The Da Vinci Code appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. When I initially reviewed the fullscreen version of the film that I received from Sony, I thought its lackluster visuals stemmed from problems related to the cropped nature of the transfer. To a considerable degree, I was correct; the widescreen edition showed some of the same issues but looked substantially better.
Sharpness demonstrated the biggest improvements. This version suffered from a slight amount of softness in some wide shots, but those weren’t substantial intrusions. Instead, the flick usually seemed reasonably concise and well-defined. I noticed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement was minor. Other than a little grain, source flaws seemed absent.
With all the dark sequences, shadow detail became more important than usual. The transfer wasn’t quite up to the movie’s needs, as it rendered low-light shots in a slightly flat manner. These tended to be a little thick and opaque, though they remained acceptably visible and improved on the fullscreen transfer’s shots. 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 Even when the movie got to daylight for its final hour, the colors stayed withdrawn.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. I thought the transfer was too dark, but overall this was a satisfying image.
I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Da Vinci Code heard here was the same as the one for the fullscreen edition. 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 DVD presented reasonably good visuals and audio 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, you’ll do well with this fairly solid DVD.
To rate this film visit the fullscreen review of THE DAVINCI CODE