The Da Vinci Code Movie: Better Than the Book

May 19, 2006 | 82 comments
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My wife and I read The Da Vinci Code two years ago. Describing the book on T&S, I used "clumsy," "tedious," and "implausible" in one sentence. When I saw that the film was getting panned by the critics, I was not very excited about seeing it, but Friday is "date day" for my wife and me, and we decided to judge for ourselves. I thought the movie was better than the book. Much better.

Here are some quick impressions of where most of the critics went wrong:

McCarthy: "The irony in the film’s inadequacy is that the novel was widely found to be so cinematic. Although pretty dismal as prose, the tome fairly rips along, courtesy of a strong story hook, very short chapters that seem like movie scenes, constant movement by the principal characters in a series of conveyances, periodic eruptions of violent action and a compressed 24-hour time frame."

Did you read the entire book? It rips along for the first few chapters, then melts down. The movie is much tighter and more compelling. I notice that a number of critcs refer to the book as a "page turner,"  "labaryntine thriller," or similar descriptions. I wonder if there will be an inverse correlation between liking the book and liking the movie?

Beifuss: "De-emphasizing the visually un-cinematic puzzles, anagrams and codes that are key to the plot-heavy book proves to be a mistake … the movie doesn’t give viewers much of a chance to participate in the problem-solving."

This is largely true. For example, if you read the book, you might guess the "apple" clue, but you would never get that from the movie alone. Still, it seems a small price to pay for disposing of some of Brown’s hint-dropping.

Groucho: "Crammed into a 153-minute frame, the densely detailed The Da Vinci Code does begin to inspire heretical chuckles in the way it plays a connect-the-historical-dots game to reveal a sketch of a pregnant Mary Magdalene. Murder in the Louvre, Da Vinci-painted clues, Sir Isaac Newton, the Knights Templar, evil Swiss bankers, and Fibonacci numbers. Forget Holy Blood, Holy Grail—I think Dan Brown might’ve picked up his designs from a raving street-corner conspiracy theorist (not that there’s anything wrong with that)."

Yes, the plot is ridiculous, but you should have known that going in. Roger Ebert rightly observes, "Yes, the plot is absurd, but then most movie plots are absurd. That’s what we pay to see."

Bernard: "The movie is so nervous about offending anyone that it’s hardly any fun. Hanks delivers a few solemn speeches meant to deflect criticism. Meanwhile, he and Tautou barely hit it off. At least Mr. and Mrs. Smith got hot while doing their jobs."

As far as I can tell, Jami Bernard is not in high school, so I am not sure how to explain her disappointment at the absence of romance between Hank and Tautou. Why lament the fact that the film doesn’t turn to a cliche?

And as for the notion that the film plays down the religious controversy (a theme in several reviews), I am not sure what people were expecting. The film suggests that Jesus is not divine and blames the Catholic Church for most of the world’s ills, including the murder of "free-thinking women" throughout the ages.

The critic who gets it right is Roger Ebert:

"While the book is a potboiler written with little grace and style, it does supply an intriguing plot. Luckily, Ron Howard is a better filmmaker than Dan Brown is a novelist; he follows Brown’s formula (exotic location, startling revelation, desperate chase scene, repeat as needed) and elevates it into a superior entertainment, with Tom Hanks as a theo-intellectual Indiana Jones."

The rest of his review is spot on, too.

By the way, Ian McKellen is great in this movie.

P.S. I view this movie as an elaborate murder mystery and don’t take the pseudo-history or pseudo-theology seriously. But in my post on the book, I wrote:

Throughout the book, Brown sprinkles bits and pieces of supposed historical facts, and I find myself wondering how much of what I am reading is “true.� Does it matter? Is this all harmless drivel? Or do false ideas have a corrupting effect on our souls? Somewhere in my education, I was taught to cast a wide net in search of truth, but the admonition to “become acquainted with all good books� must imply a charge to avoid “bad� books. That is, if truth elevates, surely lies degrade.

That post didn’t generate much of a discussion, so feel free to weigh in on that now, if the questions interest you.

82 Responses to The Da Vinci Code Movie: Better Than the Book

  1. Julie M. Smith on May 19, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Wait a minute: are you dating your wife DURING THE DAY? I’m reading this at 7:06pm, and I am pretty sure I am in the same time zone as you.

    As for the book and movie, there are legitimate reasons to dislike them, but I can’t avoid the sense that much criticism (from blog readers, movie and book critics, etc.) is more about showing that the critic’s aesthetic sense is much more elevated than the masses who liked the book (or movie).

  2. Gordon Smith on May 19, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    We went to a matinee … before the children came home from school.

    The price I pay is that I will be working until the wee hours.

  3. Gordon Smith on May 19, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    I probably should add that my wife incurs some costs, too, though she is better organized than I, so a matinee doesn’t throw her off in quite the same way.

  4. Aaron Brown on May 19, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    I bought my Fandango tickets for tonight’s 7:20 pm showing (it’s 6:00 now) right before coming to T&S. How serendipitous. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to compare the film to the book, as I haven’t read it, nor have I ever wanted to. But if everyone and their dog is going to have an opinion on this, maybe I should just pick up a copy.

    I’m avoiding Ebert’s review so as to not go in with biases (I usually agree with Ebert). I’m betting Tom Hanks’ haircut is going to annoy me though. Here’s hoping I can get past it.

    Aaron B

  5. Julie M. Smith on May 19, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    “But if everyone and their dog is going to have an opinion on this, maybe I should just pick up a copy.”

    Ha! That’s _exactly_ why I read it!

  6. Adam Greenwood on May 19, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    “I thought the movie was better than the book. Much better.”

    So the movie’s just bad.

