Monday, May 22, 2006

A new kind of DaVinci Code boycott

There's been a lot of talk lately about "The DaVinci Code" and how it challenges a lot of Catholic belief. Because of this, there have been organized boycotts all across the globe, resulting in a disclaimer. Sure, the film is banned in India, but what does that matter? They have a disclaimer!!! Everything's alright now.

Seriously, there are too many problems with this banning of the DaVinci Code that it's tough to know where to begin.

Let's start with the fact that people are becoming heavily influenced by a work of FICTION. Allow me to reiterate that point: FICTION. By claiming the book (and subsequent inevitable motion picture) can change people's religious beliefs in one swift stroke this is equivelant to me claiming that "Mr. Tickle" could influence me to become a child molester by tickling random strangers. For as cynical as I can be, I at least give the human race credit that they, for the most part, can not be heavily influenced by one single tome. Sure, kids can see Jackass and think it's cool to shove a toy car up your ass or attach bottle rockets to your roller blades, but that's the ignorance of youth, of which I'm told is bliss. Frankly, by assuming that all Catholics all over the world will suddenly start believing everything this book tells them (as opposed to believing everything ANOTHER certain book tells them) gives Dan Brown's novel a little too much credit.

Fact is, the book is a piece of crap. It's one step above The Celestine Prophecy in terms of great moments in modern literature. There are quite a few similarities between the books, actually. Both are books about people searching for truth among sub-Joel Silver action movie plotlines. They both have captured the attention of the nation by storm. They both have created legions of zealot followers. And they both contain really good ideas that are poorly articulated due to atrocious writing. DaVinci Code does contain some good ideas and theories, that would be entertaining AND informative if given to a more competent writer. Say, Tom Robbins.

(Slight digression to everyone who recommended DaVinci Code as the best book they've ever read: READ MORE. Seriously, read Tom Robbins' "Still Life With Woodpecker" and you find a book light years more entertaining, filled with just as many conspiracy theories about the world, along with a sweet love story that's found on a pack of Camel cigarettes, which could be an influencing factor on my cigarette of choice. If Tom Robbins had written the DaVinci Code, the book would be obscenely dense, and quite compact all at the same time. And it would make you turn the page without the benefit of ending every chapter on a cliffhanger that's instantly resolved at the beginning of the next page.)

You disagree with me about the poorly written book? Then let me ask you this: Robert Langdon, your main character who's written already referencing Indiana Jones, is supposed to be an expert cryptologist, solving codes everywhere he turns. Then how come it takes him an obscenely annoying long time to figure out that a hidden message is actually English, just written backwards? And if memory serves, I don't even think HE'S the one that figures it out. I think it's the girl. Seriously, a six year old can deduce the same code in the back of a Highlights for Children in a quicker amount of time than expert decoder Langdon. It's insulting to your character AND to your audience.

There are far too many points to nitpick about how poorly written the book is (the all knowing English guy in France who can help the main characters, and whom you KNOW is going to turn on them because everyone loves a big twist these days, thank you M. Night Shyamalan) but it's a rather moot point. People will point to book sales, which means nothing, really, except that once again, the mass audience has agreed to celebrate mediocrity.

Which brings us to the new motion picture version. Obviously, with a product like this, no studio in it's right mind would trust a director with a distinct vision or style. You need someone who is the very definition of "Middle of the Road."

Enter Ron Howard.

Ron Howard has made a lot of great films over the years (my personal favorites are Gung Ho, Backdraft, The Paper, Apollo 13, and much to my own surprise, EdTV) that have made a lot of people money. He also has my infinite respect for continuing to champion Arrested Development, quite possibly the greatest television show of all time. However, he also brought us A Beautiful Mind, the most overrated and undeserving Best Picture winner since Forrest Gump. And right before that, he unleashed The Grinch upon an unsuspecting world, mistaking tilted camera angles for Suessian magic. But, much like the novel of DaVinci code, the people ate it all up. So it's a natural choice for Howard to direct the film. The man possesses no visual style all his own (which could be his own little trademark) and a greater sense of the mass audience.

With this unwillingness to push boundaries, the film is destined to be no greater than mediocre. It could even wind up being vaguely entertaining, but with a severe case of Deja Vu. Everything that will be changed from the book will be to better service the story. Think Chris Colombus' first Harry Potter movie. It was fun and mildly enchanting, but it wasn't so much a movie as a direct copy of the book thrown up on screen with two thousand watts of light behind it. (Three thousand if you're in the big theater). There was nothing to the experience that couldn't be greater than your imagination. But by hiring Colombus (and by default Howard) the studios have hired the one guy who's in tune with what most people probably envisioned in their heads, and they will very rarely stray from that, lest offending people. (Not the same people the story winds up offending). A collective vision, if you will.

Be honest, if you read the book, the second the French detective shows up, how many of you well versed in cinema imagined Jean Reno as the cop? Chances are, Dan Brown probably envisioned him as he was writing it, and that's giving him the credit of writing the book without even thinking about the movie rights. (He's probably a nice guy, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt).

So, you cast Tom Hanks as your lead, which will attract most people, provided Hanks isn't taking a risk, like The Ladykillers. So Hanks with goofy hair and Audrey Tatou (the gorgeous Amelie, cast most likely because she's French and more popular among audiences) are cast alongside the probably-cast-from-the-moment-the-ink-dried-on-the-movie-rights-contract Reno. A script is cobbled along from Akiva Goldsman, a man who needs to have his Beautiful Mind Oscar rescinded for the 1-2-3 crimes against cinema punch of Batman Forever, A Time To Kill, and Batman and Robin. (Watch these films, if you can, and notice that the story structure for all three is EXACTLY the same. Nary a diversion. Seriously). Since the man's been successful, people translate that as talented.

So we have all our basic elements lined up in a row now. What could the possible outcome be?

That's right. Mediocrity. Middle of the road. Safe. While the crowds will eat it up like most carbs, in the end, it's really not all that great for you.

So, for all of you out there who feel the need to protest the film, I say your protest is misguided. Instead, you should protest mediocrity. Boycott the film not because it's controversial, but because it's plain. Vanilla. Exactly what you'd expect. I say demand better film adaptations. (There is a reason why Still Life With Woodpecker has never been made. For that matter, likewise Mr. Tickle). Stand up and demand better movies, instead of rote "thrillers" that everyone who has read the book (it's been on the NY Times bestseller list for over 2 years) already knows the inevitable conclusion of.

The DaVinci Code needs to be banned. But let's ban it for the proper cause.

1 comment:

rogray said...

i haven't seen the movie or read the book, and yet i wholeheartily agree with everything you say. more peopl eneed to boycott shittiness.