BY ROGER THOMAS
I should begin with a confession. I have not read any of Dan Brown’s novels featuring Robert Langdon. I know many people who have read them and like them very much. I actually have a copy of “The Da Vinci Code” and I hope to find the time to read it one day.
I have now watched the three film adaptions of Brown’s books featuring Langdon, and I have yet to be thrilled. In fact, I hardly remember the first two films which premiered in 2006 and 2014 respectively. I know Tom Hanks played Langdon and I know the first film came to some interesting conclusions, but overall, both films underwhelmed me.
And now there is the third. I suppose “Inferno” starts well. A man is lecturing about the destructive power of human overpopulation. Not long after that, this same man is fleeing from other men. He climbs up in a steeple and commits suicide. All of that held my attention and I was ready for the rest of the film to be equally powerful. However, it is not.
Tom Hanks has created many wonderful characters but I would not put Robert Langdon among his best. However, in the beginning of “Inferno,” he has experienced something that makes him very confused. This creates confusion with the plot as well. I tried hard to keep up with what was happening, but I think much of my misunderstanding could have been resolved with a cleaner screenplay.
After seeing the film I commented to a friend who is a fan of Brown’s books and Ron Howard’s film adaptations. My comment was this: “Robert Langdon stories are like an intellectual James Bond series.” Langdon is a professor. He is very wise and knows a great deal about many things. I am in favor of more intellectual films, but the problem is that these films create a mystery like Bond films but forget that Bond stories are also fun. Action, humor, mystery all combine which is the reason that the Bond series has lasted more then five decades.
Langdon stories have the various locations throughout the world. They have the mystery. They just do not have the fun. As I watched “Inferno” I wondered if anyone ever smiled in any one scene. Granted, the characters were facing the destruction of half the population, but still, at least a little levity would be good.
Which brings up another question: I was never clear how the plan was to kill half the population. Why would it not just kill one fourth or three fourths? Once the villains let the toxic epidemic into the population, how were they certain it was only going to annihilate one half? Maybe I should not have been thinking about that. But if the film had engaged me more, I would not have had time to ponder any of these questions.
So here is what I liked. First, I thought the climatic scene involving water, an orchestra and of course, people fighting, was the best scene in the film. Well, that and the opening lecture about population growth. I did like the cinematography of the different cities the characters visited. I liked some of the history, when it was not being spouted at a rate to fast to actually contemplate. With those things in mind, it was not all bad.
In the end, I will not be looking forward to the next Langdon adventure. But then again, my friend who is a fan says that “The Lost Symbol” is the best book of the series. Could the fourth story be the one to finally transform me into a fan. I am not sure, but I will keep an opened mind. I am sure that is what Robert Langdon would advise.