The Da Vinci Code appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Unfortunately, Sony didn’t send me the widescreen DVD for review, though I hope to receive it eventually.
In the meantime, I figured I’d look at the altered version. Since Code was shot Super 35 – a format that allows for “safer” framing of widescreen flicks – I hoped that the fullscreen edition might not suffer from too many compromises. However, that wasn’t the case, and this transfer showed the worst of both worlds.
Some fullscreen transfers of Super 35 handle the transition from widescreen without too much cropping, but that wasn’t the case here. Code consistently looked cramped and too tight. While the image seemed to preserve the basics of the image, the framing never seemed right; the movie turned everything into close-ups and lost much of the needed information.
Even if we get past the framing concerns, the transfer was lackluster. Super 35 tends to be grainy. The combination of the “blown-up” nature of the fullscreen transfer and the many dark shots in the film exacerbated that issue. Code wasn’t tremendously grainy, but it displayed more than I would expect. (The movie used stylistic grain on a few occasions for flashbacks; I didn’t hold those against it.) Other source flaws weren’t a problem, though, as the transfer stayed clean.
Sharpness was bland. The movie exhibited a generally flat appearance without great definition. Though the flick never seemed genuinely fuzzy, it also rarely came across as particularly concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but some mild edge enhancement added to the sense of softness.
With all the dark sequences, shadow detail became more important than usual. The transfer wasn’t up to the movie’s needs, as it rendered low-light shots in a flat manner. These tended to be somewhat thick and opaque, as they lacked much clarity. Blacks seemed acceptable, though they could appear a little muddy at times.
Colors weren’t a major consideration in this film. Code featured a subdued palette most of the time, as it favored those shadowy elements. The film took on a brownish hue much of the time, while brighter tones appeared infrequently. Even when the movie got to daylight for its final hour, the colors stayed withdrawn. The transfer displayed them as designed, so the desaturated look was appropriate. Too bad so much of the rest of the movie seemed problematic. This fullscreen rendition wasn’t a satisfying way to watch the movie.
At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Da Vinci Code proved more successful. Music dominated the soundfield of this chatty flick. The score showed nice stereo imaging and also used the surrounds for support. Effects were less dominant partners, though they came into the mix in a satisfying manner when necessary. Usually the movie went with general environmental material, but the smattering of action-oriented sequences added punch to the proceedings. Those featured smooth, accurate surround support as well.
Audio quality was more than satisfactory. Speech came across as natural and concise, while effects displayed good power and clarity. Those elements featured clean highs and tight lows. Music also displayed nice range and definition. The score was always vibrant and vivid. This wasn’t an exceptional soundtrack, but it complemented the material well.
Heading to the extras, DVD One includes only some Previews. It opens with ads for The Pursuit of Happyness, the remake of All the King’s Men and Click. These appear in the “Previews” domain along with promos for Casino Royale, The Holiday, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, Curse of the Golden Flower, Gridiron Gang, Open Season, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Seinfeld Season 7, and upcoming Blu-Ray titles.
Over on DVD Two, we find a slew of featurettes. First Day on the Set with Ron Howard runs a mere two minutes, eight seconds. We visit the director on location at the Louvre on July 6, 2005. He offers some general notes about the flick but doesn’t tell us much in this brief clip. I’m not sure what purpose it serves, as the snippets could have been better presented as part of a longer documentary.
Comments from the author appear in A Discussion with Dan Brown. The four-minute and 47-second clip presents the author/executive producer as he chats about his career as a writer as well as specifics of how he created Code. In addition, he lets us know his impressions of the book’s success and what he plans to write next. A few good nuggets pop up here, but details remain infrequent. That’s too bad, as Brown is an interesting subject; I’d have liked a more time with him and greater depth.
