Saturday, May 20, 2006

Exposition and car chases

So I went to see “The DaVinci Code” tonight, which was kind of a surprise as I had absolutely no interest in the film, which stemmed in part from the fact that I had absolutely no interest in the book. On top of that, the fact that I have little to no interest in Tom Hanks as an actor should have kept me out of the theatre.

But a friend of mine was passing through town from Vanderhoof this weekend, and he called to see if I wanted to go, and was willing to buy my ticket. So off I went thinking, at the very least, I could make fun of the movie if the movie didn’t provide much in the way of fun itself.

Which I actually did for awhile. Until I started to feel guilty that I was maybe ruining the movie-going experience for other people.

To be sure, “The DaVinco Code” is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m also tempted to say that it’s a bad adaptation, in spite of the fact that I’ve never read the book. I say this because the film feels like a adaptation from a book at just about every single point. Which is a bad sign. If you’ve adapted the novel properly, your film should feel like a film, not a badly adapted novel.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the film – and this could very well be the biggest problem with the book too – is that nothing terribly interesting happens. A bunch of people sit around at different locations and talk about The Knights Templar and the Priory of Scion and the Holy Grail and the bloodline of Jesus. And then, just when the film has been dragging so long that you think you might actually nod off, the throw in a car chase! Holy excitement, Batman! And then, when the oh-so-exciting chase scene is finished, it’s back to people sitting around talking again.

Exposition and car chases does not a movie make.

It might have been easier to sit through if the dialogue had been interesting. But it wasn’t. At more points than I could possibly count, the dialogue took on the heavy, clunky tone that comes from a weak writer attempting to push out too many ideas too quickly. WATCH as Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen awkwardly debate the presence of Mary Magdalene in DaVinci’s depiction of the Last Supper. FEEL the absence of tension in the scene. MARVEL as some of Hollywood’s finest manage to keep themselves from looking completely embarrassed at the drivel they’re forced to spout.

On the topic, it should be noted that Ian McKellen was the saving grace of the film, who managed to make the whole thing at least survivable. He was charming and funny in spite of dialogue that was anything but, and did a fine job reminding the audience that he’s a damn fine actor, regardless of the strength of the film or the role.

Besides McKellen, about the only thing I can offer positively about The DaVinco Code is that it wasn’t as long as King Kong. And it was mildly more intellectually stimulating.

Here’s a quick note to screenwriters, both those of the up-and-coming variety, as well as those who are already working within the Hollywood system: Expositionary dialogue works in novels because novels are ultimately a literary medium. It doesn’t matter that a bunch of people sitting around in a room talking isn’t visually interesting. Books don’t have to be visually interesting. Movies do.

And if your movie isn’t visually interesting, a handful of car chases isn’t going to help a whole lot, as much as you’d like to think otherwise.

While the argument for the existence of a descendant of Jesus walking among us today are intriguing and worth at least considering, , “The DaVinci Code” manages to make them seem like anything but. And that is perhaps its greatest crime – taking an interesting idea and turning into something mind-numbingly dull.

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