  7. Gordon Smith on May 19, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Report back, Aaron. I hope this post didn’t elevate your expectations too much. As noted, my expectations were quite low, which may account for some of the positiveness of my review. Though I tend to agree with Roger Ebert, too.

  8. DKL on May 19, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    I did find the book to be both a quick-read and readable, interesting at times, but on the whole a below-average book. The kind of thing a teenager might find engrossing, but hardly worth panning. It’s not that I don’t like quick reads or page turners. I like them quite a lot.

    The prose is pretty tortured. In other page-turners (e.g., James Bond novels) the language isn’t really bad, it’s just passable insofar as it tells the story while remaining below the radar screen. The characters are completely undeveloped, basically having only the characteristics necessary to the appropriate plot twists off of them.

    I think that what made The Da Vinci Code so popular (way out of proportion with the quality of book) was that it tended to give its readers who knew nothing about the Bible or religion some sense that they were learning the inside scoop about how mistaken the beliefs of religious people are. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how many otherwise intelligent people repeat nonsense from The Da Vinci Code as though it were the Gods-honest-truth.

  9. DKL on May 19, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that what drove people to read the Da Vinci code is the same thing that leads them to read The New Yorker or to listen to NPR.

  10. Julie M. Smith on May 19, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    DKL,

    I agree: I think people want to learn Big Stuff, but they want it sugar-coated. If we were to name names, I’d start with The Work and the Glory. Of course, the genre of Sugar-Coated Big Stuff isn’t inherently bad: on the recommendation of Jim F., I read Sophie’s World a few years ago and found it useful. There Are No Electrons is another gem in the field. If there are others, I’d love to hear about them . . .

  11. Dallas Robbins on May 20, 2006 at 12:43 am

    I just saw the film tonight, and since I have not read the book, I can’t really compare the two. If you are in the mood for a fun, good flick, you could do much worse. I think that Ebert gets it fairly right, but the film seemed to lack any vitality, suspense, or humor; Tom Hanks was just simply boring, and I started to fall asleep during the first 30 minutes, but when Ian McKellan shows up, it started to pick up the pace. In terms of content, I was very familiar with these type of alternative histories, since I enjoy reading that kind of stuff for fun, so the film held no surprises, and was hardly offensive at all. Some things I really liked about the film was the historical flashbacks, like the crusader attack on Jerusalem and the Coucil of Nicea. I also liked that the Rosslyn chapel made an appearance, which has always fascinated me for years.

    From the reviews that I have read, they mention that the film was faithfully adapted from the book, which I think may have been it’s problem. It kinda reminded me of the first Harry Potter film, and how that felt like it slogged along in parts. While watching, it also kept reminding me of National Treasure w/ Nick Cage, even though is not a cinematic masterpiece, was far and above more enjoyable as a conspiracy/alternative history/code breaking type of film.

    Even thought The DaVinci Code was a let down for me, I an interested in reading the book now. I am curious why this book of all books has caught the reading public, and why not a different book. And since this Priory of Sion conspiracy idea has been floating around for that last 50 years, why is it now making such an impact?

  12. Melissa Proctor on May 20, 2006 at 1:15 am

    I just returned from viewing this film. It was better than I’d anticipated, but then I’d read the Cannes’ reviews and had very low expectations. The dialogue was rather tortured, but my perspective might be distorted on that too since I watched His Girl Friday last week and very few movies compare favorably to the wild, witty wordplay between Rosalind and Cary. Still, someone probably should have reworked the script.

    I thought Hanks and Tatou were only marginal, but Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany were quite good. That said, it was much, much too violent for me (I’m totally unaccustomed to viewing violence and, admittedly, hypersensitive to it as I don’t watch television). If I’d reviewed the show on Screenit first I probably wouldn’t have seen it at all.

    Still, as contemporary hollywood films go, I thought it was at least as good as most.

    The best line? Hanks’ utterly serious, “I’ve got to get to a library— fast!” You might imagine that in a theater on campus here at Princeton where everyone is in middle of finals this line caused uproarious laughter. This is definitely a show to watch with a bunch of academic nerds. There were no titters and giggles at the end with the “revelation” about Sophie’s true identity as was reported at Cannes and no one seemed to think the cuts to Robert Langdon’s lectures were “boring” or “dull” as so many of the reviewer’s have suggested. In fact, I think those scenes could (and should) have been extended in lieu of many of the car chasing and shooting scenes.

    I’d give it a 3 out of 5.

  13. D. Fletcher on May 20, 2006 at 1:52 am

    Terrible movie. Dreadful book. No entertainment, or enlightenment of any kind. Don’t waste your money.

    At least the book had some good sexy scenes. The movie has Tom Hanks instead.

  14. Kevin Barney on May 20, 2006 at 10:03 am

    My son and I saw the movie last night. I liked it, terrble Cannes buzz notwithstanding. I think I may have been aided by several factors:

    1. I never read the book, so the story had suspense for me.

    2. I have a natural interest in this sort of thing, so wasn’t bored by the exposition as most critics were.

    3. I had read the Ehrman critique, so I was already prepared for the historical gaffes.

    4. My tastes in movies aren’t particularly discriminating. I love movies, I see a lot of them, and I enjoy most of them.

  15. Kevin Barney on May 20, 2006 at 10:25 am

    While I was suspending disbelief, I did notice one thing I found odd. They talked about being able to prove that Sophie was descended from Mary Magdalene from DNA evidence of the corpse in the sarcophagus. But there would be no way to demonstrate this using autosomal DNA; far too many generations had passed. The only way to do this would be with mitochondrial DNA. But this would require that Sophie was not only a descendant of Jesus and Mary, but that she descended from a pure, unbroken matrilineal line (i.e., with no men intervening in that line). In other words, if you looked at Sophie’s pedigree chart and traced it back 2000 years, Mary’s name would have to fit in the very bottom line of the chart. There could be no sons in her line, only daughters.

