FIRST-PERSON: 'Da Vinci' is heretical, but also bad

by Phil Boatwright, posted Friday, May 19, 2006 (13 years ago)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)--While reading "The Da Vinci Code" I remember thinking, “It’s going to be difficult turning this into a film script.” The narrative contains much expositional pontificating and puzzle wrestling, with car chases and brutal killings thrown in simply to separate chapters.

But too much exposition is not good for movies. First-year filmmakers learn that a picture is worth a thousand words. In an effort to stay true to the novel, however, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman ("Constantine," "Cinderella Man"), has given unsuspecting moviegoers a glorified audio book. Ironically, with all that verbiage, much of the plot is confusing, while the pulp theories concerning Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Priory of Sion come across as ludicrous even if you aren’t a religious historian.

The film version of Dan Brown’s controversial bestseller concerns a murder investigation that unearths supposed secrets kept by the Catholic Church and an alleged covert organization bent on keeping those secrets. Despite its simplistic literary style, which contains conspiratorial themes intended to rock the Christian faith, "The Da Vinci Code" has become something of a cultural phenom. In it, fictional secrets are revealed claiming Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a child in that union, and a clandestine society once headed by Leonardo Da Vinci has protected this information for centuries against a threatened Catholic hierarchy.

The production values are standard, but nothing memorable. The same can be said for Tom Hanks’ performance. Here he furrows his forehead during his first scene and never once relaxes it. And poor Audrey Tautou (Amelie), a proven talent, mysteriously lacks charm and manifests barely the slightest chemistry with her co-star. As for the suspense drama/murder thriller aspects, most successful films in those genres ("The Big Sleep," "The Third Man") are fun for the audience. "The Da Vinci Code" isn’t. It’s murky and joyless, containing a storytelling skill reminiscent of Jacqueline Susann’s "Valley of the Dolls."

This is a movie that will top box office charts by inheritance alone. Indeed, I suspect the production got green lit for one reason -– because its printed parent has refused to wander far from bestselling lists. But as a film, it is compiled of cheesy prose, implausible situations, one-dimensional characters and the absence of even one well-turned phrase. One can only assume that it found its way to the cinema screen because some thought it might smear Christianity, while others just thought, “Ca-ching!”

There are now countless books written by theologians and renowned historians that suck the air out of Dan Brown’s diabolical suggestions. Sadly, some people will still be misled and confused by his sleight-of-hand blend of fact and fiction. (Many pay more attention to movie stars who play history professors than to actual history.)

Billy Graham reported in his syndicated newspaper column, “I know of no reputable Bible scholar or historian (Christian or non-Christian) who would agree with its claims about Jesus or take it seriously. There simply is no historical evidence to support its alleged ‘discoveries’ about Jesus: nor is there any evidence at all that Christians have ‘covered up’ the truth about Jesus." Graham added, “In the last days before Christ’s return, according to Paul, people ‘will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’” (2 Timothy 4:4).

Here’s hoping the film will give Christians an opportunity to answer questions from those more familiar with the writings of Dan Brown than those of Peter, Paul and the Apostles.

("The Da Vinci Code" is rated PG-13 -- six obscenities, two expletives, three profanities; a nasty albino kills several people by gun, rock bludgeoning, poisoning and neck-twisting; he also flagellates himself and self mutilates; scenes of Crusades’ battles, witch burnings and tortures; a sudden in-your-face car crash; we see blood with most of these killings; the first dead body lays stretched out nude, with a bright light hiding his midsection; we see the albino nude from behind before he starts whipping his already scared back; brief drug references, we see a drug addict about to inject himself.)


Phil Boatwright reviews movies from a Christian perspective. For more of his reviews, visit www.previewonline.org.

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