthodox? And Ron Howard has been a longtime member of the Presbyterian Church.”
In Olsen’s view, the problem faced by a film like Da Vinci is that, if it truly strove to have an individual voice comparable to the book's, it would need to have been brought to life outside the studio system.
“If Passion had been made by the studios, by the time it made it through the system, everything that made it great would have been bowdlerized. They dilute it ... water it down. You just have so many hands in the pie. It’s only in independent film where you ever see a strong point of view. Now, I like a big popcorn movie as much as anyone, but it takes Mel going off on his own to get that particular point of view expressed.”
So will Olsen be attending the film?
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “In fact, if I didn’t, my publisher would put a gun to my head. The week it comes out, me and my co-author (Susan Miesel) will be guests on the Eternal Word Network, talking about the movie.”
Yes, yes, that last remark contains at least two errors. No gun will be put to my head by anyone at Ignatius Press. If they really want to make me sweat, they'll tell me that if I don't do X, they will make me translate one of Hans Urs von Balthasar's trilogies from German into French and then into Japanese. That's far more frightening. Secondly, Sandra Miesel and I will be on "EWTN Live" on Wednesday, May 3rd; the DVC movie comes out on Friday, May 19th. That week I will actually be in New York and New Jersey, giving talks and interviews.