Review: Blessed-with-curse Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks for 3 times in a row), returns to a Ron Howard-directed adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel, Inferno. While it’s originally the fourth entry, but given Sony’s reputation in switching The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons chronologically, dropping a National Treasure-sque The Lost Symbol to pave the road for Dante-inspired Inferno might seem clinical.
While, technically, Inferno is Dan Brown’s most filmable novel and, undeniably, the weakest among others; what happens in Howard’s Inferno proves that, by far, adapting Dan Brown’s into a good film without convoluted plot is still a chimera, a nearly impossible thing.
The Da Vinci Code is troubled with pace and effectiveness; Angels & Demons could work out well with the pace, but not the effectiveness. Inferno, on the other hand, is well-paced and surprisingly effective in narrating the story; but, it missed the most substantial element: details and complexity.
Starting out with a terrific exposition about the world’s overpopulation by a transhumanist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), then it goes straight up into an enigmatic dream-like scene – which might be taken directly from Botticelli’s Map of Hell. It leads to the protagonist, Langdon, wakes up alone in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with short-term memory loss, only to find himself a target of a manhunt. With the assistance of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), he tries to remember what has happened to him and what trouble he’s been gotten into. Then, what’s it with Zobrist, Map of Hell and Langdon? That’s what Inferno tries to cerca trova a.k.a. seek and find out.
This premature sequel manages to deliver a sense of urgency to the narrative, better than those predecessors. It also manages to have a complex villain in Zobrist; a realist with transcended thoughts to what he believes as an act to save the earth. To accomplish his purpose, he created a bio-weapon of mass destruction. The best thing is: he remains a shadow villain; giving new urgency to Langdon’s repetitive puzzle-solving and escape mission.
A much perplexed and innocently sinister setup is followed by another series of a chase scene, where Langdon with his new female companion, travel from museum to museum, observe and eventually vandalize classic arts only to solve a series of puzzle—which gets so blurred that we forget to whom these puzzles are addressed. On the run, the film’s recurring theme about corrupted humanity, which needs cleansing, goes in line with the repetitive dream-like vision and false memory projection Langdon constantly gets. Then, what makes other Dan Brown’s adaptations suffer gets into Inferno, as the plot gets too convoluted and repetitive.
Many elements of Dan Brown’s Inferno are accessible to get filmed in a more casual fashion—less preachy, more actions. However, the sake of plot effectiveness in Inferno gives the impression that each puzzle is too easy to solve. Also, Inferno neglects all the details that make the book an insightful thing to read; it focuses more on the protagonist being partially amnesiac (or repetitively passing out) than on portraying a bunch of eggheads does the clever moves. Worse came worst, the decision to finally explain all the twist in details to the audiences makes what’s bland blander.
The final 20 minutes might actually harbor the rest 100 minutes when Ron Howard beautifully staged another cerca trova scene in Istanbul. Realizing that the time is ticking off on-screen (and off-screen), Howard escalates the tension into a jet coaster of thrills. It gives a perfect illusion that, despite the staggering build-ups, Inferno will conclude in a poignant fashion.
However, the creative decision to change the original ending from the book into a safe, happier ending wipes off the essence of the final 20 minutes. It makes the twist and the discussion of humanity looks mundane, impact-less, and pointless. When bitter endings of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were failed to get transmitted properly, the decision to make Inferno’s less bitter is undeniably lame.
Inferno might still look smart on the surface, but it really doesn’t give you pleasure on what you expect from Dan Brown’s adaptation, although it’s easier to follow.
Action, Crime, Drama Directed by: Ron Howard Written by: David Koepp based on the novel by Dan Brown Starred by: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen Runtime: 121 mins Rated PG-13
This review is supported by Book My Show Indonesia.