It’ll be interesting to see what ends first; the movie adaptations of Dan Brown or the life force of Tom Hanks. As we now step into trilogy territory for the Robert Langdon series of books, it’s about time we question the longevity of these movies. The main problem now is that we are getting out of familiar territory. The key problem we are getting into now getting out of familiar territory for most and became embodied in more obscure history. The subject matter in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons are both somewhat familiar to most, and because of that interweaving thriller elements on top of stories of Illuminati and Jesus Christ is a bit more interesting. For Inferno, much of the story flows around the work of Dante Aleghieri, someone I myself was unfamiliar with prior to the book, and would be safe to assume I wouldn’t be alone in that boat.
The narrative of the film then focuses around billionaire Bertrand Zorbrist, a man who’s twisted foresight of a world on the brink of extinction leads him to concoct a virus he intends to use to cull the earth’s population. For some reason or another, he leaves a trail of clues in the work of Dante that allows for Langdon and his compatriot Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to have a brief hope of finding the virus before it’s released on the world.
The characters jump about across Europe in the film covering Florence, Venice and Istanbul but they actually skip on quite a lot of the history. Ron Howard appears to have shared in my viewpoint expressed earlier in that overbearing the audience with historical information on something they are clueless about may more likely alienate than educate them. As much as it was the right decision, it leads Inferno to lose the only thing these films have that stand them apart from your mundane thriller.
Not only that, but the film does take some time getting into the swing of things. There’s several factions invested in this virus and none of them are fully explained, to the point where I myself was scouting my memory bank to remind myself of who was who. The film does pick up its pace in the second act and is actually tense, at points gripping, but there’s no real bonus for getting your wheels set on the track so late. Until that point, Ron Howard does nothing but confuse and disorientate.
For those who read the book and have yet to see the film, you can skip this paragraph. It was quite interesting to see that the film version chose to change much of the ending of the book, and in my opinion was a choice well made. In the book version you discover the virus had long been released prior to the events of the book, and that it causes sterility in a third of the population. That would have been too much of a contentious plot point that would have caused more questions than answers, and Howard recognised that Inferno would not achieve merit for creating moral discussion points post credits. Instead, he went for a simplistic action thriller and was more able to achieve that formula because of the changes.
I think my problem with Inferno was that the book left a sour taste in my mouth that I never got over. Ron Howard did nothing to dispel my conception of the piece and other than a few exciting moments as the film got towards the final act I was left unimpressed. The Lost Symbol was skipped over as it was felt it would be too similar tonally to the other two films, but I don’t see why you would change something that was working so well for them, as far as box office figures go. If this one doesn’t set cinemas alight, then it may finally be time for Robert Langdon to enter retirement.