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…]
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.
Two decades ago, Christians took a stand against Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. When a draft of the script was made public, protestors compelled Paramount to abandon the project, and when Universal produced the movie a few years later, in 1988, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright offered the studio some $10 million to buy the movie and destroy it. And then, when the film was released, Christians staged a number of boycotts and pickets outside theatres — a noisy tactic some believers now regret.
But today, churches are taking a different approach to controversial films, including The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard’s film adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller, which releases May 19. Pastors, scholars and teachers are writing books, preparing sermon series and Sunday school lessons, and creating websites devoted to “engaging” this pop-cultural artifact as part of an ongoing “dialogue.”