From Book to Bore

Inferno is a messy, nonsensical continuation of the Robert Langdon series

From Book to Bore
Maybe Tom Hanks should make a David Pumpkins movie instead of going to the Da Vinci series again.

I'm not sure any of this movie makes sense on any level whatsoever. And that's saying something, considering that it's based on a Dan Brown novel.

See, there's this tech billionaire name of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster). Instead of funding the eradication of all disease like Mark Zuckerberg does, he spends his power and money on developing a virus that will wipe out half of humans before we get to a Soylent Green situation (overpopulation, resource depletion, eating the dead in cracker form, etc.). OK, but what does that have to do with "symbologist" Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, reprising his Da Vinci Code character)?

Funny you should ask: Langdon is having some weird and perhaps prophetic dreams about Dante's epic poem Inferno — the one with all the circles of hell — and maybe Zobrist's virus is called Inferno, but still, why would an art historian who runs around photogenic old European plazas and museums have any connection to a very 21st-century bioweapon? Well, Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital with amnesia in his brain and a high-tech medical vial in his pocket: it has a biohazard warning symbol on it; could it be the virus? Also, some shady characters are trying to kill him for nefarious reasons, probably. So now he's on the run with no memory of how he got into this mess, or even what kind of mess it is — but he still knows who he is, and who Dante is, thanks to the help of a pretty doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones).

If you're still not clear on why an academic like Langdon would be anywhere in the vicinity of an apocalyptic virus, wait until you get to the end of the movie and realize there was no reason that any of what you've seen had to happen. Inferno is sort of the cinematic equivalent of a mustache-twirling villain monologuing long enough so the hero can save the day, when any decent villain who didn't actually want to get caught would have just pushed the big red button without sending out press releases in advance. On the other hand, while fans of the book will likely be disappointed to learn that the ending here is significantly different than the novel's ending, the sense of "none of this needed to happen" that the book exudes remains intact.

The first Robert Langdon flick, The Da Vinci Code, was dull; the second, Angels & Demons, was a grand intellectual adventure; Inferno exists in a muddled middle between them: completely absurd, ultimately pointless, but just about gloriously goofy enough to be momentarily diverting, a Nancy Drew mystery with Scooby Doo overtones and a thin veneer of bookishness. It's Langdon himself who is the puzzle this time, as he tries to regain his memory, figure out why he's being chased and by whom, and if he himself could be a carrier for that deadly virus (what's that suspicious rash?).

There are, of course, clues to be found in paintings and fountains in the magnificent museums and stately churches of Florence, Venice and Istanbul. There are anagrams to be solved, secret organizations to be uncovered. Museums will exhibit not only art and artifacts but a convenient and shocking lack of adequate security, as required by the plot. There will be much running through secret passages under medieval buildings and across wide cobblestoned plazas, scattering pigeons. It's a more exciting Continental vacation than anyone who isn't "the world's most powerful mind" (as the trailer refers to Langdon) ever gets to have... and if it actually gets some people interested in Dante's death mask and the Hagia Sophia? Well, there are worse fads that movies inspire. ♦