    If Jesus and Mary had descendants that survived for two millennia, it would be rather odd for the line to survive in exactly and only one person 2000 years later, with no men in her direct line back to the holy couple. If Jesus and Mary really had descendants, then the way populations work they would probably have millions of descendants, not one.

    Maybe the only descendant that counted was a purely matrilineal one (the divine feminine and all that), but that is not articulated in the movie.

  16. danithew on May 20, 2006 at 10:37 am

    My wife and I went with her sister and husband to see the movie last night. We were making fun of it the whole way home. Singing: “Opus Day-O — day-ay-ay-O”

  17. danithew on May 20, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Synopsis of the film: single man spends major amount of time with single attractive woman — finally figuring out that she is “the bloodline of Christ.” He then fails to close the deal.

  18. Kimball L. Hunt on May 20, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Opus Dei gets grief mainly for its being — Gasp! — a LAY organization. Well, in its membership; in fact you technically needn’t even be Catholic to join, though you do commit to help, I dunno: defend the Church’s role in society? (Opus Dei was formed by — now “saint” — Josemari`a during the Spanish Civil War.)

  19. Julie M. Smith on May 20, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Kevin–

    Do you think he might have been setting up the sequel? You know: she’s the only direct descendent and therefore people want to kill her and/or make her the pope?

  20. APJ on May 20, 2006 at 11:49 am

    I saw the movie last night and thought it was quite good. I actually thought it was a pleasant change of pace that the lead characters didn’t have to force some love interest into an already complicated story. Since the characters didn’t take time out to make out or stare cheesily at each other throughout, I found myself saying “Geesh, get going! Don’t you know time is running out!” much less than in most movies. I thought it was well acted, too; not just Sir Ian ? but also Hanks and the lead actress as well. I thought it kept just enough of the dialogue to develop the story (which it had to) without overdoing it. And the flashbacks to historical events were an improvement on the book (when Langdon explained things through dialogue in the book, I imagined Langdon standing there talking, but in the movie you visualize it; maybe I’m just not creative).

    One thing that kinda ruined it was some guy kept laughing really obnoxiously at really ridiculous moments (like during murders, e.g.). I kept wondering if he had read the reviews that some people laughed at an inappropriate moment and he wanted to make sure he laughed at that moment too; because he did it throughout the movie.

  21. Costanza on May 20, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Julie mentioned The Work and the Glory earlier. I had to laugh last week when I read an article in the Deseret News that quoted Andrew Skinner and a couple of other BYU Religion types as saying that the problem with Da Vinci Code was that people wanted to be spoon-fed sugary versions of history without all of the complicating details. My laughter was induced by the huge ad for the Work and the Glory movie that took up almost half of the page. The irony was delicious.

  22. Gordon Smith on May 20, 2006 at 11:55 am

    I read a few blog reviews of the movie, and it seems that lots of people are liking this movie. News stories are reporting that first-day moviegoers generally liked the movie. I think it’s interesting that almost everyone who says something positive does so in an apologetic way. Look at Melissa and Kevin above. This must be because the critics were so overwhelmingly down on the movie, right? Did anyone apologize for liking Lord of the Rings?

    Now, I can understand why a person wouldn’t like the movie. I am with Melissa: it’s about 3 of 5 stars. But I don’t remember the last time that my reaction to a movie was so at odds with the critics. (Admittedly, I am not a heavy movie goer, but still …) Look at the Rotten Tomatoes site, and only 19% of critics gave a positive review. The average rating is 4.7 on a 10-point scale. I just saw a story on Bloomberg: “The Hollywood Stock Exchange dropped its forecast for the film’s opening this weekend to $75 million from $80.5 million two days ago, before the first critiques.”

    Is this just a highbrow/lowbrow thing, as Julie suggests? Or is something else going on?

    By the way, I suspect that the movie will be stronger than expected after the opening week as the more positive “reviews” of the masses are disseminated.

  23. APJ on May 20, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    FWIW, regarding a sequel, I think I would enjoy Angels and Demons going to the big screen. I think it’s just as about as intellectually engrossing; but I thought there was more action than in Da Vinci Code. And it would probably be less controversial just because what happens in the story is so unbelievable that the ‘heresies’ would be overshadowed by the action. In other words it would be an action film that has some heresies instead of what DVC has become (to some): a heresy that happens to be a movie. Whether controversy is good or bad for a movie is debatable, though.

  24. Kimball L. Hunt on May 20, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Haven’t seen it but plan to. However, I hope to see m&m’s reaction here first (since I’ve heard in these threads of late she’s a member of the LDS’s version of — (whispers barely audibly — OPUS DEI) lol.

  25. Jettboy on May 20, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    I have noticed those who don’t like the book know something about New Testament and art history. Those who like the book (even if they think Dan Brown’s prose is horrible) know or care very little about the same subjects. As for the movie critics, they know nothing about the above, but know they should at least look like they do by panning the book and movie.

    In other words, I think the love and hate of Dan Brown is an elitist thing. Yes, I believe I am an elitist when it comes to knowing something about New Testament and art history. That means reading or watching the film is for me out of the question – unless it happens to be free and I happen to be there. Now, I could just read the book as a good yarn, but reading the first chapter was such a terrible experience that my other stack of reading material looked far more enticing. Ehrman’s book about alternative Christianities is a much more interesting and exciting read.

  26. DKL on May 20, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Julie, I’m not against popularizing per se, I’m just against the idea that all popularizations are created equal.

    Gordon Smith: Did anyone apologize for liking Lord of the Rings?

