Can someone solve a mystery for me? Why is The Da Vinci Code movie getting such terrible reviews? (About 30 per cent of the reviews are positive, while 60 per cent plus are very negative.) Against my will, someone bought a ticket for me, so I went with a group to see it. It was actually a really good mystery movie, following in a long line of classic mysteries from The 39 Steps onwards.
Theologically, it is absurd – but none of us took that angle seriously. In terms of being a piece of film entertainment, the acting is good, the story-flow and dialogue are far superior to the wildly successful original book, and much of the photography is excellent. The casting was superb – it’s rare to see a real French heroine, instead of an English speaker with a fake French accent.
In my group of moviegoers, we all commented on the gorgeous visualization techniques that director Ron Howard had used for the historical scenes. There’s one particularly sumptuous scene when the characters are approaching the church where Isaac Newton’s body is kept, and the historical scene and the modern scene are blurred together, so that much of the scene is hundreds of years old, but we see Tom Hanks running across a road and narrowly avoiding being run over by a modern day motor car. It’s the sort of scene that could so easily have been laughable and ridiculous – but it works beautifully, and perfectly communicates the idea of a man living in the present but trying to visualize himself into the past.
This is not just me being nice. The New York Times reviewer admitted that the movie was “the best movie that could be made from the book”. He said it grudgingly, but that's a huge compliment, because it's hard to make a movie out of a book everyone already knows and loves. The movie sticks rigidly to the book, yet works as a movie, instead of being an acted-out book – those of us in the group who had read the book were particularly impressed.
So why such violent contempt from the critics? Scott Murphy of HK magazine – a guy whose writing I like — hated it and gave it one star, and was so negative that a reader even wrote to complain about the review.
Why the sneering?