May 25, 2006
First, I admit that I have never read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, nor have I ever been tempted to do so. Consequently, I will do my best to judge the film on its own merits, making no comparison to the book's style or content and attempting to lay the hype and controversy aside as much as possible.
That being said, I found DVC entertaining as a mystery/thriller, with somewhat the same affinity I feel for National Treasure (2004). The former film, with its 149-minute run time, did drag in places, but the plot is complex enough to make the length unavoidable. The film showcases a big budget and big names, including Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Audrey Tatou, and Ian McKellen. As with many such Hollywood productions, DVC is predictably well made but with originality in short supply.
DVC opens with the murder of a museum curator at the Louvre by a mysterious man in monk's clothing. During the investigation, American professor of symbology Robert Langdon and French policewoman Sophie Neveu begin to uncover an historical conspiracy while running from the French police who have supposed them to be the murderers. Eventually, the couple learns that the deceased, Sophie's grandfather, was part of the Priory of Sion, a secret society formed to protect the secret that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and still has an heir living on earth. The main enemy of the Priory is a small council of Catholic Church officials who for centuries have sought to find and destroy the remains of Mary Magdalene in order to keep Christ's supposed marriage from becoming public and destroying the Church's power on earth.
The film's historical errors are so obvious that they require little research to disprove. Many argue that to take a work of fiction so seriously is to misunderstand its purpose; though this is true to some extent, the danger lies in Brown's indiscriminate mixing of obvious fantasy and error that is stated so clearly as to make it seem factual. For more detail on historical errors in the novel, I recommend The Da Vinci Deception by Edward Sri and Mark Shea (Ascension Press).
What troubles me about DVC is not its blatant factual errors or even its demonization of the Catholic Church. Rather, it is the film's underlying theme, which worships the human and not the divine. In the end, Robert and Sophie learn that because Christ was merely human (another troublesome claim) each of us is somewhat divine. This conclusion echoes Robert's assertion that reality matters less than what someone believes. It is ironic that he would settle for such a weak and subjective conclusion when, in his scholarly work, he claims to sift through layers of historical distortion to find “original truth.” Dan Brown makes this goal seem honorable, but he has achieved the exact opposite, manipulating history to make original truth nearly unrecognizable.