    Well, I certainly did. Do you have some kind of problem with that? I stand by my apology. I’ll even repeat it right here: I’m sorry I liked the Lord of the Rings.

  27. Starfoxy on May 20, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t know about making Angels and Demons into a movie. I enjoyed the majority of the book but the last three pages were comical. A single major plot twist near the end is good (ie “you mean bruce willis’ character was dead for the whole movie? wow!”). Cramming seven major plot twists into the last few pages comes off as desperate.

  28. Gordon Smith on May 20, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    DKL, I knew that someone would take the bait, and my money was on you.

  29. Aaron Brown on May 20, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    I quite liked the film. I agree with Roger Ebert’s review. (Note that I have not read the book). Like Gordon, I am surprised that my view is so at odds with that of most critics. It is not typically so. The pacing, the action, the suspense, etc., all worked for me. 9 times out of 10, when I hate a movie, it’s because the dialogue is so terrible. I’ll concede that the dialogue certainly wasn’t great, but I don’t recall any cringe-worthy lines. Forgettable lines, perhaps, but nothing that made me want to hide under my chair. And that’s really saying something.

    Aaron B

  30. DKL on May 20, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    The safe money is always on me, Gordon.

  31. Costanza on May 20, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    In almost every negative review I have read the critic mentions the difficulty of understanding the French leading actress. Was she really that tough to understand?

  32. Melissa Proctor on May 20, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    A couple of other oddities I left out—-it felt rather strange to have so many of the clues to unrevealing the “biggest cover up in human history” be cutesy ENGLISH rhymes. Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek . . .even French might have been believable given Sophie’s ancestry, but English? I laughed out loud when they read the trite little poem on the back of the rose. Also, the historical flashbacks are the worst part of the movie. Why have ten seconds portraying the Council of Nicea when Teabing mentions it as if the audience has no imagination. Is this supposed to be footage of the event? ;)

    No, Tautou is not hard to understand.

    I think it pretty ridiculous that the church felt like it needed to make a statement about this film.

  33. Julie M. Smith on May 20, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    “I think it pretty ridiculous that the church felt like it needed to make a statement about this film.”

    To be fair, the statement (at least the version I saw) wasn’t _about_ the film, it was about whether Jesus was married. Given what a hot topic that is, I’m glad that the Church made a statement that would shut up all the crackpots. (I meant that the nice way, if any crackpots are reading this . . .)

  34. APJ on May 20, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Julie, who are the crack-pots? I want to make sure I’m not one…lol. But really, I didn’t really see the announcement as shutting anyone up; people who speculate either way can still do so. Were people who think Jesus was married becoming a more vocal minority in the church? Or was the church concerned that that minority would soon become vocal and grab media attention because of interest in DVC (like a group saying, hey America look, we’ve thought he was married since long before DVC, and we’re Mormons!)? I, like Melissa, found it ridiculous; or at least I couldn’t see why they had a press release.

  35. Julie M. Smith on May 20, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Uh, Kaimi, did you go off your meds?

    APJ–thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify. I don’t think people who think that Jesus WAS or WAS NOT married are crackpots. I think that people who claim that the Church has a definitive position one way or the other based on a few century-old quotes and then use the interest in DVC to spread their weird views are crackpots.

  36. Wacky Hermit on May 20, 2006 at 6:47 pm

    Can someone point me toward the official church statement on whether Jesus was married, referenced in comments 32, 33, and 34? Thanks.

  37. Kevin Barney on May 20, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Gordon, you’re correct, my brief review was put defensively, quite on purpose. And as you guessed, the reason was that it was so at variance with the Cannes reviews. My views generally align with the Chicago Tribune’s critics, which is my local paper. But on this movie they ran a front page story with the headline “The Da Vinci Dud” about the negative reviews at Cannes, and then published a Tribune review that was quite negative and gave the move 1-1/2 stars. In the face of such overwhelmingly negative assessment, I felt I had to at least try to proffer reasons why, unlike the cognoscenti, I liked it.

  38. Tracy Hall on May 20, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    In message #36 Wacky Hermit asked:

    >Can someone point me toward the official church statement on whether Jesus was married, referenced in comments 32, 33, and 34?

    I couldn’t find it at lds.org, but here’s the story from the Deseret Morning News, Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635208289,00.html

    Claims of a married Jesus aren’t LDS Church doctrine

    LDS doctrine does not endorse claims made in a popular book and movie that Jesus Christ was married.

    “The Da Vinci Code,” which opens today at the Cannes Film Festival in France, has invoked a lot of discussion from critics and Christians everywhere. The fictional story by author Dan Brown focuses on the premise that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child.

    In a statement given to KSL, Dale Bills, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ stated:

    “The belief that Christ was married has never been official Church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the Church. While it is true that a few Church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, Church doctrine.”

    Professors of religion from around the state met earlier this week to discuss the story line, finding very little evidence within the Bible to support the book’s storyline.

  39. APJ on May 20, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    Julie; thanks, I was hoping that’s what you meant…

    Wacky Hermit: there’s a link to a KSL article that reports on the press release over on Bloggernacle Times’ ‘Was Jesus Married’ thread; I didn’t see the release on the church site’s ‘newsroom’ ; I looked, but may have missed it.

  40. Kimball L. Hunt on May 20, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    I quickly googled and found

    Orson Hyde: “Jesus was the bridegroom at the marriage at Cana….” “Before the Savior died He looked upon His own natural children, as we look upon ours! (both quotes from JoD volii p82).

    Orson Pratt: “If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt would learn that all these women [Mary, Martha, Mary] were His wives” (The Seer p159).

    Joseph Fielding Smith’s anwer, within private correspondence, to question of Christ’s being married: “Yes! But do not preach it! The Lord advises us not to cast our pearls before swine”! (letter dated March 17, 1963).

