Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, February 17, 2006
      ( 2/17/2006 01:07:00 PM ) Bill S.  

THE DARK CON – Been reading long-untouched books off the shelves recently and zipped through The Da Vinci Code earlier this week. Bought the hardback over a year ago as a remaindered book, but with the Ron Howard movie imminent, I decided to finally dig into Dan Brown’s novel. The 450-page book proved a quick read – author Brown makes what could be a yawningly convoluted codes-&-conspiracy yarn compelling by wrapping it in one extended chase – though he telegraphs every big revelation pages ahead of time and has a tendency to over-repeat info that he doesn't have confidence we'll retain. At times, this dullard reader was bugged by Brown's attempts at baby stepping me through the material.

Still, I enjoyed Code's basic religious conspiracy – even if it is, as more than one religious historian has pointed out, steeped in extremely dubious history. At one level, Brown has written a more flat-footed variation on the ultra-intricate Illuminatus Trilogy in the way he takes crack-brained conspiracy theories and treats 'em as if they're all perfectly reasonable. (Perhaps the biggest broad stroke is his depiction of an underground group, the Priory of Sion, which apparently was invented by an anti-Semitic Frenchman in the 1950's.) And if his Opus Dei agents read more like members of S.P.E.C.T.R.E than they do the conservative Catholic offshoot we vaguely recognize thanx to Mel Gibson, well, that's the stuff of Big Pop Thrillers, right?

So, taken with a big handful of Mrs. Dash, Da Vinci Code is a decent entertainment, even if Brown bobbles his ending big time. Scholar hero Robert Langdon is pretty much a stiff: though described as resembling a fortyish Harrison Ford, he doesn't possess a fraction of the dash or personality Ford displays as Indiana Jones, the character we're supposed to mentally conjure. Aside from his professorial demeanor, the only discernible piece of characterization he receives is the occasional moment when he feels guilty about involving another character in his perilous adventure. Hardly an inspiring figure, though I suspect that the upcoming movie's choice of Tom Hanks as Langdon over Ford Himself is closer to the book's protagonist. Hopefully, Hanks'll be able to make this hero cipher a recognizable human being . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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