Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The DaVinci Code

(Movie Review)

You may or may not know this (and you may or may not care) but when the Japanese translation of “The DaVinci Code” was released, it caused just as much waves over here as it did back in America. Because there is no strong Christian tradition in Japan, the book didn’t offend as many people over here, but for the same reason a lot more of them were unable to distinguish between Dan Brown’s fabrications and real Christian tradition, and Japanese TV and popular magazines devoted much space to exploring the claims of “The DaVinci Code.”

Shoko got caught up in the craze as well, and one day she gave me a phone call asking me all sorts of questions about “The DaVinci Code” and Christian history. Fortunately for her, at that time I had just finished reading “The Davinci Code” a few months earlier myself. And, like many people, I also felt the need to go on and read all the explanation and companion books before my curiosity was completely satisfied. The DaVinici Code” should come with a warning that it is not just a quick paperback, but an introduction to weeks of research.

By the time the movie came out, I felt like my interests had moved on, and I didn’t feel any great need to see it, especially as it had gotten panned in the press reviews. Shoko however did want to see it, despite the fact that the Japanese press was just as harsh on the movie. So we rented it the other night.

A funny thing “The DaVinci Code”. When you’re reading through the fast paced car chases and Indiana Jones like romp through history, you think to yourself, “This has ‘Hollywood Movie Script’ written all over it.” But when you actually watch the movie, it feels remarkably like you’re reading a book. Yet one more example of a story that, for one reason or another, didn’t survive the jump between mediums very well.

Although it is tempting to say that Ron Howard really mucked this up, I’m not sure how well the story would have fared with a different director. Although the book at first glance might seem to be the perfect Hollywood movie, on further reflection this probably would have been a difficult transition in any case. The success of Indiana Jones and his ilk is based upon the fact that they are action/adventure movies with a bit of history thrown in for flavor. “The Davinci Code” is essentially a historical thesis, with some action thrown in to make it an interesting novel. But there’s just too much information in the book to pack into a Hollywood movie. As Shoko pointed out, anyone who hadn’t read the book would be left confused about what was going on, and yet the movie already seems terribly long and talky as it is. I thought it was one of the longest 2 1/2 hours I ever sat through.

There has already been much discussion about the accuracy of this book (to put it mildly) and how much of this Dan Brown can get away with in the fictional genre. I don’t approach this book with any sort of religious axe to grind, but at the same time I don’t particularly like being lied to. Which was my main criticism of “The Davinci Code.” I do realize its fiction, but I would have felt a little better about the whole thing if the author had been upfront about it.

However when this turns into a big budget Hollywood movie, all bets are off. I don’t expect it to be true, and I don’t care if it’s true. I just want to watch something interesting. If I wanted to actually learn about the knights Templars, I’d read a book or rent a documentary.

And this I think is the second big problem with this story in the film medium. I’m not saying Hollywood films shouldn’t be educational. Hollywood does some great history bi-opics, but they do it by actually showing the life. The kind of talking heads in “The Davinci Code” is not why people go to the movies.

In short, this film may represent another example of “The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ” phenomenon. It’s a mediocre film that would probably have faded quietly away, if the religious right hadn’t made such a big deal of protesting it.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
The "27 Club" is a popular culture reference to a group of several rock musicians, each of whom had a meteoric rise to success that was cut short by a drug-related death at age 27. The musicians are:
Brian Jones (February 28, 1942July 3, 1969) (The Rolling Stones)— Drowned in his swimming pool.
Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942September 18, 1970) (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) — Asphyxiated on vomit while sleeping after presumably unintentional overdose of sleeping pills
Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943October 4, 1970) (Janis Joplin, Big Brother & The Holding Company) — Heroin overdose
Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943July 3, 1971) (The Doors) — Heart failure
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967April 5, 1994) (Nirvana) — suicide by shotgun

Ed note: Isn't it weird to think we're now older than all these famous rock stars we spent most of our lives looking up to?

Link of the Day
Over the past week, the Grand Rapids Press, the major newspaper in West Michigan, has published a series of articles that appear to be designed to build support for the Bush administration's Iran policy and possibly even building support for a military attack on Iran. The articles all stem from the context of heightened rhetoric from the Bush administration linking Iran to attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, with many of them relying on evidence presented at a briefing by United States military officials on the weekend of February 10. That briefing, conducted by officials who refused to be quoted and insisted on anonymity, presented what the military claimed was proof that the Iranian government is supplying insurgents in Iraq with weapons

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