  41. Costanza on May 20, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    Not only did many nineteenth-century LDS leaders teach that Christ was married, but several discourses indicated that he was a polygamist.

  42. Mark Butler on May 20, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    The general point of the Church statement is simply to disavow that the idea is a doctrine of the Church (regardless of leaders who may have believed, mentioned, or preached it in the past, long before the dawn of Correlation).

  43. Blake on May 20, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    I just want to rant at the self-important sychophants of the conservative religious bent who want us all to know that there are “factual errors” in the Da Vinci Code. Such a conclusion is absurd on its face. There cannot be factual errors in FICTION. So let me say it again — THE DA VINCI CODE IS A WORK OF FICTION. Because fiction doesn’t purport to be a book of history or factual assertions, there cannot be factual errors. In fact, [I'm just wondering if I dare actually reveal this] THERE IS NO REAL ROBERT LANGTON, NO REAL SOPHIE, NO REAL CONSPIRACY IN WHICH THEY ARE PARTICIPANTS! WOW, now I’ve gone and done it.

    I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It was entertaining and I simply suspended belief and loved the way that Brown wove the clues and story. But then, I am a Superman collector and I believe a man can fly — so suspension of belief is something I’m good at. Why aren’t the critics able to suspend belief? When I see the movie, I’ll let let you know what I think. But I give little credit to the likes of Cannes critics who believe that their opinions about “art” ought to carry more weight than the those who vote with their actual pocket books who actually have to pay money to enjoy what the critics get for free because they are so important.

    As for doctrine of the Church, I’m sure that because JS was a freemason that he is actually the holy grail — and you can quote me.

  44. greenfrog on May 20, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    My wife and I both enjoyed the movie a lot this afternoon. I found that much of the difficulty that the book presented trying to articulate visual elements in text form were remedied by the medium. I especially liked Howard’s enhanced and developed reprise of the visual techniques he used to decent effect in A Beautiful Mind. Together with the images of paintings and architecture of the Louvre (which I’ve got to get to some day), I thought the movie format much improved a weak book-story.

    And I didn’t find Tatou’s English to be difficult at all — her pronunciation is somewhat better than our current President’s, and she handily bests him in grammar. I think that a fair comparson, as I expect both are equally scripted.

  45. Julie M. Smith on May 20, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    Blake, I think what is sticking in the craw of some religionists is the reverse-disclaimer-thingie in the beginning of the book stating that all art, architecture, texts, etc. are accurately represented.

  46. tyler on May 21, 2006 at 12:29 am

    As Julie, DKL, and others have already intimated, The Da Vinci Code is much more interesting for what it tells us about us than for anything it says about Christian, Catholic, or art history. It piqued the interest of millions of people because they all wanted to be in the know–it apparently does not occur to us that a book that has been number one on the Times bestseller list for umpteen weeks can hardly contain secrets anymore. The book’s popularity also demonstrates the American hunger for easy truth–it’s a kind of twisted pop-philosophy book: we’d all like to know the meaning of life, as long as it’s available from Dan Brown in a quick-read page-turner. Most interesting, however, is the way critics have been falling all over themselves to show that they would never condescend to liking a popular movie like TDC. No, the critics are also in the know, and they demonstrate it by telling the rest of us how mistaken we are in paying to see such a subpar movie.

  47. Rusty Clifton on May 21, 2006 at 12:39 am

    Melissa, the English stuff is explained in the book. Apparently there is a legitemate reason it would be in English… of course I don’t remember it.

    And Audrey Tatou is my Hollywood crush, there are none others.

  48. obi-wan on May 21, 2006 at 11:44 am

    I think that people who claim that the Church has a definitive position one way or the other based on a few century-old quotes and then use the interest in DVC to spread their weird views are crackpots.

    Hm — so tell me, which should I take as closer to a statement of our doctrine: some century-old quote about Jesus’ marital status, made explicitly by ordained apostles holding Priesthood keys, or a current quote by a public relations spokesman with no priesthood authority, but who (I hope) is being supervised at some level by someone with authority?

  49. Kimball L. Hunt on May 21, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    As a representative of D.O.P.E.S., Defense of Philosophical Eccentrics in Society, I take exception to those of us who espouse off-kilter views’ being defamed as mere crackpots. And, due to the historically derogatory sense of that term, we’d ask you instead to use such value-neutral substitutes as collanders/ seives or “pots with crackled glaze,” please; thankyou!

  50. Kimball L. Hunt on May 21, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Interestingly, what’s now (according to correlation) termed crackpot once was termed apostle?

  51. Starfoxy on May 21, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    Re English rhymes (32 & 47) It was explained in Angels & Demons. Theoretically the illuminati were all scientists, and the official language of science at the time was English. The reason that English was the language of science had something to do with the Catholic Church’s either disapproval of english, or the fact that English was among the youngest languages. I can’t really remember. Either way I don’t remember there being an explanation for the English rhymes in DVC.

  52. APJ on May 21, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Kimball, are you the Snarker (the funny one, not the mean one)? I have to ask…

  53. Mark Butler on May 21, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Kimball, It is not accurate to read advocacy of the term ‘crackpot’ into the church process of Correlation. The latter has no bearing on the question of whether propositions such as the suggestion that Jesus was once married are true or not, it just has bearing on the status of such propositions as official teachings of the Church.

    There are numerous, highly respected statements of Joseph Smith that bear the same status. Not because they are not plausible, but simply because they are neither canonical nor sufficiently obvious that a consensus of later leaders upholds them, nor sufficiently material in terms of basic belief and practice. The King Follett Discourse is chief among these, though there are many others, including much of the contents of what we now know as the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,

    Notice that word ‘teachings’ – not the Doctrines of Joseph Smith, but the Teachings of Joseph Smith. Similar titles are used for books containing the talks of later prophets, the whole point being that the *opinions* or take on various doctrines by a single individual, no matter how high in authority, is not sufficient to establish something as the doctrine of the Church as a whole.

