PG-13 Dir: Ron Howard | Sony | 2h 28min
Plot: What’s it about?
It was inevitable. We all knew it would happen. And it did. Love it or hate it, The Da Vinci Code is something that we knew would come to the big screen and all controversy aside; we just didn’t know when. As it turns out Ron Howard took the reins and once again is working with old pal Tom Hanks. Though in all honesty, they’ve only worked twice before (Splash and Apollo 13). Before I delve into the plot, I feel it necessary to give my two cents on what all of the uproar is about. First of all, I’m not Catholic, but after watching the movie I suppose I could see where the Catholic Church is none too pleased with this movie. I didn’t read the book, so I don’t know what, if anything has been changed. And I know enough about religion to recognize that this could (and did) offend some people but all that aside it’s a movie folks. Movies are works of fiction and no matter how much they may discredit our beliefs at the end of the day it’s a work of fiction plain and simple. I’ve heard of author Dan Browns alleged plagiarism and I don’t care. The bottom line is that as a lover of film, I want to be entertained and you know what I was.
Like James Bond, Dirk Pitt or Jack Ryan Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) joins the storied ranks of heroes who come from a line of books in which he is the protagonist. Langdon is greeted by the French police at a lecture so that he might investigate a murder that took place in the Louvre Museum. Unbeknownst to him, he soon finds out that he’s actually the prime suspect and manages to escape with the help of French cryptographer Sophie (Audrey Tatou). Their goal is simple: find out who the murder really was and stay one step ahead of the French authorities without being arrested. Naturally, there’s more to the case than meets the eye. This murder is something special and we learn that trouble in the Catholic Church abounds. In a nutshell, it seems that they (the Catholic Church) have been hiding the fact that Jesus Christ had a wife and a line of descendants to this very day. As the cryptic clues start to make a little more sense, Langdon enlists the help of old colleague Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) to help decipher the pieces of the puzzle.
I have to admit that the premise of the movie is quite intriguing and as I write this review I have a copy of The Da Vinci Code staring right at me. I’ve got a long flight coming up and I just might take the plunge and read the book as well. I will say that, not being Catholic, I could see what the commotion was about but religion is something that’s never been a huge part of my life. I have to say that it’s good to see the duo of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks back together again and Hanks has once again crafted a great performance. He has a way of making even the stiffest characters seem interesting and enigmatic. The supporting cast plays a huge role as well with some major star power: Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno and Ian McKellan giving some great performances. While I’m sure there are others out there that have a more polarized opinion about the movie, I tried to watch it and just be entertained. And I say again I was.
Video: How does it look?
Originally slated to be one of the inaugural titles of the then fledgling Blu-ray format, The Da Vinci Code was delayed a few years to coincide its debut with that of the sequel – Angels & Demons. And now we’ve got both on Ultra HD/4K and we have to ask why. Ok…why? Well there’s a third movie that’s about to hit theaters so what better reason to release the other two in a new format! Let’s get to it. It’s hard to fathom, but this movie is now a decade old. Yes, over 3500 days have passed since we first saw Hanks, long hair and all, become Robert Langdon. How has time treated this film? The 2.40:1 HD image is certainly a marked improvement over the previous Blu-ray release. There was a new scan done a couple years back and the 4K image seems to have been cleaned up, though I still saw several scenes with a bit more grain that I’d have liked. That said, the colors seem a bit more lively, blacks seem deeper and contrast improved. There are a plethora of darker scenes, so it’s hard to get a read on actual ‘flesh tones’ and the character of Silas (Paul Bettany) seems to appear even more ghost-like than before. All in all it’s a noticeable upgrade from the Blu-ray, so fans of the format and/or the film will be happy here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Blu-ray contained a Dolby TrueHD sound mix and I’m not sure what’s involved in converting one of those to a Dolby Atmos mix, but I’m certain it’s pretty involved. The vocals are clear and crisp, Hanks’ unmistakable voice dominates the film and the French spoken sounds pure and crisp. The majority of the action is Hans Zimmer’s mesmerizing score. It whizzes around from channel to channel creating an atmosphere (see what I did there?) of chaos and excitement and it adds to the drama, for sure. There are some bona fide action sequences to boot and while this isn’t the shining example of a next generation track, it’s certainly a step up from what was available before.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is all over the place and, admittedly, this movie has seen a few different incarnations on Blu-ray. The second disc appears to be the bonus disc from the original set, but it has “10th Anniversary Edition” stamped on it. But the commentary seems to have been moved to the third (new) disc along with the other new features. Nevertheless, nothing seems to have been lost – merely moved around. I think.
Disc 1 – Ultra HD/4K
- First Day on the Set with Ron Howard – Howard gives the cast and crew a pep talk and filming begins!
- A Discussion with Dan Brown – Pretty much that, just an interview with the “controversial” author whose novel inspired this movie.
- A Portrait of Langdon – A look at the main protagonist in the film played by Tom Hanks.
- Who is Sophie Neveu? – A look at his way too young sidekick, played by Audrey Tatou.
- Unusual Suspects – Some of the supporting cast members are profiled.
- Magical Places – A tour of Paris, per se and a look at some of the landmarks featured in the film.
- Close-Up on Mona Lisa – If you’ve never seen the painting, take a closer look!
- The Filmmaker’s Journey Part One – I don’t know why they couldn’t have just made this one part, but this is the first of two that encompasses the broader scale of production, casting, shooting and so forth. It’s pretty encompassing and a good watch.
- The Filmmaker’s Journey Part Two – The same as above, just the second part.
- The Codes of The Da Vinci Code – Ever wondered what some of those not so hidden things are on screen? No? We’ll they’re explored here anyway.
- The Music of The Da Vinci Code – Some of the music and composer Hans Zimmer is interviewed.
- Book to Screen – The transition from Dan Brown’s novel to the big screen and some of the modest changes that were made.
- The Da Vinci Props – You didn’t think they really destroyed those paintings, did you? Of course not…
- The Da Vinci Sets – A look at some of the huge sets that doubled for the Parisian landmarks.
- Re-Creating Works of Art – I find it amazing the level of detail that’s present in some of these movie props. We get a crash course in some classic paintings as well. Bonus!
- The Visual Effects World of The Da Vinci Code – Though these look a tad bit dated now, we get a look at some of the visual effects of the film.
- Scoring The Da Vinci Code – Again with Hans Zimmer…
- Trailers – To show how dated this is, we get trailers for Seven Pounds, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Edition, and Damages: Season One
- Audio Commentary – This appears to be the screen specific commentary by Ron Howard that was on the previous disc. It’s actually not bad and while not the three hour ordeal that the entire thing would be, he’s actually really good at articulating these scenes and how they played into the film. It works.
- Launching a Legacy with a First Look at Inferno – The real reason we’re getting these films on Ultra HD is the new movie. Yep, it’s Sony’s marketing team at work! Running nearly 5 minutes, this plays out like a glorified trailer with some voiceover narration by Howard, Brian Grazer and Tom Hanks. The obligatory montage of scenes from the new film are shown and the hope is that you will go see it!
- Extended Cut Scenes – Unless my counting is off we’ve got 44, yep 44, extended cut scenes here that can be played individually or there is a “Play All” option as well. Given that the movie was 149 minutes I’m sure the reason most of these were trimmed was due to length, but it’s nice to have such a vast selection to choose from.
- Teaser Trailer – The teaser trailer for the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – The full version.
The Bottom Line
Controversy aside, I initially and still do enjoy this film. It has kind of a National Treasure feel to it and I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always enjoyed movies like this. While there was technically nothing wrong with the Blu-ray, we’ve got a few new supplements, an improved picture with upgraded sound and it makes that jump to 4K a little more appealing.