Dan Brown’s Books and Ron Howard’s Movies (Inferno Preview)

Movie previews

Hello!

In the middle of October, the latest Ron Howard and Tom Hanks collaboration – Inferno – will hit theaters. So, I decided to educate myself on the source material – the amazing bestsellers by Dan Brown as well as the 2 previous films of the franchise – and want to tell you all about my educational and entertaining journey into the world of Robert Langdon.

Dan Brown’s Books

While all of the books in the Robert Langdon series are stand-alone novels, I decided to read them in the order that they were published. My dad used to a big fan of this author’s work, so I had all the novels in my home library. I truly enjoyed reading this series that blends history and modernity beautifully; unravels the whole narrative in such a limited time frame (the stories span maximum of 2 days) and finds real facts to prove conspiracy theories (sort of). A few ideas about the 4 different accounts of the exciting adventures:

  • Angels & Demons – the first and my favorite book of the series. It was the freshest and the most original (because it came first) and it also had the biggest amount of action, mystery, and suspense. I loved the religion v science debate. I also liked the realism of the novel but had a few problems with the ending – it just seemed a bit over-the-top and unbelievable for such a grounded story.  The setting of Rome and Vatican was brilliant, though.
  • The Da Vinci Code – probably the most famous book of the series that explored the topic of art v religion and had quite an open ending that I still don’t know if I liked it or hated it. Either way, I loved learning about Paris.
  • The Lost Symbol – the most philosophical book of the series that dealt with science and spirituality and even magic. I really liked that Brown moved the action to the new world instead of focusing on Europe once again.
  • Inferno – with this book, the writer moved the plot back to Italy, where everything started (Angels & Demons was also set in Italy). The mixture of themes such as literature, art, medicine, religion, and humanism was really cool. The amnesia aspect was a great story device to kick-start the narrative. The idea of The Consortium as an underground organization with a lot of power was impressive too.

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In general, as I’ve said, I loved all of the works by Dan Brown. This series is like a virtual tour of historical cities that I desire to visit in real life as well. My only gripes with the books were 1. the repetition of story devices and 2. a slight overdramatization. After reading all of the volumes of the series, I started noticing that all of the female characters were kinda similar – they all were either daughters/granddaughters/sisters/lovers of the other important characters of the books. All of the 4 leading ladies were also used as the love interests for the main character but they never resurfaced a second time. Robert Langdon’s position was also always pretty much the same – he would be sucked into the action by accident and would usually become a temporary outlaw. The villains tended to be people from the outskirts of society that don’t fully fit in – they were either the assassins, the crazy monks, the revengeful family members or the misunderstood geniuses. Lastly, the author really seemed to like his ending twists – all novels revealed a lot of stuff during the last 20 pages and these ‘exposures’ totally turned things around and changed the stories almost completely.

The 2nd and 3rd books shared an idea that ‘people are not ready to find out some historical truth’, while the 1st and 4th novels focused on some kind of modern technologies that were used in the attempted destruction of the world for religious reasons. The 1st book was my favorite, while the following 3 all shared the runner’s up position.

Ron Howard’s films

The Da Vinci Code was the first book to be adapted into the film in 2006. 3 years later, the big screen adaptation of Angels & Demons was released. I don’t know why they decided to switch the order of the first two books when adapting them, especially, since I felt that Angels & Demons was the stronger novel and might have been a better starting feature of the franchise. I also have no idea why they skipped the 3rd book and decided to adapt Inferno instead. Also, why wait 7 years to adapt the next movie? I think that the audiences might have already forgotten the character of Robert Langdon, particularly, in the market oversaturated with thrillers, adventure films, crime dramas and superhero movies (Ron Howard’s adaptations have various aspects in common with all of these genres).

I also don’t understand why the two films have been panned by critics this much. The few reasons that I can spot in common between all the reviews is the fact that the movies have a lot of narration and that they critique the church – all the reviewers seem to be personally offended by this commentary. I also can not comprehend how the Catholic Church feels threatened by a piece of fictional entertainment/commercial art. Is the church really this weak to see a slightly diverging idea as a serious menace to its thousand year old history and a thousand year long world domination?

