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Hirsen on 'Da Vinci': Where Did The Story Go?
May 21, 2006

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

I recently had the chance to catch Ron Howard's movie, "The Da Vinci Code."

I thought I might be spending my cinematic moments breaking codes, solving mysteries and being wowed by special effects. I also suspected I would be irritated with the Christianity bashing a la Dan Brown's book that I'd see.

After yawning my way through over two and a half hours worth of screen mediocrity, two mysteries remained unsolved: What was that all about and where did the story go?

The movie's decision makers did make an effort to lessen some of Dan Brown's dissing of the Christian faith, but they left enough of the book's egregious premises intact for Christians who take the tenets of their faith seriously to be insulted.

Elder scholar Teabing, played in a hammy style by Ian McKellen, informs the audience that "the Greatest Story Ever Told is a lie."

Audrey Tautou's character, the wide-eyed, naïve cryptologist Sophie Neveu, asks the questions: "Who is God, who is man? How many have been murdered over this question?" thereby cinematically conveying some trumped up propositions set forth by Brown in his book; that Christianity is a fabrication and truths about the faith have been suppressed by evil patriarchal clerics.

Throughout the film, the miscast Tom Hanks, who plays the lead role of symbologist Robert Langdon, alternates from less-than-convincing professorial lecturing to grimacing as if in need of looser fitting boxers, or briefs, as the case may be.

In the opening scene, Hanks instructs his presentation attendees (and the real-life theater audience) on the subtleties of symbology. But the academician is just warming up.

In what amounts to mini-documentaries featuring Hanks' character playing Discovery Channel host, falsehoods are unevenly transmitted. However, the educational interludes are tedious despite the use of visually enhanced historical flashbacks. Poor Tautou's Sophie must stare in wonder each time Hanks' Langdon explains the obvious.

On the whole, critics are giving the movie the thumbs-down, calling it "jumbled," "joyless," "overstuffed," "underwhelming," "talky," "pretentious," and the kiss of death descriptive for a film that seeks blockbuster status, "boring."

In a nutshell, some of those who have read the book will be disappointed, most of those who haven't read the book will be confused and pretty much everyone will be bored. This having been said, opening box office is meeting expectations thanks to unprecedented book sales coupled with Sony's artful PR approach.

The real question is, though, does the movie have staying power?

While cinematically panning the film, Time magazine marvels at its anti-Christian content and says that if it is able to overcome Christian opposition "The Da Vinci Code" will be a triumph for secular humanism.

"If Howard's movie marches through that storm, it will become a phenomenon as impressive as the book's gigantic sales: the first secular-humanist hit," a Time reviewer opines.

By my calculations, Hollywood's been at this secular-humanist thing since the 1960s.

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Copyright © 2006
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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