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May 17, 2006

The Da Vinci Code, Broken: "Don't See This Turd"

6% positive. 94% negative.

Would I be out of line to suggest the film is God-forsaken, abandoned by God?

Time says it feels like it was done more out of duty than out of love of the project. Another reviewer says it feels like a "weary duty," which is a nice slam.

I had no interest in reading this because I read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which, at least in broad outline, is the same damn book. Knights Templar, the Jesus bloodline, the Merovignian kings-- all in Pendulum.

They even stole Eco's actual occupation (professor of semiotics) as the profession of the protagonist in this book (though everyone seems to be calling him a "symbologist").

Which doesn't mean it's a bad book. Some people tell me it's a bona fide page-turner of a pot-boiler of a ripping yarn.

But...

As fun as Pendulum was -- it's fun to read little sensationalist bits of history and invented history; it sort of makes you feel smart to read about real (and almost real) things in a beach-read thriller -- I couldn't imagine making a movie out of it, because it was just a lot of jibber-jabber about the Bahumet and the Temple of Solomon and such.

Which seems to be the problem with this movie, too. What's fun to read isn't necessarily fun to watch (and vice versa-- I don't think I'd be up to read the novelization of, say, Beverly Hills Cop).

Anyway, if you want to see a really fun, really smart super-conspiracy-theory-at-the-heart-of-a-great-institution movie, see National Treasure. It's no more goofy than The Da Vinci Code, and it actually treats its conspirators (here, the Founding Fathers) as heroes rather than subverting them into villains.


"Oscar-Winning Pedigree" Alert:

Didn't Tom Hanks also star in The Bonfire of the Vanities which was also based on a best selling novel and which flopped bigtime both critically and at the box office? -- Tilgath Pilsener III

Well, yeah! And also- - The Terminal. And also-- Purgatory.

And Ron Howard... well, he did do Apollo 13, The Paper, Night Shift, and Gung Ho. On the other hand, he did Far and Away, Ransom, and EdTV.

Akiva Goldman, the screenwriter, won his Oscar for A Beautiful Mind... which was a so-so screenplay, memorable only for its gimmicky twist. An okay twist, I'll grant you, but fictitious and not really appropriate for a biopic. Half of the reason the twist seemed so good is because it's the sort of thing you'd expect in a lurid thriller, not in a prestige biopic.

Know what else he's written? Well, okay, he wrote Cinderella Man, which I'm told is good. But here is is rap sheet:

I, Robot (2004) (screenplay)

Practical Magic (1998) (screenplay)

Lost in Space (1998) (written by)

Batman & Robin (1997) (written by)

A Time to Kill (1996) (screenplay)

Batman Forever (1995) (screenplay)

The Client

How this man gets work after that kind of horrific output is beyond me. Let's say that A Beautiful Mind was okay, and Cinderella Man is as good as people say it is.

Fine. He finally learned how to write a screenplay. But how the hell did he manage twelve years of on-the-job paid training?

He wrote Batman & Robin.

He wrote Lost in Space.

Draw your own conclusions.

The Da Vinci Infringement: Here's a plot-- about an ancient document, written way back in 1983, which has the exact same plot as the Da Vinci Code. An intrepid author recognizes his work has been ripped off, and seeks to expose the truth, but is thwarted at every turn by evil agents working for a large publishing house.

And it may even be true.

Now, even discounting the fact that formula thrillers are, get this, written according to a formula, and that this basic notion has been floating out there among the conspiracy goofballs for decades, The Da Vinci Code does seem to follow an awful lot of the specific plot points of 1983's The Da Vinci Legacy.

Sample:

1. A scholar is killed. 2. He is the fourth of his type to be killed.

3. Before he dies, he leaves a last message,

4. written in his own blood,

5. on his own body.

6. This occurs on page 35.

It occurs on page 35 in both.

Okay, again-- formula. In every thriller, there is an inciting incident of some kind that sets the ball rolling; in a James Bond film, yet another double-o agent has been killed, for example. (These Double-O's don't seem as tough as you might first think.) And so, yes, the gory, mysterious, numinous murder has to occur early in the book.

But... a message in his own blood on his own body? On page 35 in both?

And the similarities continue.

Thanks to Dave in W-S.


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posted by Ace at 08:29 PM

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