Plot: What’s it about?
It was inevitable. We all knew it would happen. And it did. Love it or hate it, “The Da Vinci Code” is something that we knew would come to the big screen and all controversy aside; we just didn’t know when. As it turns out Ron Howard took the reigns and once again is working with old pal Tom Hanks. Though in all honesty, they’ve only worked twice before (“Splash” and “Apollo 13”). Before I delve into the plot, I feel it necessary to give my two cents on what all of the uproar is about. First of all, I’m not Catholic, but after watching the movie I suppose I could see where the Catholic Church is none too pleased with this movie. I didn’t read the book, so I don’t know what, if anything has been changed. And I know enough about religion to recognize that this could (and did) offend some people but all that aside…it’s a movie folks. Movies are works of fiction and no matter how much they may discredit our beliefs at the end of the day it’s a work of fiction plain and simple. I’ve heard of author Dan Brown’s alleged plagiarism and I don’t care. The bottom line is that as a lover of film, I want to be entertained and you know what? I was.
Like James Bond, Dirk Pitt or Jack Ryan – Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) joins the storied ranks of heroes who come from a line of books in which he is the protagonist. Langdon is greeted by the French police at a lecture so that he might investigate a murder that took place in the Louvre Museum. Unbeknownst to him, he soon finds out that he’s actually the prime suspect and manages to escape with the help of French cryptographer Sophie (Audrey Tatou). Their goal is simple, find out who the murder really was and stay one step ahead of the French authorities without being arrested. Naturally, there’s more to the case than meets the eye. This murder is something special and we learn that there’s trouble in the Catholic Church. In a nutshell, it seems that they (the Catholic Church) have been hiding the fact that Jesus Christ had a wife and a line of descendants to this very day. As the cryptic clues start to make a little more sense, Langdon enlists the help of old colleague Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) to help decipher the pieces of the puzzle.
I have to admit that the premise of the movie is quite intriguing and as I write this review I have a copy of “The Da Vinci Code” staring right at me. I’ve got a long flight coming up and I just might take the plunge and read the book as well. I will say that, not being Catholic, I could see what the commotion was about but religion is something that’s never been a huge part of my life. I have to say that it’s good to see the duo of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks back together again and Hanks has once again crafted a great performance. He has a way of making even the stiffest characters seem interesting and enigmatic. The supporting cast plays a huge role as well with some major star power: Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno and Ian McKellan giving some great performances. While I’m sure there are others out there that have a more polarized opinion about the movie, I tried to watch it and just be entertained. And I say again – I was.
Video: How does it look?
Evidently there was a high demand for this title and Sony actually ran out of widescreen copies of the DVD to send to us reviewers. That said, I was one of the unfortunate ones that received a Full Screen edition of the film so that’s what was reviewed. In the days where HDTV is the mainstream and the advent of Blu-ray and HD DVD, I find it hard to believe that studios are still producing movies in Full Screen, but I suppose there are a lot of people out there who really don’t even know the difference. And I was assured by Sony that they would send a widescreen version of the movie when they had their supply replenished. When that happens, I’ll amend this section of the review accordingly. For what it’s worth the image appeared very clean and smooth, giving it a very film-like quality. It’s a dark movie, taking place in museums and throughout the night but the transfer never seemed too challenged and black levels remained constant throughout. Flesh tones seemed accurate even considering the albino-ish character played by Paul Bettany. On the whole, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a major movie in Full Screen but all things considered it was this or nothing for a few weeks. Ironically enough, all of the supplements are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with shots from the movie in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pretty good here. Hans Zimmer’s score is particularly engrossing and really adds a lot of depth and action to the movie. I found that the majority of the action was limited to the front stage, but as the movie progressed I felt there was a lot more atmosphere. Surrounds are solid and used often and though a majority of the dialogue is spoken in French, dialogue seemed warm and natural throughout. While not a memorable soundtrack, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As far as supplements go, “The Da Vinci Code” has been released as a two-disc special edition. I don’t really think there was a need for a second disc and there’s a big sticker on the case that exclaims “Over 90 minutes of Special Features”. Well, these days we want a little more from our DVD’s and Sony is one of the studios that pioneered the “Special Edition Double Dip”. Will we be seeing another edition of this in the future? Count on it. Until then though, here’s what the disc(s) have to offer. The second disc houses all of the supplements, which are essentially 10 featurettes. There were some interesting segments, such as the conversation with Dan Brown. Brown, the author of the book describes candidly how his life has changed since the success of the book and his thinking of the characters and how they were portrayed. We also get plenty of screen time with Ron Howard who tells his motivations behind making the film and a few other featurettes on the casting, how the actors got their parts and so forth. Perhaps the most interesting featurette (to me anyway) was “Codes of The Da Vinci Code” in which they obvious clues are shown as well as a handful of symbols that were put into the movie by the filmmakers. Granted, they do show you what they are and what they mean, but it’s fun when things like this are put into films, it gives it a more “interactive” feeling. The Filmmakers Journey is actually divided into two parts and gives us some more insight into the making of the movie as well. And, as I mentioned before, all of these supplements are shown in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. For the third time now, love it or hate it “The Da Vinci Code” is entertainment, the transfer is good as is the audio and while the supplements are somewhat plentiful, I found them somewhat lacking. A commentary track by Hanks, Brown and Howard would be a good thing but maybe they’re saving that for the next edition…