Some time ago I did a bit of an analysis on Divergent. It really should have been longer, but shit happens. There is just so much wrong with that series that it beggars belief. And the last movie was terrible (and came out after that post).
Anyway, I flew again today (which will be about 2 weeks ago by the time this goes up) and, because someone mentioned Inferno (The third Dan Brown movie in the The Da Vinchi Code franchise) I thought I’d give it a shot. I knew I shouldn’t have, but hangovers are a hell of a thing.
Of course, there are Spoilers involved. But unless you’ve got a hard-on for Dan Brown, don’t go and see this movie.
#1 – “But you should read the book…!”
Before I start, I want to address something that always bugs me with novel adaptions of movies. Sure, hard-core fans will always say something like “Ah, yeah, but that is explained in the book so it’s OK.”
That excuse does not sit well with me. It’s all great if you’re watching a movie as a kind of extension to the novel, but that simply isn’t the case. A movie should contain all of the explanations and exposition required to make sense. If I have to go and read the book to understand what is going on, then instead of making a movie, just give me the book damnit!
A movie should be able to stand on its own two legs. Sure, if you read the book you would expect to get a more in-depth view of the story’s universe, but it can’t be compulsory reading for me to understand what is going on.
#2 – Amnesia doesn’t work like that
The second we see Langdon in the hospital, you just know that there is Some Bullshit ahead. And instant healing as well. I’ll probably circle around this a few times as it is one of those movie tropes that bugs me a bit. It’s like Jason Bourne limping for a few scenes and then magically being able to run again. But usually they show at least some kind of attempt at healing, like wrapping a bandage around a gaping bullet wound or something.
But no, not Inferno.
Firstly, Retrograde Amnesia is an actual thing. It wipes out a bit of your memory, usually a certain time period. But you can act normally as well. You certainly wouldn’t forget something like “Coffee”. I honestly don’t even know why they bothered to include that sequence. He forgets coffee? Really?
And, of course, after being nearly completely incapacitated in the intro scene, his headaches and amnesia clear up pretty quickly.
Except when the plot needs them back, like the train scene. After a 30-or-so-minute break without any symptoms, the train that they are on goes into a tunnel and triggers a memory, tipping Langdon off that the man they are travelling with is an enemy. Just… wow. A total Baseball.
We find out later that the whole thing was a plot, and the Amnesia was caused by drugs and not by a gunshot wound. That makes even less sense, as the drug wearing off would happen in a more predictable manner. So the company that drugged him would have made sure that the drugs would have covered the entire time that he was supposed to be “on task”. But you know, whatever.
#3 – The Doctor Character
It’s only been a couple of hours, and I’ve forgotten one of the main character’s names. Who cares. Anyway, my editor gave me a note when working on Zemlya. They said “go through the book, scene-by-scene, and write out the motivations of your characters.” Ever since then, I’ve subconsciously paid attention to that. It’s really interesting, and I think it is one of those reasons that I like or dislike a movie (especially looking in the past) – if the character’s motivations don’t sync up with their actions then you just can’t connect with them.
And that is totally what is going on here.
Ok, so the Doctor is really a bad guy all along. She’s trying to make sure that the Bad guy’s plan goes off without a hitch. I get that. She also needs Langdon to open the tube with the first clue in it. (How the Good Guys got that item in the first place is still a mystery to me. I mean, the Villian pretty much gave it to the Doctor when he left to set off his plan.)
Anyway, let’s examine her motivations. Throughout the whole movie, her underlying motivation is to find the Virus and make sure that it is spread. Cool, I’m down with that.
She needs to find the device and then make sure that the bombs go off. Initially to do that she needs Langdon to unlock the tube with the first clue in it. After that though, what does she need him for? The Villian had made the puzzle difficult, but he also wanted the Doctor to work it out, so she was likely able to do it herself. In fact, most of the time she seemed to have the understanding required to complete the puzzle alone. She could have dumped Langdon at any time and continued herself.
Ok, let’s suppose that she didn’t feel confident enough to do the puzzle herself. I’m OK with that. So she starts acting like she is concerned for Langdon and that is why she is helping him. But she seems to make it seem like she doesn’t want to be involved. When she kills the Assassin, she has a whole “I became a doctor to help people, not hurt them” moment. This whole bit is only included to make her surprise reveal to be more “shocking,” but I just found it cheap.
Enough about her for now. I think that she’ll come up again though.
#4 – The Main Plot
If you haven’t seen the movie, the main plot is that a crazy billionaire has made a super plague that will kill 50% of the human population – “thinning the herd” so that humanity can flourish. Ok, typical Bond-villain stuff there.
He’s set things up so that the virus will be released a few days later. Not entirely sure why, but OK. Let’s just assume that there were reasons that he couldn’t just go all 12 Monkeys and pop open the virus in an airport.
All of the elements for an action plot are there; a terrible disaster set to destroy the world, a number of rival factions vying for control, and a really short time limit. So far, so good.
But – no. I can’t excuse the plot here. The Villain said that he trusted no-one with the location of the device, but left a trail of clues for his girlfriend to find him should he fail. Why not just tell her? He says that he’s concerned about security etc, so he has to do it himself. But then we find out he has a team in Istanbul helping him! What the fuck? Why not just tell her what was going on in the first place? And if he was so secretive, how did the WHO and others even know that there was a plot in the first place?
