The Da Vinci Code appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent presentation but not one that dazzled.
Sharpness seemed satisfying. This presentation 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 moderate grain – which likely resulted from the dark settings and the Super35 photography - 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. 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 Even when the movie got to daylight for its final hour, the colors stayed withdrawn.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 TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of The Da Vinci Code was pretty good. 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.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray Da Vinci Code compare with those of the original 2006 DVD? I think both provide similar audio, and the visuals don’t change radically either. Of course, the extra resolution available for Blu-ray means Code packs a tighter presentation than the DVD. However, it doesn’t blow away the old version, mainly because it remains a somewhat drab looking film. I think the Blu-ray improves on the DVD; it just doesn’t excel.
The package does work very well when it comes to extras, many of which repeat from the earlier 2-DVD release. If you want to read about Blu-ray exclusive elements, look for the blue print.
On Disc One, the main attraction comes from an extended version of The Da Vinci Code. This edition goes for nearly 175 minutes, which means it runs about 25 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Honestly, I couldn’t detect a whole lot of the changes. I saw Code twice back in 2006, and the alterations don’t stand out as being especially significant. For the most part, I think we find more background/expository material here. For instance, we get more backstory for Silas, and I believe the extended cut fleshes out other historical elements to a greater degree.
None of which improve the film in the least. Sometimes substantial additions can really help a film; the longer version of The Abyss remains a great example of that. Unfortunately, the extended Code remains just as dull as the theatrical cut. It’s no worse than the original edition, but it also adds nothing memorable.
By the way, I think it’s too bad that the Blu-ray only includes the extended version. Since this set marks the film’s Blu-ray debut, it’d be good to give fans the original theatrical cut as well. A movie shouldn’t be available only in its non-theatrical incarnation; fans should be able to see the version they found on the big screen.
Another major change, we get an interactive feature called Unlocking the Code. This places bars on the top and bottom of the screen. The info appears in the letterboxing bars, though it does slightly intrude into the film’s visuals. Throughout the movie, icons will light up; select them for a mix of subjects.
These break into eight areas: interviews, “B-roll” footage, “prop talk”, storyboards, photos, location trivia, “Langdon’s Journey”, and “symbols and codes”. Most of those should be self-explanatory, but a few need more explanation. “Prop talk” offers details about the creation of various props, while “Langdon’s Journey” shows a map that lets us know where the lead character finds himself. “Symbols & Codes” gives us details about various cryptic images seen throughout the movie.
Throughout the interviews, we get info from director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, author Dan Brown, art director Giles Masters, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, head scenic artist James Gemmill, and actors Tom Hanks, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Ian McKellen, and Audrey Tautou. Those pieces look at the source novel and its adaptation, cast and performances, costumes and props, visual design, editing, and general thoughts about the flick.
Don’t expect “Unlocking” to divvy up its time evenly among its eight subdomains. The majority of the material comes from the interviews, especially when we include the “Prop Talk” tidbits in that realm. Interview snippets don’t become a constant companion, but they pop up during much of the movie; I’d guess we get at least two hours of information in that form. More footage appears via the “B-roll”, so expect a lot of video material.
Not that all of these are created equally. Though I normally like “fly on the wall” footage, the “B-roll” stuff seems only sporadically interesting. Actually, the shots themselves are fine, but they lose punch due to the small size of the window in which they appear; they’re so tiny that it’s tough to make out the action.
While the interviews are equally miniature, their size doesn’t affect them. For those components, we care more about the audio than the video, so they work fine as they are. Plenty of good information shows up throughout the film. Some elements repeat elsewhere in this set, but you’ll still find a lot of unique material here.
Other elements pop up much less frequently. We don’t get any photos until nearly 34 minutes into the film, and the first storyboards don’t appear until the 34:28 mark. Both appear sporadically and don’t add much.
The other tidbits are pretty inconsequential as well. “Symbols” does offer some insights, though, and acts as the best of the non-video extras. “Trivia” remains pretty dull, and the “Journey” maps are only mildly useful.
Overall, I do like the content in “Unlocking”, but I’m not wild about the format. The recent Star Trek Original Series Blu-ray included a similar feature that boasted a more user-friendly presentation. While “Unlocking” requires the viewer to select the different elements, Trek simply put them onscreen for us.