Some character notes appear in the next two programs. A Portrait of Langdon runs seven minutes, 13 seconds, while Who Is Sophie Neveu? goes for six minutes, 53 seconds. Across both, we get movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and comments. We hear from Brown, Howard, producers Brian Grazer and John Calley, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, casting director Jane Jenkins, and actors Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
“Langdon” looks at character issues, casting, and Hanks’ talents. “Sophie” takes on similar subjects as it addresses the part, how Tautou got the role, and her performance. Both include decent basics but little more. They tend to lather on praise for those involved at the expense of many valuable notes. They’re acceptable shows and that’s about it, though “Sophie” proves notably more interesting than “Langdon”.
Unusual Suspects lasts 17 minutes, 52 seconds, and includes notes from Howard, Jenkins, Brown, Hanks, Goldsman, Grazer, and actors Jean Reno, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Jean-Yves Berteloot, and Jurgen Prochnow. It examines the supporting characters. “Suspects” follows the model of the prior two featurettes as it deals with casting for Fache, Teabing, Silas, Aringarosa, Sauniere, Remy, and Vernet. We also learn about their performances, aspects of the roles, “Suspects” doesn’t dig into its issues with much more depth than its predecessors but the variety makes it more interesting. It creates a pretty good examination of the actors and characters to let us know a fair amount about them.
For a look at locations, we get the 15-minute and 52-second Magical Places. It features Howard, Grazer, Brown, Hanks, director of photography Salvatore Totino, executive producer/2nd unit director Todd Hallowell, and production designer Allan Cameron. We check out shooting in Paris and the Louvre, England, Scotland and Malta. Not all locations get treated equally, of course, but we get a good overview here. “Places” scoots through the various spots well and throws out nice details along the way. It’s a fun way to see the spots used to film Code.
An examination of Da Vinci’s art arrives via the six-minute and 32-second Close-Up on Mona Lisa. It features Brown, Howard, Hanks, McKellen, Cameron, Grazer, Reno, Molina, Tautou, and head scenic artist James Gemmill. The participants reveal their personal impressions of the Mona Lisa as well as a few facts about the painting. The latter point takes up little time, as we mostly get the filmmakers’ thoughts about the Mona Lisa. This makes the program interesting but not very substantial.
The two-part Filmmaker’s Journey documentary takes a total of 36 minutes and 46 seconds. It presents Howard, Hanks, Brown, Grazer, Goldsman, Reno, Marielle, Totino, Tautou, Bettany, McKellen, Hallowell, Molina, costume designer Daniel Orlandi and makeup/hair designer Frances Hannon. “Journey” gives us some notes about Howard’s involvement in the project and then gets into the screenplay and changes from the novel. We learn more about aspects of the characters like hair, makeup and costumes as well as the execution of various scenes, practical effects like a fake corpse, French language scenes, sets and cinematography, challenges telling the story, Howard’s directing methods, and the story’s appeal.
“Journey” takes us through the information via the path the elements appear in the movie, a technique that I like. That means we start with information about Langdon’s introduction and move from there. Not only does this method succeed, but also we get quite a few good notes. Since the earlier programs dealt with nuts and bolts like casting and locations, “Journey” can act more like a production diary. It does so well as it both informs and entertains.
Movie introspection comes in the five-minute and 27-second The Codes of The Da Vinci Code. It presents comments from Howard and Brown but mostly shows film clips as it reveals hidden messages in the film. It doesn’t give us all of them, but it represents a fun look at some info that lies under the surface.
Finally, The Music of The Da Vinci Code lasts two minutes, 55 seconds. It offers remarks from Howard and composer Hans Zimmer. We get some basic notes about the film’s score. “Music” is too brief to give us much detail, so don’t expect more than general info here.
The film version of The Da Vinci Code takes a hugely successful novel and neuters it for the big screen. Director Ron Howard consistently plays it safe here, a tactic that robs the story of any drama or passion. The fullscreen transfer found here looked mediocre at best, but the DVD featured a good soundtrack plus a nice array of featurettes. I wouldn’t recommend this dull movie in any incarnation, but if you want to check out the flick, go for the widescreen edition.