With no other big-budget competition this weekend, you’d be forgiven for thinking Inferno would catch fire.
Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon, intrepid Harvard University professor of religious iconology and symbology, in another Ron Howard-directed film adaptation of a Dan Brown book, the third in the Da Vinci Code franchise.
Despite its impressive pedigree, it fizzles. If you’re among those who thought the second installment (2009’s Angels and Demons) was less impressive than the first (2006’s The Da Vinci Code), know that Inferno is even worse than the second.
Beginning with violence and disturbing imagery out-of-place for both the franchise and director Howard, Inferno may have felt the need to compete with more action-oriented fare. After all, the physicality of Hanks’ professor Langdon is hardly on the level of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones; Langson’s shtick is much more cerebral, with lines akin to “This clue obviously leads to the basilica in the east wing, at 2:38 p.m. on a Thursday in leap year, of course!”
If the convoluted script involving Ben Foster’s apocalyptic cult leader Bertrand Zobrist developing a plague to wipe out most of earth’s population in order to save us from ourselves isn’t dense enough for you—combine it with Langdon starting off waking with amnesia in a hospital, which means he isn’t quite himself for most of the movie.
It’s a frustrating development made all the more annoying by a mid-movie explanatory twist that only ends up negating most of the film, while not addressing the many gaping plot holes that riddle it.
Surely a better version is on the cutting room floor somewhere, as character threads are left dangling, a third act reveal involving Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) surprises absolutely no one, and clunky exposition abounds to explain what the heck is going on. Strangely, left intact are multiple happy accidents so amazingly coincidental as to be laughable.
Lately, Howard has been so hit (The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, in theaters now; and Rush) and miss (In the Heart of the Sea and The Dilemma), it’s easy to forget he started off directing such beloved films as Cocoon, Splash and Night Shift in the `80s, and went on to Oscar-wining fare like Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. Let’s hope he finds his footing once again, but far and away from the Da Vinci series.
2 hrs., 1 min.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Dan Brown (based on the novel by), David Koepp (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Ben Foster