A few ideas about the two movies purely from the cinematic perspective:

The Da Vinci Code: 

  • The movie had a smaller amount of explanations and less backstory than the book, Langdon seemed to break the codes way more easily and without the key, and the family relations were altered too.
  • Small moments, like difficulties with the code at the bank and the second cryptex, were cut, but, in general, the picture was quite true to the book.
  • The narrative was more straightforward and streamlined for the film, so as to make in easy to follow to viewers not familiar with the book.
  • The filmmakers added more action in the literal sense of the word, although, they kept the quite underwhelming ending – I expected the film to finish with some big original action sequence since it was made in Hollywood.
  • The movie also had a lot of dialogue in French which is quite unusual for a Hollywood picture, which is primarily aimed at the English-speaking audiences.
  • The visuals of the past/explanatory flashbacks were really nice and interesting. They also served as a nice visual explanation to accompany the narration.
  • The supporting cast was full of big name talent. Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany both were really good and the lesser know (at least to me) French actors Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno were great as well.

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Angels & Demons:

  • This film was less faithful to the book and it had a variety of changes and things being cut.
  • Changes: Vetra’s father was replaced with a different scientist. Olivetti was not part of the Swiss Guard and the Vatican contacted Langdon, not CERN. The last cardinal was saved in the film, while he died in the book. The assassin was way less sadistic and eccentric and died differently. Lastly, the final suicide was public in the novel, but it happened in private in the picture and Langdon also received a different ‘thank-you’ gift.
  • Cuts: the director of CERN didn’t appear in the film. Vittoria wasn’t kidnapped at all. The biological son plotline was left out and Robert also didn’t go into the helicopter in the film, while he did that in the book.
  • However, the film kept the main thematical idea of the book – the whole tradition vs. modernity discussion. It also retained the little details, like Langdon’s passion for water sports and his Mickey Mouse watch.
  • The feature also had a way faster set-up than the book – it took the novel at least a hundred pages to start on the quest of looking for the Path of Illumination, while the film started to look for it after the first 15-20 minutes.
  • A few cool shots that I particularly enjoyed were: the whole sequence in the particle accelerator and the shot of the cardinals leaving their cell phones behind when entering the conclave.
  • The film had a nice supporting cast, although, the characters could have been fleshed out more. Ewan McGregor’s character seemed shady from the start, while Stellan Skarsgård’s character was unlikeable and hostile without any real explanation. Ayelet Zurer’s character also needed a lot of screen time before she grew on me as a likable protagonist.

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I hope you enjoyed this review of a franchise that spans a few mediums, both the cinematic and the textual one. I would really like to do more post like these. My Inferno review will come out as soon as I get a chance to see the film!

Have a great day!

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Movie review: Me Before You

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another film review of the summer. This time, we are talking about Me Before You – a book-turned-movie, whose story can shortly be described as The Intouchables meets The Fault In Our Stars.

IMDb summary: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of.

First of all, let me explain that comparison. Me Before You reminded me of The Intouchables in that both films had unlikely pairs, consisting of two very different, even opposing individuals. TFIOS and Me Before You are obviously similar in that they both showcase sad but hopeful love stories, which are cut short by health problems. In addition, both TFIOS and Me Before You are coming-of-age narratives. Their characters learn to live boldly, step out of their comfort zones and seize the day and, hopefully, spread this message to the viewers.

Writing: Book to Movie Changes and Jokes

Me Before You (the book) was written by Jojo Moyes and she also wrote the screenplay for the cinematic adaptation. So, not surprisingly, there were not any big changes to the story. A few minor things were left out of the film, but nothing too major or surprising. Almost all of the dialogue or at least the majority of the lines came straight from the book, so, since I’ve only recently finished the novel, I knew what the characters would say even before they opened their mouths.

