Last week Tyler Perry beat Tom Cruise. This week he beat Tom Hanks.
Remember The Da Vinci Code? It was all the rage a decade or so ago, what with its sensationalistic claims that Jesus had had a wife and child, and that a secret society had been keeping his descendants hidden for centuries to protect them from the big bad Catholic church. The book spawned a film, and the film spawned a sequel (which was actually based on an earlier book), and then… it all just kind of stopped. Dan Brown wrote a third novel, The Lost Symbol, but the studio never got around to filming it. And then he wrote a fourth novel, Inferno, and now that book has been turned into a film that is landing in theatres after a seven-year gap. And the new film, it turns out, is the most generic and, perhaps not coincidentally, the least potentially offensive of the bunch.
It may have been boring and heretical, but the film version of The Da Vinci Code was also one of the biggest international hits of all time when it came out three years ago — bigger than The Passion of The Christ, bigger than the Narnia movies, bigger even than at least one of the Star Wars movies. So it was pretty much inevitable that Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard would reunite for an adaptation of the other Dan Brown novel that features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. [Read more…]
LAST YEAR, many Christians went out of their way to caution their fellow believers against over-reacting to the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. Yes, the film put forth a deeply problematic view of Jesus and church history, but instead of protesting against it, Christians were encouraged to see it, discuss it with their friends and, in general, “engage” with it as part of their broader engagement with the culture.
This year, however, many Christians have begun to raise the alarm over the movie version of The Golden Compass, which comes out December 7. They have sent each other e-mails full of warnings about the “anti-religious” books on which the film is based. They have pointed their friends to websites that describe some of the story’s objectionable content. And there has been little, if any, talk of “engagement”.
What changed between last year and this? What is different about this movie?
My initial reaction to the film version of The Da Vinci Code was almost one of relief. The film was a dud, a complete bore, and most critics, secular and otherwise, seemed to think so, too. Perhaps, I thought, this movie would bring the whole phenomenon to an untimely end.
But in the days since, I have come to think that the film, in some ways, constitutes an even worse offence against the Church than the Dan Brown novel on which it was based.
The makers of The Da Vinci Code have been saying for some time now that their film is not supposed to be taken all that seriously. It’s not history, and it’s not theology, director Ron Howard has said; instead, it’s just a rollicking good bit of entertainment. And leading man Tom Hanks has said it’s loaded “with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense,” calling the story “a lot of fun.”
If only they had taken their own advice. Dan Brown’s novel may be the product of extremely sloppy historical study, but even many of the book’s critics have admitted that it is a “page-turner,” an exciting yarn that carries the reader off on a semi-clever, fast-paced ride. The film, on the other hand, is a dull and plodding bore, and it takes itself far, far too seriously.