Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Da Vinci Cock-Up

I don't often post opinions on books or movies, and this post will probably illustrate why, but I feel the need to let off steam.

Last night, I finally got around to watching The Da Vinci Code. I know this movie has been hyped to death, which always I try keep from negatively affecting my views, but even so I found myself mystified and deeply disappointed.

First off, the movie was supposed to be a gripping roller-coaster action movie. Sorry, but no. I'm not a big movie-goer, but I'm sure I could quickly reel off a dozen or two recent movies that blow this out the water. In fact, practically every recent adventure that comes to mind did a better job of keeping me on the edge of my seat than this one. The Da Vinci code was tolerably OK in this department, but nothing more.

Secondly, and more importantly, I felt insulted as a viewer by overt and clumsy author manipulation.

Need to build audience sympathy? Cue one character orphaned in a car crash, and the other trapped down a well as a young boy. Sympathy engaged ... check!

The trouble is that both backstories were such blatant emotional plays and neither was especially relevant to the plot. Yes, you could argue that Sophie needed to be handed to the care of her fake grandfather, but then her real grandmother pitches up near the end, so where the heck was she all these years? There are countless less intrusive ways to achieve the same ends to mentor her.

The killer for me, though, was the countless points where characters behaved in unbelievable ways just to further the plot or introduce random tension. When the air traffic controller refused to co-operate with a senior police office to track dangerous fugitives because he was "on his break", my willingness to suspend disbelief crumbled and the rest was downhill from there. The author's hand manipulating the puppet strings was visible everywhere.

On the plus side, the underlying premise of historical subterfuge and the true nature of the Holy Grail was a gem. What a pity this brilliant concept got weighed down by clumsy author intrusions.

The lessons for writing? Respect your audience's intelligence, and respect the integrity of your characters.

10 comments:

  1. No puppet strings - check!
    Often it also makes the story feel contrived and forced.

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  2. When I read the book, I wondered why it was such a fast read. When I read it again, I noticed each chapter was only a few pages and there was a blank page between most chapters. In this four hundred page novel, a hundred pages were blank. And I still don't get te da Vinci connection, especially since the artist was a secret atheist.

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  3. Alex, that's exactly what I felt through most of the movie.

    Stephen, I can't answer for the book, the comments I've seen suggest that it was a poor movie of a good book. I think the Da Vinci connection was mandated because much of the sleuthing started off with an analysis of The Last Supper.

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  4. I was on a plane soon after The Da Vinci Code was released and it was wonderful to see it being read in several languages. Due to the popularity of the novel, of course the film was going to go gang busters. I'm with you here: "On the plus side, the underlying premise of historical subterfuge and the true nature of the Holy Grail was a gem." That's what makes audiences grip their seats and suspend disbelief.

    Denise :-)

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  5. Oo, sounds like I'm going to have to skip this one! Glad I haven't seen it yet.

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  6. Denise, I loved the concept, that sort of thing intrigues me, and for all I know the book might be great. Anything that encourages reading is a good thing IMHO.

    Carrie, this is just my opinion of course :) but there are far better movies out there to spend your time on.

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  7. Hi Ian - I've probably started to watch the movie on the tv and also probably seen some programmes about the movie - but they've lost me along the way. Some films just don't seem to hit the right spot at all .. but I guess many loved it - not so discerning.

    Cheers Hilary

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  8. I suspect that the book version is better. I've read the one that goes before it in the series and it was much better than the movie version.

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  9. The book was better, though not by that much. With the book, I enjoyed all the philosophy surrounding the art, and feminist debates. Angels and Demons was a serious let down though, and the book just ran on and on. I don't know why I didn't just put it down; but I haven't picked up any more of Dan Brown's books.

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  10. Hilary, it's easy to get lost with this one. I mostly followed the plot but what got me scratching my head was when characters would behave in ways that just seemed out of character.

    Misha, that is often the case.

    Donna, seems the comments are arriving at consensus on this one. Glad to head it's not just me :)

    ReplyDelete

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