Critique: The Da Vinci Code

I finally decided to read The Da Vinci Code after seeing an interview with Ron Howard about the movie, and seeing a short clip. I had purposely avoided reading the book, mainly due to all of the hype. I am not always against hype (I am always in line at Borders to buy the next new Harry Potter book), but just didn’t want to get into the fray at the time.

In general, I like spooky thrillers, conspiracy theories, and quasi-religious mystical historical fiction. I love James Blaylock, Umberto Eco, and Dean Koontz (and Harry Potter…). So, this book seems to fit right in with the others on my fiction shelf. However, I was shocked; but not in the way you’d think.

I am shocked that this book is such a hit, and that anyone would consider making it into a movie. In my opinion, it’s just plain bad; it fails on every level (except that it made Dan Brown rich). I can assume that its success comes from 2 things: people’s desire to come up with any notion – no matter how flaky – to say “Christianity is a scam;” and very low literary standards.

My first impression of the book – which held true, for the most part, for the rest of the book – is that there is virtually no character development. The book’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, has no personality. He is there, apparently, merely to provide information and as a means to connect the other people in the story. I kept trying to find out what kind of a person he was, but I couldn’t- there’s just nothing there.

As I read the book, I tried to imagine Tom Hanks as the Langdon character, and just couldn’t. Hanks himself has no personality, so Hanks playing Langdon seems the worst possible choice. Of course, I can’t stand Tom Hanks – in my opinion, he hasn’t made a decent movie since Splash, back when he actually had a personality. Langdon, however, could have been played by a younger Harrison Ford (in fact, Brown make that comparison in the book, which is really the extent of his development of the Langon character).

I could also see Langon played by Michael Keaton, or by Bill Murray. Johnny Depp would have made an excellend Langdon, but of course then the movie would have to be directed by Tim Burton – wouldn’t that have been a cool movie. But, we’ll see what Opie does with this. I find it interesting that the trailer for the movie doesn’t feature Hanks – but rather, the voice you hear is Ian McKellen, in the Leigh Teabing role. Obviously, even the director of the trailer didn’t find Hanks compelling enough to carry the trailer – how’s he going to carry the movie?

The other characters are weak, as well. The heroine, Sophie Neveu, is a bit deeper than the Langdon character, but inconsistent. She comes on strong, a police cryptologist, but with some deep childhood issues. However, in spite of her apparently critical-thinking abilities, she is way too quick to fall for any outlandish claim that Langdon or Teabing throws at her. Her issues with her grandfather vanish in an instant with information that I think only Dan Brown finds enlightening. She’s just not believable.

In general, the characters all seem to lack the proper motivation for their actions. I think Brown was too focused on trying to piece together his wild plot to really work on the characters. Leigh Teabing is perhaps the most solid of all of the characters, and I don’t doubt that Ian McKellen in that role will rule the movie.

Next: The Plot, or What a Tangled Web We Weave

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