On The Da Vinci Code
Now, firstly a review of the film's performance. It had a big opening weekend, grossing $77 million domestically. From then on, however, the film dropped off dramatically, making only (the still sizable) $34 million the following weekend. It has also performed quite well overseas. Let me explain that the film is clearly a huge success commercially, but what I'd like to address are three points:
1. The film's drop-off
2. The discrepancy domestic to foreign
3. The poor reviews for the film compared to solid book reviews
I think that everyone knew this film would have a huge opening. They would have had to have truly botched the film to an epic degree to have destroyed that opening weekend. The book was a huge seller and had great word of mouth and fan base, along with a relatively short span of time between the book's release and the film's (unlike the less successful bestseller-to-film adaptation of The Celestine Prophecy). And I think the sustained positive performance overseas has to do with the fact that Europeans, in particular, face deeper connections (both positive and negative) to the Catholic Church, and also relate more to the locations involved.
But the main thrust of what I noticed when reading the book addresses the first and third issues -- the film's drop-off and the digressive reviews. After the booming opening, negative word of mouth caught up with the film, leading to the drop-off. And why would the book be much stronger than the film version of the same story? Here's what I came away with when I read the book (looking at it through similar eyes to the ones I cover books with all the time).
What people really loved about this book were the ideas underscoring the whole thing. The critique of the church, based supposedly in history. The underground societies. The symbology, and the art it was buried in. Most of which cannot be translated well to the screen. If it were, it would entail a lot of talking heads with little action.
On the other hand, the action within the book is entirely standard, with very little to enliven it. It is there simply as a plot device to move the story along in even dosages while more and more of the thematic material is revealed. So when it is translated to the screen, we get a second rate action thriller, with above average underpinnings. And those underpinnings will necessarily have to be trimmed and toned down to avoid a too-talky film. Further weakening the visual aspects of the plot is the fact that many of the better surprises in the book came from a simple artificial withholding of information, which is harder to accomplish effectively on screen.
Ultimately, it goes back to the standard concept that what makes a good book is centrally different from what makes a good film. And though I have not seen the film, my guess is that this is what happened. The film was less than effectively made, and this caught up with it soon enough. At the same time, Sony was perfectly intelligent (from a business perspective) for making the film, as there was little chance that this film would lose money overall.
Now, any of this match what Scott had to say? I'll see soon enough! And of course, I haven't seen the film or read any reviews, so my comments might be completely off base! But it was a fun exercise anyway.
Tags: The+Da+Vinci+Code, screenwriting, book+to+film+adaptations