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03 Nov 2016

Not-So-Towering 'Inferno': Tom Hanks and Ron Howard Return to the 'Da Vinci Code' Universe—With Inane Results

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Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Inferno. Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones in Inferno.

I am grateful for the existence of Inferno, Ron Howard’s latest installment in his Da Vinci Code film series.

Without Inferno, Tom Hanks would’ve had no reason to be out promoting a movie around Halloween time. Because he was, he stopped by Saturday Night Live to host for a ninth time. While there, he was in a totally bizarre sketch as David Pumpkins, a weirdo in a haunted house elevator ride accompanied by two beatboy dancer skeletons. The sketch is already a classic.

That’s it … that’s the only reason I am grateful for the existence of Inferno. David Pumpkins.

The film itself is easily the worst of the series, a series that was already pretty terrible in that both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons blew ass. Hanks returns as Robert Langdon, something the world’s most beloved actor shouldn’t need to do. This series needed to be put down after the first installment.

When Langdon wakes up in a hospital room, with a bullet scratch on his head and a loss of memory, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) is there to help. Then, somebody starts toward Langdon’s hospital room with guns a-blazing, and the so-called adventure begins.

Langdon is having hallucinations about something akin to Dante’s Inferno while trying to work his way through amnesia. He’s in Italy, and he doesn’t know why, but Sienna, for reasons unknown, is going to stay by his side until he works things out.

For starters … the amnesia gimmick is one of the most desperate plot gimmicks anybody could put in a novel or a screenplay. I was half expecting Robert Langdon’s evil twin brother, the villainous Michael Langdon, to appear and kick Robert in the balls. This feels like a cheap soap opera from beginning to end.

Also, if you are going to employ the amnesia gimmick, be consistent. Moments after barely being able to remember anything, Langdon manages to grab a laptop and use the Internet (even though he didn’t know what coffee was just seconds before). He then he remembers his password and surfs the net. So he has selective amnesia: He can remember intricate details about passwords and how to surf the net, but that darned coffee stuff mystifies him.

The main “puzzle” Langdon has to solve this time out is finding out where a doomsday bomb containing a virus that will wipe out the majority of the Earth’s population has been planted. If he doesn’t find the Make Everybody Sick bomb, it will be an apocalypse like no other. Gee, I wonder if he’ll find it. I wonder if the whole world will die in a Ron Howard movie.

The first quarter of the movie does have some decent visuals as Langdon has nightmares about a plague-infected Earth, although it makes little sense why he’s having them at all. Much of the rest of movie consists of Robert and Sienna running around, pausing to talk about some sort of puzzling business that needs to be solved, and then running around again. The puzzles, as in the prior films, are ridiculous.

Hanks is just going through the motions, having to spend much of the movie looking confused and sweating profusely. Jones is a good actress, but she’s given nothing to do with a completely ridiculous part. If you’ve seen the commercials for this one, you already know the fate Ben Foster’s character suffers. He wastes his time here (after a great performance in this year’s Hell or High Water) as a billionaire who thinks the world is due for a cleansing.

Apparently, author Dan Brown is at work on a new Langdon novel, due out in 2017. Given that Inferno is a bomb by all accounts, let us all hope we have seen the last of Hanks and Howard wasting their precious time on this series.

And if you haven’t seen the David Pumpkins SNL sketch yet, you need to Google that shit, pronto.

Inferno is playing at theaters across the valley.

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