Twitter review: A better Robert Langdon film, since it doesn’t require stepping all over major religious doctrine to make a story.
Spoiler-free review: You have to give Dan Brown some credit. The man can write some good pulp novels. I read Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, and Dan Brown knows how to keep the pace of his novels going. In each of the novels, I was able to keep reading them fairly quickly, finishing them off in a couple of days. Most other novels of that size would probably take me much longer to read. Not because I’m necessarily a slow reader, but because sometimes it takes awhile for you to absorb the images the author wants you to get. Translating the first two of these novels into films hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do, partly because the main character, Robert Langdon, has to explain to everyone the various different Catholic dogma and doctrines he is about to run past. That tends to slow the action down, as the audience has to hear about The Last Supper painting or the process in which a new pope is elected, without much else going on. In Inferno, however, there is less standing around staring at paintings or what have you, and more running.
In this film, Langdon unexpectedly wakes up in a hospital room in Florence, Italy. Having been in Massachusetts only a couple of days before and no idea what happened in the previous couple of days, Langdon soon has to run when an assassin starts shooting at his door. Langdon eventually finds a device that displays a map of the 8th circle of hell (personal confession – I loved reading Dante’s The Inferno in college, so I did get a bit of a kick first reading about and now seeing references to The Divine Comedy), but with subtle changes. Then he and the nurse who pulled him out of the hospital, Sienna, start running again to other places in Italy, trying to dodge not only the assassin but also people from the World Health Organization who seem to be after his hide also. The end goal is a plague created by a billionaire, Bertand Zobrist, who hid his plague somewhere, but left a bunch of cryptic clues for people to follow.
I did actually like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, though I also felt that the action tended to slow down a bit too often in those films. There, the things that people were looking for were not things that could destroy the world (Ok, in Angels and Demons, there was a bomb that was capable of blowing up Vatican City with millions of people there, but it helped that the guy who was behind the plot happened to also be in the city itself and wasn’t some suicide bomber). Here, the stakes are much higher, and the Catholic dragging through the mud is kept to a minimum. Langdon regularly has to avoid people trying to shoot him, while trying to prevent the plague from being released and going global. It also helps that the direction and score, while sometimes a bit much, did for the most part enhance the film. My main criticism is that there was a good amount of padding, which was supposed to add depth to some of the characters, but in the end felt like it wasn’t necessary. Get rid of the misty-eyed flashbacks, and you have a 2 hour film instead of a 2 hour and 20 minute film. That would have made this film that much more better.
Spolier-filled review: I suppose one of the problems with having read the book first is that you’re on the lookout not only for things you remember from the book, but also things that are NOT in the book. And while my main criticism about the padding of the film still stands, I was also disappointed in the ending. At the end of the book, everyone gets to where the plague is supposed to be released, only to find out that they’re a week too late – the bag with the plague was released a week beforehand, with the countdown clock being when the plague would spread world-wide, causing a third of humans to become sterile, thus putting the brakes on human over-population. Sienna, who was Zobrist’s lover, eventually decides to try stopping the plague, and is allowed by Langdon to eventually go her own way. In the film, the bag is still intact, and Sienna actively blows herself up in an attempt to burst the bag. I was sitting watching people fight over the glass box that WHO had managed to slip around the bag, actually hoping that the filmmakers would have the guts Dan Brown had and actually let the plague loose. It wasn’t meant to be. Pity.