There are two controversies surrounding the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. One controversy that surrounded the novel by Dan Brown was that it challenged established religious beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church and various other religious groups were in an uproar when the book hit stores. But if you can get past all of the religious stuff and actually watch this film, you will find a larger controversy surrounding this film. That is, this is a film based on a book and no matter what, you can’t please everyone. Now another Dan Brown book-turned-film, and the sequel to the Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, is currently in theaters across the country. So you shouldn’t shocked to find out that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released The Da Vinci Code on Blu-ray Disc.
In the film, the curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris, Jacques Sauniare, is killed inside the Grand Hall one night. With the last of his strength he creates a series of clues that confound the police, but he also leaves a written note, scribbled on the floor, implicating Harvard Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks). Captain Fache (Jean Reno) of the French police is convinced that in his last moments Sauniare meant to name his killer and brings Langdon to the scene of the crime, hoping he would implicate himself and set himself up for a quick arrest. But Langdon is being tipped off by Cryptology agent Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou), who believes in Langdon’s innocence. She helps him escape and eventually reveals that Sauniare was actually her grandfather. Together they try to solve and follow the many clues that Sauniare has left for them, realizing slowly that the curator of the Louvre must have been much more than anyone thought. Jacques Sauniare seemed to have been a member of the Priory of Sion, a secret society that has been protecting one of the greatest secrets of the world for centuries. A secret that could in fact challenge and crumble all Christian beliefs.
To most fanatical Christians, the main story behind The Da Vinci Code would appear to be blasphemous. But don’t mistake the fact that the story and plotline behind this novel and movie is a work of fiction. Dan Brown simply asked “what if conspiracy theorists were right, and these two secretive religious groups were trying to make sure that the secret of Christ’s offspring was kept, in order to preserve the power of the Church, and at the same time protect survivors in the lineage, as they had sworn to do? Brown doesn’t try to convince anyone that this is story is true. Yet many people have thought that just that, and thus they try to disprove it as all lies.
However, you shouldn’t review this film based on your religious beliefs, so lets get past that. Lets review this film like every other film based on a book. On the surface, this appears to be a combination of an
action-adventure and mystery film like National Treasure. But really Da Vinci is filled with more mystery than action. The pace is never as fast as you would like it to be given the heady subject matter. It follows a rather strict, formulaic plot structure that most other mystery films have followed. That means despite all of the unexpected twists and turns, you know how this movie will eventually end. As far as how well this film has been adapted from the novel, the theatrical version of the film, of course, lacked the depth that the novel had had. However, this extended cut of the film was able to provide more backstory and flesh out characters, so that will certainly please fans of the book.
Tom Hanks obviously liked playing the character of Professor Robert Langdon, because this is the first character that he is playing twice in a film. You probably couldn’t have found a better actor to play this part either. Surprisingly, Hanks and Audrey Tatou do make a great on-screen couple as they do have a lot of chemistry together. But often times they get upstaged by the strong supporting cast, especially the villain Paul Bettany. Others like Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, and Ian McKellen aren’t given as much screen time, but their performances are strong nonetheless and in fact make the entire more movie believable.
In the end, The Da Vinci Code is just an average mystery thriller film. The pace of the film is slower than you would like, but there is still enough going on that to keep viewers engaged. That’s largely due to the strong performances from the cast. The plot of this film is pretty formulaic, so it’s up to the cast to rise above the average script. Of course, there is no way that this literary work could succeed as a film. It is based on an overhyped book, so expectations were high going into things. Then, you have that section of society that won’t watch the film at all, because they believe it to be based on a blasphemous story. But really if you can accept the story as being a work of fiction and just watch the film, you will find a mostly entertaining film that could have been much better.
The video is presented in 1080p/AVC at the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. This transfer is above average, but not great. This film is dark, but the colors on screen are true to the source material. It’s hard to tell if high-definition brings anything to the video quality for this film, since bright vibrant colors appear to look better on Blu-ray than dark colors. But there are still no major problems here.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround sound or French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. There are no major or minor problems here, so the audio quality here is definitely great and slightly better than the video quality.
