Movie Review: Inferno

Considering the amount of hype that came with the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, promotions for the Inferno film were relatively subdued. I only knew it was coming out because a friend told me about it. Are audiences finally getting tired of Robert Langdon? 

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For those who aren’t familiar with the titles, DVC, A&D and Inferno are all books by Dan Brown, revolving around protagonist Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor who often gets himself into sticky situations involving religious fanatics. The plot usually kicks off with Langdon becoming embroiled in a crisis that requires his expertise in symbology and history, and being pursued by assailants as he tries to save lives/put a stop to some catastrophe. Sort of like a modern day Indiana Jones, but more academic and with no horse whip.

What makes Inferno slightly different is that it crosses the boundary between historical/thriller to fantasy/sci-fi.

Synopsis 

Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memory of what has happened in the past 48 hours, but with visions of a Hell-like Earth. The doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) tells him that he has short-term amnesia from a bullet wound. A female assassin shows up at the hospital and attempts to barge into the room after shooting an attendant. Brooks helps Langdon out and they flee to her apartment.

While rummaging through Langdon’s belongings, the pair find an image projector with a modified version of Sandro Botticelli’s Map of Hell, based on Dante’s Inferno. They realize that it is a clue left by Bertrand Zobrist, a billionaire geneticist who believed that extreme measures should be taken to reduce the Earth’s growing population. He had committed suicide earlier after being chased by armed agents.

Chasing a trail of clues, they discover that Zobrist has created a virus called Inferno that could decimate the world’s population. Paranoid and with no clue on whom to trust, they evade law enforcement, assassins and the World Health Organization, (led by Langdon’s old friend Elizabeth Sinskey), journeying across various locations in Florence and Venice in a race against time to save the world.

Verdict 

Can you believe it has already been 10 years since Da Vinci Code first came out? *damn i feel old*. Hanks continues to do an awesome job at portraying the smart and resourceful Langdon – and to be honest, I can’t imagine any other actor pulling off the character with such convincing poise.

BUT. 

Inferno isn’t the best film out of the series. For me, A&D was. I might be biased, since the book itself wasn’t my favourite either.  The film is reasonably well-paced, with action and chase scenes interspersed with interesting insights into history and literature, which the series has become famous for. There are also a couple of plot twists at the end which are pretty good. (But then again I already know the story so xD)

But there are also some moments that seem to have been slotted in just to adhere to the book, but has no bearing to the movie at all. One such scene is Langdon’s hallucination of his friend Ignazio Busoni, who was helping Langdon before he lost his memory – we never really find out what happened to Busoni.

 

Imo, watch it just for the beautiful shots of Florence, Venice, and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. And for Langdon’s charisma, of course.

PS: The ending is different from the book. Not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the movie ending better than the book one.

Score: 6.5/10. 

Book Review – Inferno by Dan Brown

It takes me longer to finish a novel these days.

Back when I was in high school, or even college, I used to devour books at an alarming rate – I could finish a thick novel within two or three days. But that’s also because there were less distractions/responsibilites… these days I have work, household chores, gym.. so I try to squeeze in some reading before bedtime.

When Inferno came out in Malaysian bookstores in late 2013, I wanted to get it so bad. I have all of Dan Brown’s earlier novels: the DaVinci Code was a book I simply could not put down until I finished it (it left me with a void when it ended.. like my best friend just died). The price tag was a whopping RM99++ for a new release, so I said ‘forget about it’. I love books, but my wallet doesn’t allow.

I finally got the book two years later, when the book was going for just RM39.90. Sometimes good things are worth the wait!

Inferno is the fourth book in a series about Robert Langdon, the knowledgeable and lovable college professor who often seems to get caught up in dangerous things and end up having to use his expertise to a) look for extremely important lost treasure and b)avoid bad guys. What I really like about the character is that he’s an academician – unlike many beefy, swashbuckling heroes in novels. He is athletic from swimming, but that’s about it. He doesn’t know kungfu, nor does he have a whip; he can’t jump from high buildings and whatnot, but he is armed with something far more powerful – his knowledge. As an A-class nerd who has never been good at athletics, I can relate to that 😀

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Synopsis: 

Harvard Uni professor Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence, Italy with no recollection of the past few days. He is told by one of the attending doctors, Sienna Brooks, that he narrowly missed being shot in the head by an unknown assailant. A female assassin bursts in and attempts to shoot Langdon, so the two flee to Brook’s apartment. Once there, Langdon discovers he has been carrying a small cylinder with a biohazard sign, along with a mysterious message containing Italian painter Sandro Botticelli’s Map of Hell.

Of course, being a Langdon novel, the map is a clue to something else. Langdon accidentally discovers that Sienna is a child prodigy with extremely high IQ (how convenient – the perfect candidate for when you’re trying to escape from villains!). After putting a call to the US embassy, soldiers storm the building – causing Langdon to believe that his own gov is after him and that he can trust no one. The pair flee the building on a moped into the streets of Florence.

