Some readers of TDVC (both fans and non-fans) have suggested that the novel is about as ready-made for a movie as can be. I've always disagreed with this notion, believing the novel has far more in common with soap operas than with successful summertime movie fare. Some of the similar elements include: thin characters, laughable dialogue, endless conversations, constant posturing (by characters and novelist), silliness/stupidity, and a complete absence of nuance. Oh -- and the plot is even more thin than the characters, which is saying something. Last summer I was interviewed by The New York Times (for this article) and I said this:
"There's no way you can take out the central point of the novel, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church has done everything in its power, including murdering millions of people, to cover it up," said Carl Olson, co-author of "The Da Vinci Hoax," a book refuting the "The Da Vinci Code." He predicted that many devout people would be offended "unless they make a movie that bears a pale resemblance to the book, in which case they'd have a lot of irritated fans."
Oddly enough, the first reviews of the movie indicate that Ron Howard has apparently achieved something remarkable, if not altogether commendable for a director: he has made a movie that will both irritate fans and bore and confuse non-fans. The Reuters review calls the movie a "bloated puzzle" and adds:
Strictly as a movie and ignoring the current swirl of controversy no amount of studio money could ever buy, the Ron Howard-directed film features one of Tom Hanks' more remote, even wooden performances in a role that admittedly demands all the wrong sort of things from a thriller protagonist; an only slightly more animated performance from his French co-star, Audrey Tautou; and polished Hollywood production values where camera cranes sweep viewers up to God-like points of view and famous locations and deliciously sinister interiors heighten tension where the movie threatens to turn into a historical treatise.
The movie really only catches fire at the midway point, when Ian McKellen hobbles on the scene as the story's Sphinx-like Sir Leigh Teabing. Here is the one actor having fun with his role and playing a character rather than a piece to a puzzle.
True believers and those who want to understand what all the fuss is about will jam cinemas worldwide in the coming weeks in sufficient numbers so as to fulfill probably even the most optimistic projections of Sony execs. But the movie is so drenched in dialogue musing over arcane mythological and historical lore and scenes grow so static that even camera movement can't disguise the dramatic inertia. Such sins could cut into those rosy projections.
The BBC reviewer, Caroline Briggs, is also underwhelmed:
Taking its cue from the book, conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is depicted as a murderous and power-crazed organisation.
But Howard, who won an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, faced a tougher challenge in translating Brown's narrative to the big screen. And his fondness for historic flashbacks and other gimmicks to tell the story border on patronising.
They are too obviously used to help gel together the two-and-a-half hour screenplay whose storyline may prove confusing for those who have not read the book.
One of the book's triumphs is the way in which it allows the reader to solve the clues before Langdon and Neveu, giving the reader a smug satisfaction at their own perceived intelligence.
The film does not allow the same satisfaction, but instead must join protagonists Langdon and Neveu on their convoluted journey.
Briggs is quite right in describing the "books' triumph", since the novel has certainly been, for many readers, a revelatory text filled with secret knowledge and exciting ideas (How about it, National Geographic? Have a cover with the DVC displayed and the headline: "The Gospel of Dan Brown," Discovered in 2003. Is it true?). But it appears that the movie is actually revealing something else: that the novel is a pile of pseudo-intellectual blatherings that lacks both historical veracity and logical coherence. Of course, we've been saying that all along. But it's rather touching that Sony, Ron Howard, and Co. would spend tens of millions of dollars to prove our point. For the record, I'll be seeing the movie this Friday night and hope to write a few thoughts here soon thereafter.