The Da Vinci Code Review

In a bid to curtail piracy some studios choose not to make their films available for review around this time of year, or in some cases (as with The Da Vinci Code) they only send out the extras disc for review. It’s obviously working for them as retail copies of The Da Vinci Code have only been around since early September (roughly the same time as this disc arrived), but who are we to judge the studio’s piracy fighting tactics?

If you want to read a review of The Da Vinci Code then I’ll point you in the direction of Kevin O’Reilly’s theatrical review, one that for the most part I agree with fully based on my own cinema excursion earlier this year. Unfortunately with no film disc in hand there is also no audio/video to score, so these sections along with a score for the film are being left null and void. There are however no extras on the main feature disc of the set, so the extras section can be appraised in its entirety.

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So, what can you expect from disc two of this release? Essentially you’ll find ninety-minutes of featurettes which can be viewed individually or, as I chose to view them, via a ‘Play-All’ feature. All are cut together from the same source material which comprises of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. This gives the proceedings a cohesive feel and allows you to settle down to what could be a production documentary as it takes us through various aspects of the shoot from the casting and characterisation to the locations, day-to-day shooting and finally the music. The interviews and commentary over footage is provided by the key cast and crew, with director Ron Howard featuring quite heavily alongside author Dan Brown (who was also executive producer), producer Brian Grazer, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and all major cast members right down to the secondary characters who are covered in the “Unusual Suspects” featurette.

Breaking down the featurettes one by one you’ll find that none delve too deeply into their subject matter, such as the “Discussion with Dan Brown” which could have looked closely at the differences between the novel and the film but instead charts the success of the book and how Dan is handling his new found fame. Elsewhere the character featurettes which examine the casting and characterisation of Langdon and Sophie are both interesting and feature some good insight to the direction taken. Certainly I was surprised to find that a lengthy French actress casting call took place instead of them immediately settling on the one French actress a mainstream audience could pick out of a crowd, but largely these pieces tell us little that we haven’t already taken from the film. We do learn that Ron and Tom were thrilled to be working together again, and of course both can’t praise the book highly enough, but these comments are always backed up with some reasoning and this helps to keep the proceedings informative rather than promotional. In fact it’s not until the two-part “Filmmaking Experience” featurette where you see the talking-heads directly selling the movie, speaking of what it has to offer audiences and their favourite moments, but even then it’s relatively sincere and comes at the end of roughly 35-minutes worth of location shooting which is interspersed with interviews and commentary on the work that has gone into the production. A highlight is listening to Ron Howard explain how Jean Reno became his go-to guy for the French language sections, essentially using Reno to judge the performances given that Howard doesn’t understand French.

One of the most interesting segments is the “Magical Places” featurette, which takes us behind-the-scenes of the various location shoots including the work that went into securing the Louvre for just four nights, how they transformed a Cathedral in Lincoln to appear like Westminster Abbey and so forth. These pieces offer some good insights to the work involved on high profile location shoots, and are developed further in the all-encompassing “Filmmaking Experience” featurettes where an interesting topic is briefly covered, that of how one day it might become impractical to shoot on location when a soundstage is cheaper and the backgrounds can be created in the digital domain. This would be a true shame but no doubt will someday become the norm.

One featurette that offers very little is the “Close-up on Mona Lisa”, in which the cast and crew simply offer their thoughts on Leonardo’s famous painting and how wonderful it was be in the Louvre with it all alone. Still, it’s worth watching if only for Ian McKellen’s wonderful throwaway remarks.

For completeness sake there is also a “First Day on Set” featurette which just sees Ron Howard explain how excited he is to be there, while “The Music of The Da Vinci Code” sees the usual discussion on motivations and what the music has to bring to the piece. Lastly there is “The Codes of The Da Vinci Code” in which we learn that Dan Brown and Ron Howard worked in several symbols and clues to the film, usually seen in the background, which represent various messages and characters when deciphered. This featurette does that for you.

Subtitles are provided for all content in the following languages: English, French, German, Italian, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, and Portuguese.

Overall

The extras package for The Da Vinci Code is fairly comprehensive in terms of aspects of the production covered, though not as detailed as I would have liked. The material is however well edited and when viewed as a whole or in part was varied enough to hold my interest.

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