“Unlocking the Code” Interactive Picture-In-Picture Experience –
This feature allows you to watch the film on the main screen and in a side window, you can watch eight different and simultaneous streams. The streams include interviews with filmmakers and cast, “behind-the-scenes footage, discussions of how props were made, storyboards, concept art, still photographs, descriptions of the differences between Brown’s book and Goldsman’s screenplay, production factoids, trivia fun facts, a GPS Langdon locator that tracks his every move, and sections on symbols and codes that are embedded in the film. Basically, you can click on icons that pop up while you are watching the film and it takes you to the aforementioned material. At times, there seems to be too much going on with this on-screen, but fans of the movie will love to see all of this information at once.
Audio Commentary –
Also included in the “Unlocking the Code” Interactive Picture-In-Picture Experience, is an audio commentary from director Ron Howard on select scenes from the films. This is probably largely due to the fact that the movie runs 3 hours long. Howard comments on 28 scenes in total. He
still has plenty of time to cover the book, his production, the cast, the challenges of shooting on location, the underlying controversy of the story, and the eventual reception of the film. Very insightful.
“Book to Screen” Featurette –
This runs 11 minutes and it explores the novel’s adaptation to film.
“The Da Vinci Sets” Featurette –
This runs 9 minutes and it visits Richard Roberts’ creations.
“Recreating Works of Art” Featurette –
This runs 6 minutes and it shows how the famous pieces were replicated in the movie.
“The Da Vinci Props” Featurette –
This runs 10 minutes and it investigates the Cryptex and other important objects that land in Langdon’s hands throughout the film.
“The Visual Effects World of the Da Vinci Code” Featurette –
This runs 15 minutes and it takes us through the special effects Howard used in the movie.
BD-Live Cinechat –
This allows you to go online as the film plays and use on-screen text-messaging to share your thoughts with other users. So while people from around the world are watching the film, they can chat. Pretty unique, and might be something you want to do if you are watching this film all by yourself.
Angels & Demons Extended Preview –
This is a 7 minute preview of the sequel, Angels & Demons. There is a brief intro by Ron Howard and then there is a complete four-minute scene from the movie.
MovieCash Code –
Inside this Blu-ray release is a code that will get you a free ticket to see the theatrical release of Angels & Demons.
Found on the Two-Disc, Standard Edition As Well…
“First Day on the Set with Ron Howard” Featurette –
This runs 2 minutes and it’s a quick introduction to the movie from Ron Howard.
“A Discussion with Dan Brown” Featurette –
This runs 5 minutes, and it’s simply a discussion with Dan Brown about the movie.
“The Filmmakers’ Journey” Featurette –
This runs 37 minutes and it’s a broad two-part look at the production of the film. This is more like your standard “making of” featurette.
“Magical Places” Featurette –
This runs 16 minutes and it gives a solid overview of the locations featured in the film. Good insight into the controversies and challenges the production faced in filming at certain locations.
“A Portrait of Langdon” Featurette –
This runs 7 minutes and it’s a character-centric investigation of Brown’s protagonist.
“Who is Sophie Neveu?” Featurette –
This runs 7 minutes and it’s a character-centric investigation of Sophie Neveu.
“Unusual Suspects” Featurette –
This runs 18 minutes and it focuses on the supporting cast.
“Close-up on Mona Lisa” Featurette –
This runs 7 minutes and it’s a mini-documentary about the famous painting.
“The Codes of The Da Vinci Code” Featurette –
This runs 6 minutes and it dissects the religious symbols and iconography found throughout the film.
“Music of The Da Vinci Code,” Featurette –
This runs 3 minutes and it briefly touches on Hans Zimmer’s compositions.
“Recording Sessions” Featurette –
This runs 10 minutes and it finds Hans Zimmer in the mixing booth, creating music for this film.
If you give this film a chance, you should rent it if you are into the mystery thrillers or action films. The Da Vinci Code is an average one at best, but it will keep most open-minded people entertained. A recommended purchase is mainly only for fans of Tom Hank or Ron Howard or, of course, if you liked the book. For the most part, the Dan Brown’s novel was faithfully adapted into a film.
As for which version to rent or purchase, well the Blu-ray is loaded with extras that are exclusive to this DVD set. The extras that were on previous editions are also better integrated on Blu-ray. Also, as of now, this is the only way to see the extended cut of Dan Brown’s filmed literary work. So that’s a plus.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Da Vinci Code. Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, and Ian McKellen. Written by Dan Brown (novel); Akiva Goldsman (screenplay). Running time: 176 minutes. UNRATED. Released on DVD: April 28, 2009. Available at Amazon.com