The Da Vinci Code — no critics allowed!

Well, not quite.

The critics at the Cannes festival saw the film today — and they didn’t care for it, according to a Reuters report (“the reaction at the first press screening in Cannes was largely negative, and loud laughter broke out at one of the pivotal scenes”).

But, as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times items linked at GetReligion.org note, it is still highly, highly unusual to hide such a big, big movie from the media until so close to the movie’s release. Usually, this sort of tactic means the movie sucks.

Perhaps Da Vinci Code fans can ignore the handful of critics who have seen the film already, and convince themselves that, in this case, the studio just wants to create a conspiratorial mystique around the movie, comparable to the conspiracy at the heart of this particular story. Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket.

In the meantime, here’s another handful of Da Vinci newsbites:

  1. Don’t ask the state to protect the faith
    Suing Dan Brown over The Da Vinci Code is a mistake
    Lorne Gunter, National Post, May 15

  2. ‘Hedge’ Not Afraid of ‘The Da Vinci Code’
    DreamWorks Animation’s big-budget animated feature “Over the Hedge” is going head-to-head this weekend with Sony’s big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s world-conquering best-seller, “The Da Vinci Code.” Both films open Friday.
    DreamWorks officials aren’t worried. They see their film as perfect counterprogramming.
    “The tone and mood are different,” said Bonnie Arnold, producer of “Over the Hedge.” “Audiences will have both ends of the spectrum to choose from.”
    Associated Press, May 15
  3. Pious Killer: Bettany Dons Robes As Monk
    Initially raised as a Roman Catholic (“a lot of guilt, and I still smell the incense”), Bettany then attended Church of England and Methodist congregations as his father experimented with different Christian branches.
    Now “fanatically atheist,” Bettany said he was not prepared for incessant questions about the religious debate over the novel, which theorizes about a conspiracy to cover up Christ’s marriage and villainizes the Catholic group Opus Dei, whose leader helps orchestrate dark deeds in pursuit of the Grail. . . .
    Bettany’s answer to “Da Vinci Code” critics: It’s only make-believe.
    “When I went out to buy the book, I bought it in the fiction department. I didn’t buy it from the philosophy and personal growth department. A theological discourse as we all know is not a page-turner. I, like most people, read it like a beach novel over two days,” Bettany said.
    “I would be surprised if there’s much furor over the movie. Personally, I’ve only noticed it in America. Nobody mentions it in England or France. The only place it’s been mentioned is here, and I’ve yet to meet anybody that is sort of offended. And if we have offended anybody, if I have offended anybody, they’re Christians, so I’d ask them to forgive me.”
    Associated Press, May 15
  4. ‘Da Vinci’ undermines faith, survey claims
    The British survey, released by a group of prominent Catholics, revealed that readers of Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel are twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.
    “An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed,” said Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain’s top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. “Our poll shows that for many, many people “The Da Vinci Code” is not just entertainment.”
    MSNBC News Services, May 16
  5. ‘Da Vinci Code’ Protests Widespread
    Anger over “The Da Vinci Code,” premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated Tuesday as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings.
    Associated Press, May 16
  6. India to show “Da Vinci” to Catholics before release
    The Indian government decided on Tuesday to show the controversial film, “The Da Vinci Code,” to Catholic groups before taking a decision on clearing it for a scheduled release later this week, a spokesman said.
    Reuters, May 16
  7. India Puts Hold on ‘Da Vinci Code’
    The government Tuesday temporarily held up the release of the movie “The Da Vinci Code” in India after receiving complaints from Catholic groups, even though the national censor had cleared the film.
    Associated Press, May 16
  8. Philippines gives “Da Vinci Code” adults only rating
    The Philippine censor gave “The Da Vinci Code” film an “adults only” certificate on Tuesday, banning under-18s in the Catholic country from seeing the controversial religious thriller.
    Consoliza Laguardia told reporters the film, based on the best-selling fiction novel of the same title, required mature viewers because of a plot that involves Jesus Christ siring a child by Mary Magdalene.
    SM cinemas, the Philippines’ largest cinema chain, does not show R18 films.
    But many Filipinos, under and over 18, are likely to catch the movie, starring Tom Hanks, on pirated DVDs.
    Reuters, May 16
  9. “Da Vinci” protests, boycotts spread
    With days left until “The Da Vinci Code” opens in theaters worldwide, calls for boycotts and bans of the highly anticipated Vatican thriller are getting louder — although some say such strategies are likely to backfire.
    Hollywood Reporter, May 16
  10. ‘Da Vinci’ Stars Take Train to Cannes
    Tom Hanks and other stars of “The Da Vinci Code” have set off for the Cannes Film Festival where the movie will premiere Wednesday on a high-speed train.
    The Eurostar train, named The Da Vinci Code, was in pursuit of a world record. Going nonstop over the 883 miles from London to the festival in southern France would put the train into the Guinness World Records book.
    Associated Press, May 16
  11. ‘Da Vinci Code’ Misses the Mark for Critics
    “The Da Vinci Code” drew lukewarm praise, shrugs of indifference, some jeering laughter and a few derisive jabs Tuesday from arguably the world’s toughest movie crowd: critics at the Cannes Film Festival.
    Associated Press, May 16