    That takes a consensus of the leading quorums of the Church – a rule of safety documented in D&C 107. That is the vision behind the Church process of Correlation, simply being careful to distinguish between one man’s opinion and the inspired consensus of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

    Ultimately the reason why some of Brigham Young’s more esoteric theories did not become Church doctrine is simply that the idea was problematic enough that he could not get a consensus of support even among the Quorum of Twelve.

    The implicit rule of the Church is no consensus, no revelation, no doctrine. A revelation might have occured of course, the concept might very well be true, but without a consensus, the rule of safety is that the Church as a whole cannot represent a proposition as a legitmate part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Future revelation, knowledge, and discovery may change that conclusion, expansively speaking all Truth is part of the Gospel, but for now only truths recognized by consensus as fundamental can claim the status of Gospel Doctrine, or rather the Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    That is what the controversy is about. It would do well for everyday members to bear the distinction between Truth and Doctrine in mind. All Doctrine is believed and intended to be a representation of Eternal Truth of course, the difference is a matter of scope, authorization, and justification.

    The material truths of salvation, the authorization by the consensus of the leadership of the Church, and justification in terms of clear and convincing evidence that something is actually the case.

    Those three elements are sufficient to establish any proposition as Church Doctrine, with no prejudice to the truthfulness of the vast majority of non-doctrinal propositions, and in particular, this one.

  54. Kimball L. Hunt on May 21, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    APJ: Just lower-casedly /s/narky here.

    But I have mixed feelings about my joke in post 50′s taking advantage of organizational evolution (by painting past authority figures with the same brush as retrograde members in the present? But despite my not being a believing member, I actually prefer the moxie of past authorities compared to this present nambypamby-ness of the Chursh’s having simply begin not to emphasize various things and then it’s suddenly arriving at a juncture where it makes the bold claim that certain teachings never even had official sanction in the first place! Instead I’d prefer they’d just stick with whatever teaching come hell or high water or else, if they’d want to repudiate something, they’d give their thinking behind such a move — such as cite some new revelation or something? In other words, if Mormonism’s gonna simply become “Protestants with a temple” I’d prefer they do it above board instead of by stealth.)

  55. APJ on May 22, 2006 at 12:46 am

    Mark, I think Kimball was referring just to Julie’s comment #35, as to terminology; I don’t think he meant everyone who agrees with correlation is calling anyone who disagrees crackpots. He just was using a term that had already been used to prove a point (i.e. certain apostles, right or wrong about it, held a view that the church says it does not teach; whatever that implies is subjective). But, I do find your comment interesting and informative.

    Kimball: I had your DOPES comment in mind when I asked if you were Snarker (not that I really thought you were; it was more of a way to say ‘i think that’s funny’) but your expansion in 54 of your idea in 50 is interesting.

  56. Kimball L. Hunt on May 22, 2006 at 1:34 am

    APH:

    I now have rockstar awe of Nate Oman — like I did Hugh Nibley when I was in high school. Yet I’m intrigued by his sensibilities re such things as polygamy’s being able to be written out of our, I mean the Saints’, theology somehow. I mean, it can . . . It’s malleable! But still it’s just intriguing to me how various true “blues” — my weird way of misreading the B in T”B”M for sum reason — within what’s obstesibly the same religious tradition can hold such divergent ideas as their basic, foundational setpoint orthodoxies or something — and that such things are generational! As, in my time, the celestial nature of the “principle,” despite it’s not being able to be practiced, was hush hush but still one of the “mysteries” — along with Christ’s being married. But from such things being merely, per J. Fielding S., hush hush, they’ve now moved to, per GBH, “Well, we don’t know about that — “!, to sort of co-opt the doctor Walter Martin crowd or something? So that true blues such as Julie now consider folks holding to the orthodoxies of only a couple of decades ago as crackpots?

  57. Kimball L. Hunt on May 22, 2006 at 2:05 am

    (& by the way, what I like about Nate is instead of his just goin’, “I don’t know about that — “!, he tries to figure out how recasting/ further refinement in some doctrine could be plausible . . . )

  58. APJ on May 22, 2006 at 2:48 am

    Kimball, well, I don’t think Christ being married was every ‘orthodox’ per se, but it’s interesting to consider the fact that the church would put out this press release NOW (when only ‘crackpots’ believe it anyway) instead of when it was a more widely held belief. I mean, if you’re trying to nip a false teaching or a speculative teaching in the bud, wouldn’t you want to do it when that teaching has more support and is being more widely and openly taught? I think that it’s more a reflection of the way things are done now, as opposed to then (kinda like how you point out: it used to be ‘mystery’, now it’s ‘we don’t know about that’).

    Imagine if a bunch of tattooed 18 year olds decided to get their tattoos removed to follow the prophet (plus their stake president wouldn’t let them go on missions the next year if they didn’t). During the removal surgery, surprisingly, ALL of them suffer terrible scars beyond whats to be expected with normal tattoo removal. For some reason it becomes a big news story, and the boys all tell why they had the tattoos removed. The church holds a press conference to say ‘Telling people to remove tattoos is not the church’s official doctrine or position.’ Technically true: yes. Disingenuous: yes. But this is the attitude that seems to be growing. (Granted, total stretch, because actions and beliefs are different; but, a lot of religious people take religious beliefs quite seriously).