The clue hunt brings them to Dante’s death mask.  Dante was the Italian Renaissance poet who wrote the Divine Comedy, a poem describing his journey through hell (Inferno) and eventually, Paradise. By piecing together bits of info, the pair discover that the whole affair has something to do with Bertrand Zobrist, a brilliant geneticist. Zobrist believes that with overpopulation, the world will eventually collapse due to limited resources, leaving hell on earth similar to Dante’s Inferno – and he plans to release a plague on the world to thin out the human population. The location of the plague’s ground zero is hidden within the clues, and both Langdon and Brooks has to find it (while dodging the soldiers, the organisation that supports Zobrist) before time runs out for humanity.

Verdict: 

I was a tad disappointed with Inferno. But just a smidgen. Storywise, it is similar to all of his other novels – a Langdon-style treasure hunt –  but this time around, Brown takes a bold move by stepping into the realm of science fiction. It is different, not in an entirely bad way, but seems tailored for a blockbuster film (Inferno has been made into a film by the way, scheduled to release in Oct 2016). Of course, it is hard not to compare it to his earlier series. Inferno lacks the brilliant originality of the DaVinci Code. At times, it feels quite… lazy and things have a way of being too convenient for our college professor.

At the same time, Langdon’s amnesia was a nice touch to create a more challenging environment – with no memory, he is groping in the dark to find answers, along with the reader. Why are people chasing him? What important message is he carrying? There is not one, but TWO plot twists at the ending which is… believable, but just barely.

Throughout the novel, as per his previous works, Brown describes the places in detail – taking the readers on a visual journey through words. As Langdon and Brooks race through Florence and later Venice, the description of the buildings and popular historical monuments took me back to when I visited Europe after my post graduation studies (ah, nostalgia!)

The novel raises a very good question about overpopulation, a prominent theme in the story. It is a real problem that has no easy solutions. As Brooks asks Langdon at one point : “If you could flip a switch to wipe out half of the human population, would you?” By doing so, you save the species from extinction, but you might kill your family and friends by flipping the switch.

The way it is, our resources will deplete very soon if the population continues to grow. And that is an extremely scary thought.

WorldPopulationGraph_yearPre7000BCto2025AD_metalAges_703x578

Score: 7/10. Not his best book, but not bad either, especially towards the end.

‘The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of great moral crisis”. 

 

Book Review – The Da Vinci Code

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Okay. So I’m reading this 140928 years after everyone else.
It was published in 2003, back when I was just still in high school, so you could understand that my tastes were more towards R.L Stine, Francine Pascal, JK Rowling and the like. It was only recently that I got it for it’s 10th year anniv, since it was going for 30 bucks.
When it first came out, it raised a storm among Christians for it’s controversial content of ‘alternative religion theory’. The storyline suggests that Jesus had a mortal bloodline through his marriage to Mary Magdalene. Me not being Christian, I could read the thing with absolute impartiality. And I have to say Dan Brown writes a really well researched text that is rich with symbology, crpytic messages and hidden images. It conjures in our minds the possibility that all we have believed in and been told have secret stories behind them.
One particular theme that Dan Brown mentioned was the demonisation of the sacred feminine by Christianity, due to the fact that Christendom was a patriarchal religion. He mentioned many references –  Eve was made from the rib of Adam, Eve partook the bite from the apple and so bore sin down on mankind which woman has had to bear for generations. The Knights Templar – France’s famous counterpart to England’s Knights of the round table – were accused of occult worship because of the Baphomet figurehead, a ram, which has come to be the symbol of the devil.
Some very interesting bits in the novel seem to have some hint of logic. For example, the ram was a symbol of fertility and empowerment to the female reproduction and her ability to give life, before it became associated to the devil. Paganism, essentially promoted the divinity of females, hence the term the ‘sacred feminine’. However, the fundamentals of Christianity being a mainly patriarchal religion, pagan beliefs challenged the very foundations of the church and had to be dealt with in order to divert everyone to a common belief. Which is why you had witch burning practices, the demonisation of symbols that used to be sacred into ‘deviants’ and ‘heretics’.
I’m not surprised if that WAS the case. It definitely sounds like what modern society is doing to certain groups, doesn’t it? The whole Islamophobia that we have now is a perfect example to how certain powerful groups in the world see the need to ‘demonise’ and rally the people against a common ‘enemy’, like ‘communists’,’LGBTs’, etc. And it isn’t just them. It seems like humans always have a need to make out the Good Vs Bad. Like in the East where the West is bad, vice versa.
Okay I’m rambling off topic again.
The story involves a lot of thrilling problem solving on the side of the protagonists (Robert Langdon/Sophie Neveu) as they race against time to solve the clues left by Sophie’s grandpa Jacques Sauniere, who was a member of a secret occult dedicated to preserving an ancient secret. Well ofc there are forces out there who would stop at nothing to get the valuable secrets that could change the face of one of the biggest religions on earth. And so Rob and Sophie run around libraries and museums, churches and ancient crypts, all the while being chased by a murderous albino monk intent on stopping them.
I have to say it’s a great book. The opening might be a little boring but once you immerse yourself in it you won’t be able to put it down. For fans of historical fiction, definitely your cup of tea.
I haven’t watched the movie before so I can’t tell you if the book /movie is better.
Rating: 7.5/10. 
Pretty good book. High re-read value. I’ll probably fish it out after a couple of months to go through it again.