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10 small changes:

  1. Will’s sister Georgina did not appear in the film. She didn’t do anything significant in the book, just stood in the corner and looked angry, so I can definitely see why they chose not to include her.
  2. Will’s dad was not cheating on his wife, at least we’re not told that. Will’s parents didn’t get on well because of Will’s desire to die and that is the same way in the book.
  3. Lou’s family also did not get much attention in the film, definitely less than in the book.
  4. Lou and her sister Treena had a much better relationship in the film than in the book.
  5. Lou’s age was changed from 27 to 26, Will’s – from 35 to 31.
  6. Lou’s had a chance to study in Manchester in the film, while in the book, she had tickets to Australia. She stayed in her hometown in both versions.
  7. Lou’s backstory with the maze and the events that happened there was not included in the film version of the story.
  8. Will’s love of classical music was not explicit. He enjoyed the concert that they went to, but he was also seen listening to dub-step(ish) music in his room.
  9. The tickets to the concert were purchased by Lou in the film, while they were a gift from Will’s friend in the book.
  10. Lou didn’t move in with Patrick in the film, while she briefly did that in the book. Patrick also didn’t know about Will’s wish to end his life, so he didn’t tell anyone this secret as he did in the book. Thus, all the journalists, who were trying to get Lou’s side of the story, when Will went to Switzerland, were not present in the film.

The film was a lot funnier than the book, although the jokes were the same. I guess there is a big difference between reading/imagining the joke and actually seeing/hearing it on screen.

Ending (SPOILER-Y PART)

Both the film’s and the book’s ending were the same. Will choose assisted suicide in Switzerland. It is quite a controversial ending, because euthanasia is such a difficult topic. I also have mixed feelings about it. I applaud the book and the movie for having such a bold ending and for sticking to the topic of individual choice till the end. At the same time, the ending is too sad and depressing to be truly enjoyable.

Directing: Montages, MES, and Favorite scenes

Me Before You was directed by a theater director Thea Sharrock and this was her cinematic debut. I think she did quite a nice job, I only wish she would have stopped Emilia Clarke’s over-dramatization in a few scenes. I liked the two montages – the one who showed the start of the relationship as well as Lou’s learning/planning experience. The opening of the film was also quite quick and condensed – they went over the first 100 pages of the book in 10 minutes or less. Sharrock also included a visual presentation of Will’s life before the accident in that birthday video, which was a good idea, because it gave the viewers more context which, in the book, was given through textual exposition. I also really liked the shots of the scenery – the castle – as well as the fact that they stayed faithful to Lou’s fashion sense from the book. Those bumblebee tights were definitely cute.

My 3 favorite scenes were Lou’s and Will dialogue on the beach. It was really sad but not TFIOS Eulogies sequence sad. The even more emotional scene was their last interaction in Switzerland. That one really got people crying in my screening. Lou’s and Will ‘dance’ at the wedding was also amazing to see.

Music

The film had an excellent soundtrack by Craig Armstrong, who has also recently scored another British romantic drama – Far from the Madding Crowd. I especially like the usage of Ed Sheeran’s songs – Thinking Out Loud and Photograph as well as Don’t Forget About Me by Cloves and Not Today by Imagine Dragons.