  59. Aletheia on May 22, 2006 at 2:48 am

    Kimball, Give me Orson Pratt on Jesus’ marriages any day instead of Dan Brown. I went and saw the movie last night with my wife – having not read the book and interested in the movie on the Last Temptation of Christ principle (If the Catholic Church is against it, I have to see it). It was reasonably entertaining (although the board led me to expect a car chase that was more exciting; one of those minis as an escape vehicle doesn’t quite get the adrenaline flowing). But, overall, it was a disappointment. Not only did it invoke all the ugly Protestant bugaboos about Catholics (no one else remembered their classes in the Gothic novel?) but as fiction its theology was contrived and boring. Theological radicalism has reduced itself to the idea that Christ’s offspring end up at an international family reunion on the old family homestead? Tom Hanks delivers a rousing speech on belief being belief’s only basis (Am I getting it right? It ws soo commonplace I might be mixing things up)? DNA testing Mary Magdalene would prove descent from Christ and not, from what I understand even from Maury Povitch, from Mary Magdalene? In any case, I hope Mormon crackpots will disassociate themselves from a work that falls flat in its speculations and ambitions and hope that Mr. Brown will go for the jugular next time. How ’bout giving us a real piece of blasphemous pseudo-history? Why can’t Rigdon come across Jesus’ own body buried, say, in the Japanese Pavilion at LACMA or right behind the Seurat at the Art Institute of Chicago (places that got to be as holy and twistedly symbolic as the Louvre’s pyramids!)?

  60. Mark Butler on May 22, 2006 at 3:33 am

    Kimball, there are critical doctrinal trends in the Church, but they are *much* more subtle and *much* more important than a relative triviality such as whether Christ was married or not. The type of things that generally matter only to theologians – changes that often begin decades, if not centuries before they reach public conciousness.

  61. Lamonte on May 22, 2006 at 7:36 am

    Gordon – I should tune in on the weekend blogging. I can see I’ve missed a lot. I also saw the movie with my wife on Friday night and I thought it was great. No, not the best movie I’ve ever seen but good, nonetheless. I read the book a while back and I also thought that was great. OK, so I don’t get out much and I’m easily impressed, but I was at least entertained by both.

    I really didn’t think the book or the “film suggests that Jesus is not divine..” as you state. Only the the historian Leigh. To suggest that Jesus was a mortal man during his earthly minstry, subject to and capable of human emotions like falling love, getting married and fathering a child is not foriegn to my religion and so I didn’t find the plot “rediculous” or “absurd” but perhaps unlikely. The idea of religious institutions covering up secrets that might be damaging to their standing in the world is not exactly a new concept, nor should it be something that causes anyone to lose their faith, especially when the idea is contained in a novel or Hollywood produced movie. My wife had not read the book and so some things that could not be explained in several pages of text in the book, but showed up in the movie without explanation, were confusing for her. I had a good time at the movie.

  62. g.wesley on May 22, 2006 at 10:50 am

    it seems to me that the resistance to historical fact that kimball is facing here is precisely the type of religious dogmatism that makes conspiracy novels like DVC possible.

  63. Bryan Warnick on May 22, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    It seems to me that the movie really tones down some of the most glaring historical inaccuracies. The movie, for example, has Langdon explicitly challenging the idea that Christ’s divinity was ONLY established through a decree of Constantine.

    I wonder also if the Church really hasn’t missed a big opportunity with this film. One of the central themes relates to a supposedly suppressed longing for the divine feminine. I think one of the reasons why the book and film have been so popular is that many people, in fact, share this longing. They have a need for female divinity, but see no way of expressing that need through strict Christian monotheism. There might also a need to see things like sexuality in spiritual ways, rather than in always suspicious ways. The Da Vinci Code, for all its faults, offers a vision of spirituality that celebrates sexuality and femininity.

    The Mormon church has also traditionally offered both things — a vision of female divinity and spiritualized sexuality. The Church could have sent a veritable lightening bolt through the religious world by openly embracing such things as the other Christian churches have fled in a strangely paranoid panic. But I guess the Church leaders aren’t into the lightening bolt strategy of public relations. :)

    I guess what I’m saying is that we should not worry so much about whether the details of DVC are “true.” Rather, we should ask what the interest in this book means for us.

  64. greenman on May 22, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    I hereby challenge someone to write a pseudo-history of Mormonism, complete with magical symbols, controversial doctrines, secret societies, and so on. If I had more confidence in my own writing skills, perhaps I would even undertake such an endeavor. As it stands, however, I am left to ponder upon the meaning of all these elements in the true history of Mormonism.

  65. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 9:32 am

    All the pleasure that reading the first few pages of the book leached out of my life has been restored by this review:

    http://www.newyorker.com/critics/cinema/articles/060529crci_cinema

    yea, even an hundredfold.

  66. DKL on May 23, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Thanks for posting the link, Adam. It’s everything I despise about the New Yorker, condensed into one tidy little movie review. Heaped with scorn that is too self-consciously clever to hit the mark, it’s only purpose is to encourage people to think that they’re too smart to have liked the movie. It’s remarkable only in how pedantic and self-unaware that it can be at the same time.

  67. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 10:10 am

    The difference between you and the New Yorker, DKL, is that it is amusing when its insulting.

  68. DKL on May 23, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Amusing? The New Yorker? I hadn’t noticed.

  69. Adam Greenwood on May 23, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Indeed.

  70. diogenes on May 23, 2006 at 10:29 am

    I hereby challenge someone to write a pseudo-history of Mormonism, complete with magical symbols, controversial doctrines, secret societies, and so on.

    Already been done. Just read Michael Quinn.

  71. DKL on May 23, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Adam Greenwood: Indeed.

    Ouch!