That makes a lot more sense, especially when more than one component appears at the same time. “Unlocking” doesn’t allow two or more pieces to be viewed at once, so you have to flip back and forth between them. This is awkward and would work much better if the disc just ran everything for us.
In addition, response time was always a little slow – at least on my player. I’d consistently miss the first parts of the video clips; even after I selected them, there was a delay before they’d actually run. All of this means “Unlocking” offers some fine information but it lacks the smoothest implementation.
We also find scene-select commentary from director Ron Howard. He chats over 38 minutes, 52 seconds of the movie as he discusses cast and performances, cinematography and visual choices, changes for the extended cut, sets and locations, story/adaptation challenges, and shooting the car chase.
Through these pieces, Howard provides a lot of good details. In fact, you’ll probably wish he had recorded a full commentary for Code, though this compromise is probably for the best; he may not have had almost three hours of information to impart, so it’s better to get a short track filled with nice info. In any case, Howard does cover a lot of useful topics and he makes this an efficient and interesting set of clips.
Disc One finishes with a preview for Angels & Demons. According to the papers that came with the Blu-ray, I’m not allowed to say anything about this or I’ll be strung up by my toes and beaten with a baseball bat – for starters. So I’ll just mention that it exists and stop there – I value my life!
Over on Disc 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.
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.
Adaptation notes appear during the 11-minute and six-second Book to Screen. It includes Howard, Brown, Calley, and Goldsman. Brown tells us how he initially didn’t want to see Code made into a movie until he finished his trilogy, and we learn about some changes from the novel when it leapt before the camera. “Book” works acceptably well, but it doesn’t excel. We get too much praise for the parties involved and not enough real data. The piece gives us some decent notes, but you won’t get a ton from it.
Production design comes to the fore via The Da Vinci Props. In this nine-minute and 43-second program, we hear from Hallowell, Brown, and art director Giles Masters. As expected, this one looks at many of the props created for the movie. Masters handles most of this material and provides a fun glimpse of the pieces built to fit the film’s many demands.
Along the same lines, we check out The Da Vinci Sets. For this nine-minute and 10-second piece, we get remarks from Howard, Hallowell, McKellen and Cameron. No surprises here: we get info about the various sets that show up in the movie. It follows in the footsteps of “Props” and gives us an interesting examination of this aspect of the production.
Recreating the Works of Art goes for six minutes, three seconds and features Hanks, Cameron, Gemmill, Goldsman and Howard. Since the filmmakers couldn’t actually shoot in the Louvre, they needed to make their own versions of the paintings. The featurette details the creation of these pieces and gives us a nice little overview of the efforts.
Next comes The Visual Effects World of The Da Vinci Code. It fills 15 minutes, three seconds with remarks from Howard, visual effects producer Barrie Hemsley, Moving Picture Company visual effects supervisor Gary Brozenich, Moving Pictures 3d artist Matt Middleton, Rainmaker visual effects supervisor Mark Breakspear, Double Negative visual effects supervisor Paul Riddle, Double Negative 2D lead Ciaran Crowley, Double Negative senior technical director Phil Johnson, Senate visual effects supervisor Jim Madigan and Moving Pictures environmental lead Dan Neal. “World” looks at some of the obvious and less readily apparent uses of computer graphics in Code. Though dry at times, the show manages to cover its subjects in a generally interesting manner.
We learn more about the music in Scoring The Da Vinci Code. It goes for nine minutes, 44 seconds and features Howard and Zimmer. We find out how Zimmer got the gig and aspects of his work. It improves on the “Music of Da Vinci Code” featurette; it covers similar ground but does so in more detail.
Finally, the disc provides some Previews. We find promos for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Damages Season One, and Seven Pounds. No trailer for Code appears anywhere in this set.
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 Blu-ray presented reasonably good visuals and audio plus an excellent array of supplements.
I didn’t like the theatrical version of Code, and the addition of almost a half an hour of extra footage doesn’t improve it. The added material doesn’t harm the movie, though, and fans will be happy to see it. They’ll also like the good new extras found in this Blu-ray release; in particular, the interactive components are consistently interesting. It’s too bad the original theatrical cut of Code remains MIA on Blu-ray, but I think fans of the flick will feel pretty happy with this release.
To rate this film visit the fullscreen review of THE DAVINCI CODE