Thursday, June 12, 2008

Over the brink...

Okay, I'm ready to report. But first, the catalyst behind the controversial rentals.

Yesterday I finished reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I wished many times on the mission that I had read it before I left, especially since with the movie release came a lot of discussion and controversy, and I wished I could contribute informedly on the subject, so when I came home, it was on my list of to-read books. Here, I only want to give you a somewhat brief review, just a glimpse of my feelings after reading it. And they are these: Line-blurring pseudo-historical fiction with a not-so-subtle agenda. I have a problem with historical fiction in general, but especially when they start to bring religious doctrine and theology into the mix (don't get me started on The Work and the Glory...). And, let the reader recall that Dan Brown has made claim after claim that the book is "99% accurate", and even provides a disclaimer at the very outset claiming that the contents are historically consistent. I understand that this is a work of fiction, but it just gets too close and takes too many liberties with too many important facts to be overlooked (and yes, people ARE taking this book more seriously than it deserves, which is the cause for any concern I might have about it). It IS well-written, which makes it even that much more convincing, and thereby that much more dangerous (as it were). In the end, I resent the novel's authoritative claims that Da Vinci was a "flamboyant homosexual", that Noah was an albino, and that Walt Disney was a rampant Freemason, not even getting into the Holy Grail/goddess worship/Christ as mere mortal (or rather, Christ's divinity being the result of a vote) issues. While I understand how they can enjoy this book, I really don't know how people, especially Christians, can read it and miss the blatant anti-Christ overtones. Some say that you find what you want to find when reading something like this, but there are some things that are inherently there, whether or not you want to find them. (FYI, my sister Cami has written an excellent essay on the book, which can be found here.)

And now, onto the movie reviews... Spoilers naturally abound.

First, I straightaway watched the film version of aforementioned novel. I thought the whole thing was rushed pacing-wise, and also that the characters came across as wooden and caricatured, rather than layered and interesting, as at least they were portrayed in the novel. But at least some of the easier mysteries were solved more quickly (which annoyed me in the book... If even I can guess what something means, surely these geniuses can). In the film, a lot of the mystery was lost and the denoument/ending was mutilated beyond recognition. I will say that the film was decidedly less propagandistic, and even considerably less controversial in its theories and claims (for instance, the myths and legends of the Grail were not readily accepted and celebrated by Langdon in the film as they were in the novel, rather they were most openly espoused by Leigh Teabing, who of course is portrayed as a bit of a fanatic). It's almost like the filmmakers wanted to make a slightly more Christian-friendly version of the story, a little more politically correct or something. Langdon even makes some relatively redeeming comments throughout the film that, incidentally, his character would never have said in the novel. Anyway, it was a relief when it was over, and while I found the novel more exciting, action/mystery-wise, I found the movie a little less unsettling as far as its smug, authoritative claims go.

And now, for tonight's addition to the marathon of questionable material, I watched the film adaptation of the first novel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, The Golden Compass. Again, I had read a lot about this, including Pullman's unashamed admission that the books have an anti-God allegory intertwined (think of it as the antithesis to the glorious Narnia series, in nearly every way). I decided, after a couple of recommendations and of course my own curiosity and desire to maintain an educated and informed opinion, to watch, and have to say that, just as a film, it was disappointing. Disjointed, confusing, and I just kept wondering when it was ever going to end, and how it could end satisfactorily (which it didn't). The film was less blatant in its propagandistic quality (seems like a trend...), but it was still there. The thing is that any atheistic slants just made the whole project seem sort of... bitter and vindictive. Like, the author was saying, "I'm so sick of God and Christianity that I'm going to make a story that is SOOOO anti-God that it will shock people and offend Christians everywhere!" Kind of childish, and not creative enough to validate such an attitude. It was left WIDE open for a sequel, but it doesn't seem like this film made enough to qualify for a sequel. Just another fantasy film trying to catch a ride on the wave of the far-superior recent book-to-film successes of the works of Rowling, Lewis and Tolkien. I should have known this thing would be a joke when, mingled with the previews at the start of the disc, a completely propagandistic ad about global warming and its negative effect on polar bears played, featuring Lyra (the main character) and other characters from the film. I almost wretched right there.

Anyway, that's all, really. At least all that I want to say here and now. I'm not about to start picketing or anything, I just am glad to know what the hullabaloo is about. Maybe if I were a Catholic, I would take more of an issue with both issues in question, but I'm mostly annoyed that those four hours of my life were spent satisfying a sort of morbid curiosity.

I guess they can't all be Narnia, can they?


  1. Thank you for the informative reviews. Now I will not waste my time on either film! Way to take one for the team.

  2. Even controversy aside, both of those have never peaked my interest. I am very particular about my fantasy movies, and if they aren't how I like them, then I can't watch them. Odd, I know. As for DaVinci, that definitely has never interested me. I do not like historical fiction, it bores me.

    If I am going to read something, as I am very selective about my literary choices, it had better be worth my while, and I would rather not spend my time reading anything that even has been deemed anti-Christ, when there are so many other uplifting, worthwhile things out there!

    But I guess you can say that you have read/watched them, eh? For credibility purposes.

  3. Great to read that you got to see both movies. I didn't really like the Da Vinci Code movie, but I really liked the book. Actually still one of my favorites. So I guess to each his own. And I can't really say that I know much about the Golden Compas, because I haven't seen or read it. But now I wont even bother. In the end, its better to just "believe" in docterinely correct books isn't it? :) Thanks for the reviews.

  4. Yes, very informative. Have you read my thoughts on The Da Vinci Code? I wrote a whole essay on the book, and a blog about the movie.

    I boycotted the Dark Materials trilogy all together. So I have not much opinion on it. I hear it really gets bad by the 3rd book.

  5. Yes, Cami, I have read your essay, and I quite liked it. Is it on your blog? I should have a re-read, and maybe even link to it on this post. But I haven't read your thoughts on the movie yet. I'm on it.

    Edit: I found it, find the link at the end of my book review.

  6. yes, there are much better movie treatments of much better books. Oh, and Lili, the word is "piqued".

  7. You seem to capture a lot of the same thoughts with books and movies that I have. I never read or saw the Da Vinci Code because everything I heard about it annoyed me. The had a lecture series about the implications of the book at BYU for crying out loud. It's a work of FICTION people, it's not an inspired work!

    I lost any desire to see The Golden Compass after I heard what a dork the author was. Everything I've read about him makes him sound pretentious and self centered.

    Thanks for saving me some time!

  8. Okay, so when I read Code, however many years ago, I never caught any of the Anti-Christian business. But, I pose a question: Do you suppose that my passing over all that while I read is just like when you watch a movie with subliminal messaging? Somewhere in the back of my mind am I secretly becoming more Kohorish?

  9. First of all, I don't know how you could have missed it (especially since koj txawj ntse kawg nkaus) when they say things like, "Jesus Christ's divinity was the result of a vote", etc. Second, I suppose it could be related somewhat to movies with subliminal messages, except that this is hardly subliminal. Any messages guiding and pressing us toward Kohorism would truly be subtext, whereas I feel Dan Brown is hardly trying to hide what he's trying to say.