  72. Robert C. on May 23, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    I saw the movie and thought it was watchable though it felt a bit long. Perhaps it was anti-climactic for me b/c I saw a History Channel documentary which was much more interesting and informative. Here’s a review of Beyond the Da Vinci Code which I think would be much better use of your time (and money, you can buy it here for $10.

  73. Nate Oman on May 23, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    I spend close to two hours a day in the car commuting. I was given the Da Vinci Code on CD to listen to. I just couldn’t make it through the whole thing. I tried. I really did. On the other hand, as soon as the professor character was introduced as “a professor of religious symbology at Harvard” and the book continued to take itself dreadfully seriously, I just gave up.

  74. Robert C. on May 23, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Also, I think comment #63 is right about a lot of the interest in the book revolving around the divine feminine, and that the LDS church has a lot to offer in this regard. These were some of what I found to be the most interesting issues in the HC documentary.

  75. D. Fletcher on May 23, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    I like Slate’s review of the movie:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2141970/

  76. Bill on May 23, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    I’m confused DKL. Is the New Yorker self-conscious or self-unaware?

  77. Kimball L. Hunt on May 23, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    (Re # 29):

    It’s a rare honor to have Aaron Brown here with us today to discuss his best seller with us.

    Aaron?

  78. D. Fletcher on May 23, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    That New Yorker review is hilarious!

  79. Edgar A. Baguio on May 24, 2006 at 4:02 am

    My beloved brethren of the Priesthood. Let me remind you that we have a solemn duty to do “within the walls of our own homes”. Have we finished our Family scripture studies yet? Have we taught our children plainly about the Savior? Have we taught them about the Atonement and how can we benefit from it? Have we remembered the last article of our faith?
    Now, I ask you my beloved brethren, upon reading this Da Vinci Code, does it edified your souls? Will it make you a better father?, emplyoee? employer? husband? or a brother to your non-member friends? Are you getting kindier than before? Are you purer in your thoughts and deeds? Let’s not forget that there are divers ways to commit mistakes (sins) according to King Benjamin, so we need to “watch our thoughts, … and our words”. Let’s focus on our faith to our Savior rather than to know whether or not He is married. I am sure it doesn’t hurt to read a book of this kind, but it simply doesn’t help us spiritually either. Please let us take heed of our living Prophet today, Gordon B. Hinckley.
    Brethern, I know if we focus on the things that matters most to our salvation, the Lord will bless us with more protection from the evils that beset the world in which we live today. I say all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

    To those brothers not of our faith, or (non-LDS), I say: let us try to focus on the life and teachings of the Jesus Christ and how to live like Him rather than knowing more about His personal life. Let me tell you of a simple analogy; does anyone of you wants your married life to be the subject of
    discussion in every corner of the planet? Why can’t we see that we “our thoughts are lower than His thoughts, our ways are lower than His ways” (modified qoutation)

    Finally, I wonder if I read this book, Da Vinci Code, I will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I think I have to continue reading the Book of Mormon and other Standard works of the Church, The Bible, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
    Have a nice day and may the Lord bless those who keep His covenants/commandments.

    Warm regards,

    Ed

  80. Mark N. on June 2, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    I hereby challenge someone to write a pseudo-history of Mormonism, complete with magical symbols, controversial doctrines, secret societies, and so on.

    I think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempted it first, with the very first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlett”. If the Catholic Church isn’t happy about Dan Brown, we probably had just as much room for complaint with Doyle’s somewhat slanderous “Scarlett” back in 1887. Instead of Opus Dei, Doyle had the Danites to work with. After reading it, I almost wondered how the character of Sherlock Holmes managed to survive such an awful beginning.

  81. Kimball L. Hunt on June 4, 2006 at 3:19 am

    I don’t think the screenwriter sufficiently bought into the hoke of the plot.

    Think: Ghost busters — I’d daresay made by somebody who r-really buys into, on some fundamental level, their belief in ghosts? Even if they’ve come to … in jaded, full adulthood … RETHINKING of this premise so that they can now “lay on the hoke” i/e become campy-cool with it! As mister Brown’s book was. I imagine, I’ve never read him. Since, on some fundamental level, he “sees”/believes there to be subversive conspiracies promulgating a continuation of Rightwing, Xtian dogmas in this world and for there to be hero-scholars out there “mystically” (ha ha!) COUNTERING Revealed Religion “for us” . . . (?)

    So occasionally a symbolically/ paraniodically mystical element would get me to go Wow.

    But then its chases et “cee” weren’t campy enough. Think: Roger Moore as James Bond. (But then I have a weakness for camp and straight forward action rarely any pull on my sensations, absent a very deep sense of utter reality, which is kinda rare outside of rilly uh highbrow stuff — ) Also: Aren’t we’re supposed to want ta be either lead? — depending on our own sex/ gender, of course. But the chick never makes eyes to us, through him nor puts herself out there as being so alluringly exotic or whatever and the guy’s too real-life nerdish without playing this up this up for us ta feel sympatico nor in some other way making him heroishly enough nerdy-cool.

    Verdict? LOVED/ “give it a thumbs up” where it’s hoke! Which unfortunately’s only where it’s a bit coolly “deconstuctionist” (& — YOU know — some “better”(?) version of Leanard Nimoy’s “In search of . . . “) in its plot, was mostly ho hum (& frakly thumbs downish) about its action, while I sort of liked/ “give it one thumb up ‘n’ one thumb down” and yet ultimately only felt teased by the French girl. (I mean, hell! I wouldn’t feel any need ta self-flaggelate in guilt if not allowed to lust in the first place!)

  82. Kimball L. Hunt on June 4, 2006 at 4:41 am

    Meant to say that I like the greater hokeness of Roger Moore. But the post above is even more slapdash ‘n’ disjointed than my usual, extremely low standards!

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