Dan Brown’s books are all about some sort of curse unleashed upon the world through cryptic codes and shady conspiracies.
Now that we have three movies based on his books, it’s pretty clear that Brown has covertly conspired to destroy filmgoers’ interest in going to the theater to watch films.
The latest incarnation Inferno is every bit as silly, goofy and ridiculous as the previous films, and just like them it pretends to be a serious movie. As expected that doesn’t make for a very enjoyable viewing experience.
Since in The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) has been to the Louvre and found some hidden clues, and then in Angels and Demons been to CERN and found more some hidden clues. Brown’s story in Inferno makes a small attempt to change things up. This time Langdon doesn’t remember that he has been to an exotic place and found some clues.
This Bourne Identity twist anchors a bunch of very familiar elements: a mysterious man chased by mysterious men commits suicide, Langdon receives a message to investigate an artifact (this time in Italy), meets an attractive female scientist (Felicity Jones in this case), finds some hidden clues in a classic artifact (Botticelli’s Inferno in this case), gets embroiled in a chase with mysterious assassins, finds himself in the middle of a worldwide conspiracy and ultimately saves the whole world.
It’s all been done to death in the previous two films, and watching all the same plot points unfold once again at eardrum piercing noise levels and Shakespearean seriousness gets quite tiring. The mystery surrounding the clues turns out to be an anti climactic moment, yet one that also feels familiar thematically.
The real mystery in the film is actually how Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, who have both made excellent films in their careers, manage to make terrible Robert Langdon films.
The books are kind of pulpy and have a vibe that isn’t meant to be taken seriously. And yet Howard sticks to a tone that is supposed to make you believe everything in the film is real, and that there is some genuine danger at play.
The over the top seriousness in Inferno almost reaches self parody levels at times, especially in the third act when the actions shifts to a dungeon half filled with water.
The other big issues is how the codes in the films are showcased as big shocking elements – after two films that have followed the same procedure and a couple of National Treasure films from Nicholas Cage, it gets impossible to find any of these things new or interesting.
David Koepp’s screenplay has all the blockbuster beats needed for a big film but the original story and cinematic execution’s belly flop does not do Koepp any favors.
The one thing Inferno has going for itself is the way it is shot by Howard regular Salvatore Totino – in fact the only exciting thing about this whole film is the anticipation for the look of next year’s Spiderman Homecoming which is also shot by Totino.