Sunday, May 21, 2006

"The Da Vinci Code" is a Competent B Movie. Period.

Dan Brown ingeniously combined the "buried treasure" plot with the "secret conspiracy" plot. As a buried treasure movie, it is better than, say, "National Treasure" or "King Solomon's Mines." On the other hand, when they eventually film "The Rule of Four," that has the potential to be a richer thriller.

Conspiracy theories have the advantage of providing an enemy worth fighting, which every good thriller needs, while at the same time explaining why you have never heard of them before. Their fatal flaw, though, is that the more the audience knows about how human history is actually shaped, the less likely they are to believe that there is one organizing intelligence behind it.

Still, some people like conspiracy theories because they bring history down to a scale they can grasp. The Priory of Sion has been exposed as a hoax as thoroughly as the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were, but some people still believe in both.

I was surprised at the politically correct twist in this particular conspiracy plot. According to "The Da Vinci Code," the church's conspiracy to suppress the sacred feminine also, somehow, is behind the oppression of people of the "wrong color," or who are just "different." I think the casting of a well-known anti-religious gay activist to articulate this point was not accidental.

So, to give the film its due, the lead actors did a decent job, the plot moved right along, and the settings were glorious. A fine popcorn movie. It is not in any way a serious critique of Christianity or the church.

[SPOILER WARNING: Don't read further if you don't want to know an important bit at the end of the movie.

I thought that Dan Brown missed an opportunity in his choice for the final codeword. "Apple" is cute, in context, but pedestrian. He made a lame effort to tie it back to Eve, but he had not set up the Magdelene/Eve connection sufficiently. I thought the codeword was going to be "Sofia." This would have tied the central woman of the movie together with a sacred feminine image that really does have some currency in the church.

And while we are talking about missed opportunities in holy grail movies, I thought "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" would have been much better if Dr. Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) had remained in the cave as the knight guarding the grail.]


Michael W. Kruse said...

I saw it on Saturday and had pretty much the same take, although I would rate National Treasure higher. Probably because of my love for American History.

Denis Hancock said...

Also, National Treasure's plot was driven by positive belief in principles rather than a negative belief that everything we've been told is a lie.

With regard to the lost opportunity referred to in the posting (as long as we are in spoiler mode), in the book there were two stages to opening the box. I have not seen the movie, but I gather there was only one code word? The other code word would be pleasing to you, Gruntled.

Gruntled said...

True, though the "United States is built on Masonic principles" theme is one I don't care for, even if it does lead to more positive potboilers.
(And yes, in the film they just open the box without a codeword).

ken mcintyre said...

I have long thought that the popularity of conspiracy theories is a manifestation of the almost ubiquitous desire of human beings to be freed from the complications, complexities, and sheer frustration of everyday life. People long to be given 'the secret' which will explain why everything doesn't go just the way it should. The Da Vinci Code is a perfect example of this desire, suggesting as it does that Christianity could have indeed created the New Jerusalem but for the machinations of evil misogynists, racists, etc. who perverted its essence in order to gain power.

Gruntled said...

I am always interested in finding silver linings, and here is one that I noted late in the film: the Vatican is not the source of the evil conspiracy. Rather, the shadow council operates within the church, but, as the villains say, if the Vatican found out about their work, they would all be excommunicated.