And, when we get to the movie’s climax, we see that he hadn’t even finished setting up the device to end the world. Huh? He led the WHO on a wild goose chase throughout Europe, but didn’t even have the thing set up? He didn’t tell his lover, but told two Turkish university professors? Huh? And instead of going for an airport or a major tourist attraction, he goes for Turkey, which isn’t exactly the most popular place in the world, and sets off a virus bomb underground in a small concert. Is this guy for real? And the plan is to have two bombs rupture the plastic bag with the virus in it by chance. Either the bombs have to be big enough to shake the whole location in the end (and probably kill everyone inside already) or small enough not to kill everyone and thus run the risk of not popping the bag.
In the Tokyo Subway Sarin gas attacks, the perpetrators carried the chemicals in a plastic bag wrapped in newspaper. They then stabbed the bags and dropped them on the floor of the subways. That is how you infect people in a closed space (and yes, this was a chemical attack and not a viral one, but the mechanics are the same).
Remember- the Villain is a biotechnology billionaire. The guy certainly had the means to make an aerosol version of his weapon without needing a crude explosion. Hell, Russia was thinking about spreading plague across the US with a submarine-launched cruise missile. This guy could have even chartered a crop duster or used a simple DJI drone. But no, sure, this dumb-arse plan is the best he can come up with.
#5- The Death Mask and why Langdon isn’t arrested
If you steal things from a museum, people notice. If you somehow manage to get away, but your face is captured on video, they find out pretty quickly. If you’re a world-famous professor in the field of European history, then museum-y people are going to know you pretty quickly. How Langdon was allowed in and out of the Palazzo museum so many times I won’t know.
Also, there was a huge police cordon around the building. Sure, you could argue that Langdon’s knowledge of the Palazzo gave him an edge, but he reveals that he found out about the hidden passageways from a tour! So this must all be common knowledge. If you’re in the police and you’re surrounding a building, you would also cover all of these entrances.
And yet he manages to move freely around all of these areas.
#6 – Explosives don’t work like that
I mentioned before that the final climax was just silly. The bad guys place two small devices in the Cistern, hoping to pop the virus bag. I can forgive a lot when it comes to explosives and such in movies. It’s part of the fun. But this was a stretch too far.
To set the scene, we are told that the bombs need to be placed at either end of the Cistern (think about a big, shallow pool of water that has a lot of walkways over the water) in order to make sure that the bag is popped. So far, so good. The bombs are supposed to be set off with a phone call. Thankfully the cell coverage is switched off (somehow) so the call never gets through. A stretch, but I’ll give it to them.
But then the Doctor sets off one of the bombs manually, blowing herself up. Ok, that happens. The bomb is in the water, and there are a couple of other people in the water as well. We see the shock wave ripping through the water, which then sets off the other bomb. Thankfully, the virus is contained at that point.
But this is what bugs me: explosives don’t just go off because they get a bit of a shock. That would make working with them very difficult. So you need to have a certain degree of over-pressure to set them off. It’s not impossible for one explosion to set off another one – but that means that there is still a powerful shock wave that reached the other end of the Cistern. So far – so good.
BUT THERE WERE PEOPLE IN THE WATER.
These people play into the plot as there is a second round of people fighting over the virus. All of these people would have been killed (or at least incapacitated) by the underwater explosion if it were powerful enough to set off the other bomb. In fact, because it was an enclosed space, that kind of explosion would probably have killed everyone in the Cistern, or possibly destroying the whole building.
# 7 – The Assassin and the Security Company
Initially, Langdon and the Doctor are being chased by an Assassin that has been sent by a Security company. We find out that initially she is just an actor that is trying to get Langdon to start following the path to the virus. The Security Company acts like it is all powerful, and we find out later that they are working with The Doctor. However, even though they know exactly where The Doctor is, they send the Assassin to the wrong place.
Then, for some reason, they switch from “Use Langdon to find the Virus” to “Just kill the guy”. There is never any reason given for this. I suppose it is meant to show off the Security Company boss to be a bad-arse, but later int he movie he is thoroughly beaten by two university professors, so he can’t have been that competent of a fighter.
He also wants to hide the fact that his organisation even exists, but then approaches the WHO for help – even though he was confident that he could find the virus and Langdon on his own. So what the fuck is going on there, guy? There is no consistency with the Security Boss or his Assassin; they seem jammed into the story to make a whole other thread that doesn’t do anything but piss me off.
#8 – Unrequited Bullshit
Oh, and to cap it all off – there is a whole “Unrequited Love” subplot thrown into the last 15 minutes. The lead agent of the WHO and Langdon apparently were in love at some point in the past, but they split up so that they could both follow their careers. Boo Hoo. And yet, even though Langdon knew this woman, and knew she was involved, he never bothered to get in contact. Also, the Woman, instead of getting on a megaphone and calling out “Hey, Langdon, remember me? We used to bone, I’m on your side, let’s talk about how some dude is about to end the world” she goes all Public Enemy #1 on him, driving him into hiding.
The whole “romance” aspect of that story is undeserved. We see hardly any development in that area, and what is there feels like it was shoehorned into the story line because someone, somewhere said “Tom Hanks needs to have a romantic interest in a character.”
This movie pissed me off enough to write a 2500-word essay about how much I hate it. You decide if you want to get that angry or not.