UPDATE: I’ve added that last AP story, which confirms the Reuters story; thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for tipping me off to it.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Anonymous

    This sucks. I have no problem with Christians making things to point out the errors and things, but if you try to do that, you would be lumped in with these people who want to have it banned all together. People would think that Christians are against free speech. It seems like they are acting like the Muslims with the cartoons.

  • http://www.geocities.com/sevenstarhand/ Seven Star Hand

    Hello Peter T,

    It is quite a joke that the Vatican and Catholic Church have the gall to accuse the author of a novel of attacking their fantasies and dogma. Remember that this is the same organization that manufactured fake relics and miracles for many centuries. This is the same group that massacred and tortured people for seeking the truth and having a mind of their own. This is the same group of deluded deceivers that makes more noise about a fictional book and movie than about child raping priests, aids, famine, or even the Holocaust! At what point does the Vatican’s behavior go from the absurd to simply purely evil?

    It is undeniable the New Testament is framed by symbolism and allegory. The same is evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, biblical apocrypha, and other related texts. All ancient religious, mystical, and wisdom texts have been shrouded in mystery for millennia for one primary reason: The ability to understand their widely evidenced symbology was lost in antiquity. How do we finally solve these ages-old mysteries? To recast an often-used political adage: It’s [the] symbology, stupid!

    It’s amazing the Vatican still tries to insist the Gospels are literal truth. It is beyond obvious they are replete with ancient Hebrew symbology. Every miracle purported for Jesus has multiple direct symbolic parallels in the Old Testament, Apocalypse, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other symbolic narratives and traditions.

    Likewise, the following Washington Post article ( The Book of Bart) describes how many changes and embellishments were made to these texts over the centuries, unequivocally demonstrating they are not original, infallible, or truthful.

    What then is the purpose of “faith” but to keep good people from seeking to understand truth and wisdom? It’s no wonder the Vatican fears the truth more than anything else. Now comes justice, hot on its heels… (symbolism…)

    Revelations from the Apocalypse

    Here is Wisdom!!

  • http://CanadaMovies.net Mark

    I can’t say I’m not surprised at the poor reaction. As per our discussion this morning, I really think Sony is concerned hence the secrecy with the screenings.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08741378159534413277 Magnus

    Maybe we could satge a double bill of The Passion and The DaVinci Code? Maybe follow it up witha pie fight in the theatre?

    qjfvjuyd

  • http://blog.oup.com OUP

    The problem is that the book and movie get so many things wrong. Check out Bart Ehrman’s list of Ten Historical Errors in the Da Vinci Code and his longer discussion on what we really know about Mary Magdalene. And, yes, “seven star hand” and his wild claims appear there, too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15082363500641853690 Philip Booth

    I went to the advance screening last night.

    I was underwhelmed, too, and several critics (including me) chuckled out loud at the biggest “revelations.”

    I posted my review on my site, Scribe Life.

  • http://worldwishes.blogspot.com/ World Wishes

    I wish the film was as good as the book.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13905592870063005287 Simon

    I had a feeling the film might be ok. Poor books can often make great movies – nothing to live up to. Ah well…

    You can’t take the gospels as… well… gospel..


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