“Humanity is a disease.”
Fess up: which one of you keeps seeing these dreadful Dan Brown/Robert Langdon/Ron Howard/Tom Hanks movies? Someone has to be, or else they wouldn’t keep making them. When Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code hit bookstores and airports everywhere in 2003, it was a blockbuster best seller that had everyone asking: did Jesus really get down and dirty with Mary Magdalene? In Brown’s potboiler the answer was a resounding yes, and the holy couple had a child. And that bloodline has been kept alive for centuries, much to the chagrin of the Vatican. With the book being the hit that it was, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling. And so, director Ron Howard turned The Da Vinci Code into a dull, globe-trotting adventure in 2006. That should’ve been the end of it, but since there were more Brown books, Howard apparently thought it would be a good idea to keep turning them into movies. Da Vinci was followed by the absolutely terrible Angels & Demons, and now here comes Inferno! I think I speak for everyone when I say: stop it, Ron Howard. Please.
David S. Pumpkins himself, Tom Hanks, returns as symbologist Dr Robert Langdon, a character who can’t help getting himself involved in culturally-infused, wacky Scooby-Doo-style mysteries. This time, though, the stakes are much higher. In the previous Langdon adventures, he was merely dealing with conspiracies and secret societies. Now he’s up against the possible extinction of the human race. Ben Foster plays a crazy billionaire (is there any other type?) who is sick of how overpopulated the planet has become. His solution? Build a weapon that will kill a huge chunk of the world’s population. There’s also some mumbo-jumbo in there about how this mass murder will usher in a new Renaissance, because sure, why not.
You’d think a guy with an evil plan to slaughter nearly half the population would keep things on the down-low. But Foster’s baddie has left a trail of clues deatiling how to locate his weapon, and the clues are related to Dante Alighieri, because sure, why not. Since these films require Hanks’ Langdon to team up with a younger, attractive female sidekick, he partners with Felicity Jones’ Dr. Sienna Brooks. On top of all this, Langdon has amnesia. Because sure, why not.
Inferno is a movie tailor-made for rainy afternoon TV reruns; the type of lackluster entertainment that elderly fathers to fall asleep to in arm chairs. It confuses “running” with “forward momentum”, but for all the trotting the characters do they never seem to get anywhere. The fad of Brown’s work has long since passed, so it’s doubtful even his loyal readers are chomping at the bit for this. Hanks and Jones are both incredibly talented actors;hell, Hanks is one of our most entertaining living performers! And he’s still got it! Just look at the recent, aforementioned David Pumpkins skit if you don’t believe me. Yet neither Hanks nor Jones can rescue us from the drudgery that is this film. What sin have we committed that we must be cast into the fires of this Inferno?
Ron Howard gets a lot of guff for his workman-like, crowd-pleasing films, but the fact is the director is better than he’s given credit for. He’s even made some genuinely great movies (see Cinderella Man, since you clearly didn’t see it in theaters). But the filmmaker has always been out-to-sea with this particular franchise, and it’s rather baffling why he feels the need to keep coming back to it. Why not just stay on with an executive producer credit, collect a paycheck, and let some other sap direct these dull adventures? The answer must be that Howard genuinely enjoys making these films. It’s a pity we can’t share in his enjoyment when we watch them.