Ron Howard was not the right director to adapt Dan Brown's worldwide phenomenon "The Da Vinci Code," an entertaining, ridiculous and intricate novel that fetishizes its central professor character and offers up some truly ludicrous plot twists. That is part of the fun, and I certainly enjoyed the book when I read it 11 years ago. Brown's novels are not easily accessible to the screen, as they benefit from the breathing room afforded over hundreds of pages. There is often an exciting story within those pages, but something got lost in Akiva Goldsman's adaptation of this novel, and I do not just mean a number of critical scenes and the book's original ending. An edgier director could have spiced up The Da Vinci Code and crafted a leaner, more focused theatrical presentation. Instead, Howard amplifies the novel's goofy weaknesses, and creates a two-and-a-half-hour slog through religious symbology. Hanks is both the best and worst of Robert Langdon, and Howard's film does not exactly honor the legacy of Brown's bestselling novel.
The chief problem here is that Brown's novel largely moves its plot forward through Professor Robert Langdon's (Hanks) internal musings and silent investigations. That works on the page but is difficult to portray on screen. The Da Vinci Code almost immediately relies on the easiest, least impressive trick in the book to remedy the situation: Langdon and others simply rattle off plot points to the audience instead of letting viewers enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Fans of the novel know that Langdon is called to Paris when the Louvre's curator is murdered by an albino Catholic monk, Silas (Paul Bettany), demanding to know where secret society the Priory of Sion's Holy Grail-locating keystone is hidden. The body is posed like the Vitruvian Man, and Langdon discovers a hidden message that sends him on an adventure through Paris to dissect Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous works for clues to the location of the Holy Grail.
Although the film is stocked with talented actors, including Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Jean Reno, it rarely finds its pulse. I hate ragging on Howard, but the man's directing often lacks personality. For every Cinderella Man and Apollo 13 there is a How the Grinch Stole Christmas or In the Heart of the Sea. He is deliberate and thorough, but does much better with reality based dramas than thrillers. And cutting the fat from stories is not his specialty, as you can easily observe in The Da Vinci Code. The Langdon character is a likeable nerd in the books, but poor Hanks has some truly cringe-worthy lines in this film. You half expect him to plop down in a Parisian cafe and ask for a warm glass of milk.
With all the telling instead of doing, The Da Vinci Code lacks the drive and thrill of discovery you get in Brown's novel. I won't tackle the story's religious themes and conclusion, as that is really irrelevant to this review. There are a couple of nice moments, often involving Bettany's creepy Silas, but this is a largely disappointing adaptation. With all the resources available, this should have been a more exciting experience. The filmmakers had an uphill battle creating something fit for the screen. Unfortunately, they went too literal, played it too safe, and offered up a bloated, preposterous example of Hollywood excess.
Sony quietly released this new edition of The Da Vinci Code to coincide with the release of second sequel Inferno and the film's 10th anniversary. This Blu-ray release offers a new 4K remastered presentation that is good but not without flaws. First, I never liked Howard's soft photography here. It robs the image of detail and grit, and makes the movie feel like a fireside chat. The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image does offer good fine-object detail and texture, which highlights the often-impressive set decorations and locations. Skin tones appear accurate and colors are nicely saturated. Less impressive are the black levels, which crush and give the image a flat appearance. I noticed some smeary pans and minor edge enhancement, too, which is a shame on a 4K remaster.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is pleasing, with plenty of immersive surround effects and directional dialogue. All elements are balanced appropriately, and the subwoofer thumps along in support of the proceedings. The disc includes a host of dubs and subs.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc release comes in an Elite Blu-ray case that is wrapped in a glossy slipcover. An insert offers an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The bulk of the extras are on the second disc. Of note is that this Blu-ray release includes only the 149-minute theatrical presentation. The previous release, reviewed here in 2009, offered only the 174-minute extended cut. The movie did not need to be longer, so the lack of that cut is a blessing. Fans of that version fear not, as the first disc includes the Extended Cut Scenes (35:27/HD) on their own. You also get a Scene-Select Commentary by Ron Howard; Launching a Legacy (4:26/HD), which is a look at sequel Inferno; a Teaser Trailer (2:05/HD); and the Theatrical Trailer (2:20/HD). On the second disc you get a host of legacy bonus content, including nearly 160 minutes of Production Featurettes, which offer a fairly complete look at the production.
I remember being underwhelmed by The Da Vinci Code when I saw it in theaters, and, unfortunately, ten years time has not improved this adaptation of Dan Brown's bestselling novel. Ron Howard is not the right director for this material, and Tom Hanks is saddled with some embarrassingly mundane dialogue. This new 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray offers a middle-of-the-road remastered image and some decent supplements. Unless you're a big fan who never picked this up, I'd Skip It.