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July 17, 2006
THE DA VINCI CODE ~ Written by Dan Brown

“The curator spoke his next words carefully.
The lie he told was one he had rehearsed many times…
each time praying he would never have to use it.”


Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has stirred one of the most impressive media frenzies in all of literature since its publication in the spring of 2003. Since that time, one can scarcely go more than a week without happening upon a new DVD or television program dedicated to disintegrating or upholding the ideas put forth in its 454 pages.

It was without question that the story would find itself lifted onto the silver screen, and three years later, Columbia Pictures unveiled the film version, helmed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, as the opening film at this year’s Cannes International Film festival, preceding a healthy box office take throughout the summer. The film, however, was met with viciously negative critical response (rightly, in this viewer’s opinion), generally chalking up the failure to a poorly conceived adaptation.

The Da Vinci Code is harmless enough fiction for the reader with an eye for thrills and emperors lacking garments. The material therein, however, is seen as anything but harmless to the many threatened by the ideas Brown presents. A world as God-fearing as ours is, as Christian-dominant as it may be, is not going to sit idly by and be told their savior, Jesus Christ, was so human that he fathered a child whose bloodline exists in tact to this very day.

But this is the idea that lies at the heart of The Da Vinci Code. Drawing upon the works of Michael Baigent and Lynn Picknett, among others, Brown weaves a fascinating and fun mystery yarn that is at once educational and outrageous.

At the center of the story is symbol expert Robert Langdon, also a central character in Brown’s Angels and Demons. Following the gruesome murder of a curator in the halls of Paris’s famed Louvre museum, Langdon is sent on a spiraling journey through time and history, along with police cryptographer Sophie Neveau, as they attempt to make since of the final, eerie clues left behind by the slain curator. Characters as diverse as the violent and devout albino, Silas, historian and appointed guide for the tale, Sir Leigh Teabing, and suspicious criminal investigator Bezu Fache pepper the narrative of this page-turner that has dominated best seller lists since it hit the shelves.

Starring in the film is Tom Hanks, savagely miscast as the cultured Robert Langdon. At his side, Audrey Tautou and Sir Ian McKellen tackle the roles of Neveau and Teabing respectively, while Paul Bettany was given the opportunity to chew scenery as the murderous Silas.

Also filling out the bill is Jean Reno (but of course) as investigator Fache and Alfred Molina as Opus Dei Bishop Aringarosa.

A book as exciting and popular as The Da Vinci Code was made for the money-hungry business of film and the flavor-of-the-week-worshipping town of Hollywood. Ron Howard, coming off of the celebrated “Cinderella Man,” seemed the right choice to bring such safe material to the screen, though he obviously missed in seizing the opportunity in full. Regardless, in the realm of awards and Oscars, it has always been a likely short road for “The Da Vinci Code.”

Typical Howard collaborator Akiva Goldsman took to task the adaptation of the novel, though it is worth noting that Brown rather systematically laid The Da Vinci Code out in an all-too-easily-transitioned manner. Goldsman still found a way to make the material quite boring, though this might be a reaction not-too-often shared by those unfamiliar with the book.


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