Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Da Vinci Code Sequel, Or Prequel

It's been confirmed that there is to be a DVC followup film from the same writer-director team, and Tom Hanks is to star in it again. Production is set for early 2008, with a release at Xmas. Press reports say he is being paid more money than any star in history to resume that 1970s-style ageing-academic mullett haircut that caused as much critical comment as the plot itself. But the new film will not be a sequel, though one was promised for delivery in 2006, titled The Solomon Key.
Booksellers have been eagerly awaiting his next formula thriller, which reportedly deals with how America was designed by the Freemasons as a model state reflecting their own mythology (pyramid and 'all-seeing' eye on the back of the dollar bill etc). The delay is beginning to cause comment in the media gossip columns, three years having gone by since DVC apppeared in 2003. Apparently the title The Solomon Key may be abandoned. This may reflect Brown's penchant for literary jokes. The joke would be all those guidebooks that jumped the gun with titles along the lines of “A Guide To The Solomon Key” will all have to be recalled and rewritten.
Angels And Demons coverBrown may be hypersensitive since his plagiarism case brought by the two Holy Blood Holy Grail co-authors, and another brought by a US author. Though he was declared not guilty of copyright infringement, the judge said he had used parts of HBHG, and more or less accused Blythe Brown of avoiding testifying for fear of self-incrimination. His working methods were exposed as largely consisting of using chunks of info cribbed from two dozen other books plus Google searches done by his wife, so that he scarcely knew what his sources were. And book after book pointed out he had almost every single detail wrong, despite his preface claiming the novel's background was factual. This may be the real reason why the author himself recently announced the new book "is not yet near completion" - reportedly not a single word has been submitted to the publishers. It would be quite understandable if Brown was feeling cautious about issues of accuracy and originality, which would put a strain on his output, as his work is so inherently derivative.
Thus the filmmakers have been forced to look at his earlier Robert Langdon adventure Angels And Demons. It's a classic good-v-evil title, but the conspiracy theory is not one with a broad popular appeal like DVC's. (This time, Langdon is trying to protect the Vatican from a bomb set by that notional, all-knowing group The “Illuminati”.) Brown admitted in court the DVC's main theme of the church suppressing the role of women like Mary Magdalene was actually his wife Blythe's idea. His earlier books are just techno-thrillers like Digital Fortress or contrived Vatican-conspiracy cum techno-thrillers like Angels And Demons. None of these earlier books did anything like the massive business DVC did, after word-of-mouth support from conspiracy-conscious Americans who had never been interested in HBGH ideas in nonfiction format, but could take them on board as part of a formula conspiracy thriller. And the earlier Robert Langdon book also seems prey to the same criticisms of inaccuracy of background detail and contrived formula writing. For details, see this summary of Angels And Demons's plot.
It's hard to believe anyone really expects the film to have any word-of-mouth support, any appeal beyond curiosity. The filmmakers will no doubt make improvements on Brown's hopeless dialogue and plotting, but would probably have been better off writing an original Robert Langdon adventure, which would not be all that difficult, given the formula is so well established. And almost any professional writer could do a better job than Brown himself.