Friday, May 19, 2006

Viewing: Pre-release Screening of DaVinci Code

Sitting with my son-in-law and an old friend, I had the privilege last night (Thursday, May 18th), in a near empty theater, to view The DaVinci Code. The viewing commenced around 10:50 P.M. (including previews), and ended at around 1:25 AM Friday morning.

I have not yet read the book and am still debating as to whether or not I will.

As a firm believer in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the authenticity of His story as told in the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I had to temporarily suspend my predisposition to the story's theme, and do my best to simply engage in the story as a story.

Early critics mostly panned the movie, which is usually a good sign for me that the film is probably pretty good. Disregarding the story's premise which I personally think borders on ludicrous, I thought Howard's presentation was fair.

My first reaction to the film was that it would have been better to tell this story in a television mini-series, than a theatrical film. There was just way too much going on to grasp at one time, and a lot of detail had to be crammed into a film-length time-frame. And though, as I said above, I have not read the book, I suspect a great deal was left out, too.

The story's beginnings are rooted in events that happened 2000 years ago, and to link the past and the present, Howard used dialogue (somewhat forced in my view), and blurry, washed-out sequences that transported us back into history. Some of the historical moments were decent, but I particularly found his recreation of the Council of Nicea to be humourous and grossly exaggerated.

The film's critics have particularly criticized Hanks' performance as "flat" or "zombie-like." I did not come away with that same reaction. Granted, he showed a minimal of emotion in the story, but I found his portrayal of the story's main character, Robert Langdon, to be believable. Langdon was a thinker, constantly evaluating clues, and processing new information all the time. Hanks, I thought, played the role as a thoughtful, logical character, the pivot or fulcrum on which the story turned because his mind was critical to unravelling the mystery.

I did not like that the story had three climaxes. Just when you thought the story was over, it started up again—twice. Leaving the theater, I remarked that it reminded me of some classic hard rock songs from the late '60's and early '70's. Just when you think the song is over, it starts up again and builds to another climax.

I think the film does a disservice to the Christian faith, especially the Catholic Church whose characters in the film are made out to be conniving, manipulative, and even murderous. I only recall one Catholic character in the story who did not come across that way. And although I don't agree with some of the reaction to the film by the Catholic Church, I can understand why they would react the way they have. Aside from the story's absurd premise, (spoiler alert) that Jesus Christ married and fostered a child and that the Catholic Church has spent the last 2000 years attempting to cover that up, the film frankly makes the Catholic clergy look evil.

On the other hand, perhaps the film does a service to Christianity by tackling, at least indirectly, issues which are at the core of our faith. Was Jesus Divine? How did the Holy Scriptures come to be? And perhaps the most important question of all—is the faith of nearly two billion Christians across the globe based on bogus claims and a subsequent cover up?

It is good for us to be challenged this way. It is good for us to stretch our minds and explore our history and heritage. It is good for us to ask ourselves probing questions, questions that take us to the core of our faith.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, The DaVinci Code will be a blessing in disguise.


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

You know... you could have just said "friend" as opposed to "old friend"...

Good review. I do think Hanks was pretty one dimensional as a character. It's one thing to be thoughtful and pensive when studying clues at a murder scene but for crying out loud, show a little emotion when the guy has a gun pointed at the girls head!

- j

At 10:18 AM, Blogger George said...

You are a good thinker and writer, but where was your spell-checker when you really needed it? (Just kidding!)

I'm not interested in either the book or the movie, but not for reasons people might think. Partly due to my age (I just turned 70), I simply have little time (left) for fiction of any kind. I have too much else on my reading list and precious little discretionary time for reading as it is. (I did read a John Grisham novel while on vacation recently, but I was under orders to relax and not "work.")

I did think it was interesting that yesterday's WashTimes (my own abbreviation code) reported the negative view of critics to the film and that people actually walked out at at the famed Cannes festival. (I actually loved that report -- laughed out loud.)

Because I don't blog regularly (and few would be interested in my views), I am writing a letter to WORLD magazine to register a view I haven't read or heard anywhere else. Keeping in mind that this is fiction, I have two observations. The first is, whether the film is successful or not, the book was overwhelmingly successful (in sales), and it tells me that whether the world system likes Jesus Christ or not, no one, seemingly, can ignore Him or get away from Him. He is here -- period -- whether trusted and esteemed by faith and personal relationship or in the unbeliever's imagination. Bravo, Jesus! Hooray for His keeping power of an often weak and ineffective Church! You are, my blessed Lord, and You are here!

Second, and perhaps more pertinent to public response (including Christians who are calling for boycotts and the like) is this thought: there is no more blasphemy in The DaVinci Code's premise and story than there is, sadly, in hundreds if not thousands of professing "Christian" pulpits week after week when unbelieving men and women clergy stand -- often in clerical garb -- and speak of a Savior in whom they do not believe and purport to present a gospel message shorn of faith and divine presence or power.

That is its own indictment -- and God is watching (though NOT from a distance).

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous L. M. said...

Vinny and I have very different emotions about this issue--we have both read the book-long before it was such a big deal!!! and are anxious to see the movie.

We love a good FICTIONAL drama!! And that is exactly what it is-fiction with some facts, mostly false, involved. I believe because God is going to use it to draw people to the TRUTH!! He will use anything--BECAUSE HE CAN!!!!

The difference between V&I is our passion about this "movement" (for lack of a better word). I see it as something that is causing the whole world to examine their beliefs (it just occured to me that beliefs and faith are NOT the same thing!! you may believe in catholic whatevers but not have faith and KNOW Jesus--pretty profound, huh? But I believe God will definetly use this to draw people to other people to faith in Himself. Nothing else has done this to our world in many, many years.

Back to "passion" Vinny has very strong feelings about this whole issue-I don't. I have a very clear opinion-it's fiction. Just as I have a passion for pro-life movement and he doesn't have that same passion. I am excited to see what God does with it!

At 1:41 PM, Blogger weave said...


Thanks for your built-in, "eagle-eye" spellchecker. I have repaired the damage.


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