Acting

  • Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark. This was probably the first time that I shared a name (or at least a nickname( with a fictional character. Louisa shortens her name to Lou and I also do that with my name, especially when living abroad, in the UK. Having said that, my and Lou’s similarities end there and yet, I still felt connected to the character. In a few scenes, Emilia Clarke was over-acting a bit too much – Lou was supposed to be awkward but not in a cheesy way –  but overall, she did a nice job. I especially liked her facial expression the concert scenes – so happy just to be there and hear live music, probably for the first time. Last year, Clarke starred in the god awful Terminator Genisys and she was definitely the best part of that film. Her best performance to date is, of course, playing Daenerys on Game of Thrones. Next film on Emilia’s resume – another romantic drama – Voice from the Stone.
  • Sam Claflin as Will Traynor. Claflin is one of my favorite actors since his brief appearance in Pirates of the Carribean 4, live-action Snow White and later on in The Hunger Games series. Recently, he also starred in another romantic drama – Love, Rosie. He was great as Will – a likable a**hole, at least at the beginning. I also liked his facial expression at the concert – showing so many emotions at once and yet not too much. In addition, I think that Claflin did a nice job acting as a person with disabilities a.k.a. not being able to move but still performing/acting. Next on Claflin’s list of films – also a romantic movie, but this time a comedy – Their Finest.
  • Janet McTeer as Camilla Traynor and Charles Dance (Dracula Untold) as Steven Traynor did a good job with the few scenes they had. Seeing Dance and Clarke on screen together was pretty weird, though, after knowing their characters on GOT.
  • Brendan Coyle as Bernard Clark and Samantha Spiro as Josie Clark were also both really good. I liked seeing Coyle getting some work now that Downton Abbey is over. I especially liked his conversation with Lou in her bedroom.
  • Jenna Coleman as Katrina Clark was really charming in the film. Lou’s sister was quite annoying the book, but that, thankfully, was not carried over to the film. Coleman has a cult fanbase because she played a companion of Doctor Who on Doctor Who. I have yet to watch that show.
  • Matthew Lewis as Patrick. The last movie starring Lewis that I’ve seen was probably Harry Potter 8, so it was quite weird seeing him in Me Before You. He did a nice job portraying the Running Man and made him appear less of an a**hole than he seemed to be in the book. He wasn’t a great boyfriend, but then again, Lou should have ended things with him long ago.
  • Steve Peacocke as Nathan was also a great supporting actor. I liked his few interactions with Lou and I wish we would have seen him in a couple more scenes with Will, because in the book, they are quite good friends and like to bet on stuff that Lou will or won’t do.

All in all, Me Before You was an extremely faithful adaptation of a great book. It’s a romantic drama, so I don’t think that it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but the fans of the genre should definitely enjoy the movie. The writing and directing are good as well as the acting for the most part. I really enjoyed the film, although, I loved the book a tiny bit more.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Me Before You trailer

P.S. If you would like to follow Lou’s story, I suggest you read After You –  a sequel written by the author of the first book and the film’s screenplay.

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Movie review: The Giver + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

The Giver movie has finally opened in my country, so this is going to be my review!

From unknown Australian TV director Phillip Noyce comes The Giver – a childrens’ book by Lois Lowry adaptation to the big screen.

Summary:

Lowry’s book The Giver was released in 1993 (It took 21 years to make a movie out of this book!) followed by Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). Currently, I am reading the 3rd book and I am enjoying this series, it raises a lot of questions to me and shows what happens to people who forget what is important in life.

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Book to movie changes

The beginning of the movie seemed a bit rushed, they flew through the bigger part of the book in the first 20-30 minutes, so it was natural that they needed to make some stuff up and plus, they had only less than a 100 pages of the book material left. Basically, in my opinion, the book hadn’t had much action or a clear direction where it was going, to what final piece it was building up to. So, while adapting this sort of slow but thought provoking story into an action flick, they just cleared some things and organized the plot. They also upgraded the setting into a much more modern world which is more appealing to today’s viewers. I was really happy that they included more character development and focused a bit more on other characters instead of focusing just on Thomas. Of course, they added some romance, which is a must for a dystopian YA movie, as well. The last big change – picking a clear antagonist: The Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep.

Acting

Streep was amazing as usual. I also enjoyed other big movie stars like Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes and Jeff Bridges in their pay-check roles. Newcomers Odey Rush and Cameron Monaghan also did a nice job. Cameo form Taylor Swift was good but not too memorable. Rising star Brenton Thwaites, which is going to be in 2 more movie this year (Ride and Son of a Gun) and who was also in Maleficient as Prince Phillip and in The Signal (small budget, independent Sci-Fi thriller), did really good job in his role. I also liked how Brenton’s character Jonas spent the bigger part of the movie with a baby and showed that staying with a kids is not just woman’s work.

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Visuals

Now, speaking about the visuals, I loved the transition from black and white to color and I believe that it worked perfectly with the story. All the different shots of the memories seemed a bit chaotic but nice  as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and didn’t mind the changes because all the main plot points stayed the same and some dialogue lines were straight from the book. The film was touching, cute, pleasant but not too complicated. They portrayed human emotions believably, restored my faith in humanity and made me want to be alive and experience everything – even if just for a moment.

Trailer: The Giver trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Google Images