DVD Review: The Da Vinci Code - (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)
by R.J. Carter
Published: November 7, 2006
Few and far between are the pieces of fiction that invite such a firestorm of controversy and still enjoy such critical success as has Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code". A page-turning adventure that hops from one puzzle to the next, it was no surprise that the book had been optioned for a film. And given the core idea of the story, it's also no surprise that many people felt their faith threatened.
If your spaceship just landed, let me lay things out for you. "The DaVinci Code" builds an adventure upon the concept that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, and had a child through her. How that threatens faith I have myself yet to understand, although I can certainly see how some of the other lectures of the story might cause people to question their beliefs, particularly in regards to how the Council of Nicea is described. The story includes just enough facts -- for instance, that there's no Biblical evidence for Mary Magdalene being a prostitute as is often believed, and the blending of pagan and Christian concepts by Emperor Constantine to create a peace in his regime -- for the audience to too-easily swallow the rest as, pardon the pun, gospel truth.
"The DaVinci Code" is a modern quest for that other icon of religious mythology: the Holy Grail. In Brown's book, the Grail is not the cup from the Last Supper, but rather Mary Magdalene herself. The protagonist is Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, "The Polar Express"), a professor of symbology. It is his expertise and his uncanny perception of symbols that makes him an intriguing and intellectual hero; hardly a man of action. Langdon is dragged into this quest when he is mistakenly fingered in the murder of a museum curator, who just happens to have been the Grandmaster in the legendary Priory of Sion, the group that has guarded the secret of the Holy Grail over the centuries. The man's granddaughter Sophie (Audrey Tautou, "Dirty Pretty Things") knows that Langdon is innocent, however, having seen the evidence before her superior, Captain Fache (Jean Reno, "Mission: Impossible") tampered with it -- evidence left in the form of cryptic puzzles by the murdered man in his last moments of life.
On the run, Langdon seeks out the help of an old acquaintance, Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen, "X-Men: The Last Stand"), who embodies the very concept of obsession when it comes to the Holy Grail. It is through Teabing that much of the Magdalene mythology is given to the audience in a burst of exposition. Teabing offers his help, but he also has a deadly secret -- he has a connection to the murder of the Priory Grandmaster and his seneschals, murders committed by an albino monk named Silas (Paul Bettany, "A Beautiful Mind"), who takes his orders from a mysterious phone voice he calls "The Teacher". Assisting Silas is Bishop Aringarosa (Alfred Molina, "Spider-Man 2"), a rogue bishop within the Opus Dei, who is part of a long line of highly placed church officials who try to squelch the Magdalene story in the name of power.
Hanks' portrays Langdon in a very subdued, almost passionless, manner, making him a quiet intellectual who walks slowly through the world around him, seemingly under a barrage of symbols that he sees so clearly. Ian McKellen, on the other hand, exudes the zeal of the righteous as he slips into the role of Teabing, and Audrey Tautou brings a wide-eyed curiosity about everything to the character of Sophie, who learns her world -- indeed, her very life -- has been a secret kept from her since birth.
Grail Quest. Sophie and Langdon follow another clue on their
treasure hunt. L-R: Audrey Tautou, Tom Hanks
Director Ron Howard employs some interesting cinematography in his vision of Brown's novel; scenes of the past overlaid with the present create a terrific visual montage as past and present begin to collide.
"The DaVinci Code" is based upon a myth. And there's nothing wrong with that. Myths are fun to play with, and most of our fiction is built on those foundations. Whether or not Christ had a wife is one of those myths. Scripturally, there's nothing written to prove it. But scripturally, there's nothing written about the daily life of teen Jesus; yet we can assume that he still went through those years. The Bible does say that Jesus was a man of like passions -- all the better to be an intercessor, to have experienced the same likes, dislikes, pains and pleasures of a man. So maybe he was married. Now, making divinity a genetic trait, by way of Sophie's "laying on of hands" healing skill? That's mythology at work again.
The second disc of this set is loaded with bonus featurettes. There are focuses on the locations and buildings, and on the characters. We get a closer look at both Langdon and Sophie's characters, with Hanks and Tautou offering their insights. The cast and crew recount their experiences seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time, and Dan Brown talks a bit about writing the book and the way his life has changed since. (Good news: there's another Robert Langdon adventure in the works!) The film is laden with symbols that add texture to the story, and one featurette focuses just on them, stopping the frames and explaining what they are and what they mean. On top of that, there's a two-part "making of" documentary that is the most in-depth of its kind this reviewer has seen.
The main feature disc will launch in its own player when played in a DVD-ROM device. The audio can be set to English 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French 5.1, and Spanish 5.1, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "The Pursuit of Happyness", "All the King's Men", and "Click". Additionally selectable previews include "Casino Royale", "The Holiday", "Ghost Rider", "Spider-Man 3", "Curse of the Golden Flower", "Gridiron Gang", "Open Season", "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby", Seinfeld: Season 7, and a teaser for "Angels & Demons".
First Day on the Set with Ron Howard: (2:06)
A Discussion with Dan Brown: (4:46)
A Portrait of Langdon: (7:11)
Who is Sophie Neveu?: (6:51)
Unusual Suspects: (17:51)
Magical Places: (15:51)
Close-Up on Mona Lisa: (6:30)
Filmmaker's Journey, Part One: (24:32)
Filmmaker's Journey, Part Two: (12:13)
The Codes of "The Da Vinci Code": (5:25)
The Music of "The Da Vinci Code": (2:53)
DVD-ROM: "The Davinci Code" Puzzle Game PC Demo