Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Ben Foster, Omar Sy
Tom Hanks returns for his third run as Robert Langdon, Harvard professor and “symbologist.” He’s studied the works of Da Vinci and the Illuminati and is now tasked with putting his knowledge of Dante’s Inferno to the test. Bertrand Zorbist (Foster) is a high-profile scientist and speaker who has given lectures warning of the impending doom on the world’s overpopulation problem. He believes humanity is at risk unless drastic measures are taken. “Human is the disease. Inferno is the cure” are his dying words before jumping to his death. He has laid out a puzzle to be solved with his cure involving Dante’s work. It’s a frenzied way to open a movie, but it sets the ground running for the chase that follows. The film cuts to Langdon waking up in a Florence hospital, bloody and unsure how he got there. He’s also plagued with nightmares of the Black Plague and other apocalyptic visions. He learns from Dr. Sienna Brooks (Jones) that he is suffering from amnesia as a result of a bullet wound. They quickly find themselves on the run when an assassin posing as a cop makes her way into the hospital looking for Langdon.
Back at Dr. Brooks’ apartment, Langdon finds a government-issued tube in his jacket, which opens up revealing a bone fragment with markings and a pointer projecting an image of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. Langdon realizes the images have been distorted with letters and a phrase added onto it. They trace the updates back to Zorbist as this is one of his clues that he’s purposefully left behind for Langdon to find. With the Italian officials and the World Health Organization on their tail, Langdon and Brooks race against time to solve Zorbist’s plan before they’re captured.
Inferno now marks the third movie in this franchise, but it’s the fourth and most recent Robert Langdon book by Dan Brown. Director Ron Howard and his crew attempted to bring book three (The Lost Symbol) to the big screen but couldn’t make it work in a cinematic way. I completely get it as I read half of it and had to quit due to how idiotic it got. Let it be known that I rarely quit a book I’ve started. This gave me hope that Inferno must be better material if they went ahead with this one. If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons, you know they are escapist stories that are globe-trotting mysteries. While they deal with art, literature, museums, they are way too far-fetched to take them seriously. I am still baffled why people want to protest them or think that Brown’s fictional theories should be taken seriously.
I didn’t get a chance to read Inferno so I went in with a pretty open mind not knowing the twists Brown had in store. It should be known that Howard has stated that screenwriter David Koepp did alter the ending from the book to make it more cinematic. He also wrote Angels & Demons, so he has familiarity with Dan Brown’s world. Brown was a part of those creative decisions regarding the ending so hopefully fans should be able to adjust accordingly. Going in with an understanding of Brown’s style proves beneficial to an extent. There’s a forgiveness that can be applied if you can just go along for the ride. I was on this ride for the first half of the film. When the story sticks to learning more about Dante, Florence, the Palazzo, and other symbolism, it’s intriguing to explore the past and view the stunning architecture in Florence and Istanbul. I then become the Langdon character with wanting to figure out how it all fits together. If it just stuck to that and didn’t get so silly and convoluted with its character development and forced twists and turns, this could have been guilty pleasure viewing. I threw my hands in the air about halfway through with a big reveal involving a central character. I didn’t see it coming, but it completely ruined the movie. It cheapens a core bond that’s been built between two of the characters and basically states that anything is possible.
I struggle with movies like this where a majority of its flaws are direct results of the source material at hand. I can’t necessarily blame Ron Howard for Dan Brown’s pitfalls of being a writer. Maybe that’s where Howard and Imagine Entertainment have to realize that this concept is better left in book form. Maybe they suffer from trying to be too faithful. For characters as smart as Langdon and Brooks, Howard doesn’t always treat them as smart characters when they are seen running in broad day in an attempt to flee the authorities. They are not being very secretive or stealth with some of their actions. Koepp also has an abundance of side characters in play at any given time that all seem to be going after Langdon and Brooks. They’re introductions are poorly explained as a way of keeping them a mystery until later clues are given. Again, it could be Dan Brown’s fault but Koepp could have cut this down a bit.
I should give Ron Howard some credit as he does accurately keep the pace up to match the page turning speed of what it’s like to read Brown’s books. Langdon and Brooks don’t settle in one place for too long and the film works when you fully believe in them solving this mystery. Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) are strong enough actors to not steep too far into camp given the dialogue and actions of what’s being asked of them. I still cared about Robert Langdon’s character due to Hanks’ earnest performance. He too often gets a bad rap thanks to some happy-go-lucky Tom Hanks image people like to throw at him. There are subtle qualities with his performances that gives them a slight shift from the last one. This fall alone he’s done this, Sully, and hosted Saturday Night Live playing a bevy oddball characters. Go watch his David S. Pumpkins sketch if you need a good laugh. I like the Hanks and Howard collaborations, but I want them to officially move on to bigger and better scripts.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you are a die-hard Dan Brown fan.
RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS