The Da Vinci Code : Extended Cut (2006)
21st February 2010
Dr. Robert Langdon is a noted symbologist who frequently debunks myths and provides answers to many puzzling questions about man's history. Whilst in Paris as a guest lecturer on symbols and the the sacred feminine, one evening Robert is contacted by the French police and called to the Louvre Museum where the curator Saunière has been murdered. Robert is naturally puzzled as to why the police are interested in seeing him, but upon arriving at the Louvre crime scene he is greeted with the grizzly sight of Saunière's naked body laid out on the floor in the shape of Da Vinci's iconic Vitruvian Man and surrounded by a mysterious code written in his own blood. It appears the police have called him over to help decipher the cryptic clues but one man, Captain Bezu Fache, thinks Langdon is hiding something and has already decided that Langdon is guilty.
But when Sophie Neveu, a cryptologist working for the French police, arrives and insists that Robert should ring his hotel phone messaging service, does Robert discover that he is the main suspect in the murder case. Thanks to Sophie, it is she who has left a message on his answering service and requests that they meet in the bathroom. It's there that Sophie reveals that the French police have slipped a tracking bug into his coat and that Saunière was in fact her grandfather who encouraged Sophie's love of cryptology. Sophie is sure that Saunière was leaving a message for her so, after getting some precious extra time by throwing the tracking device out of the window and onto a passing truck, Sophie and Robert hurry around the Louvre discovering that, in the throws of death, Saunière had being busy leaving them a series of stunning secrets hidden in the many artworks of Leonardo Da Vinci - finally leading to an intricately designed key.
Using their combined knowledge, and Sophie's knowledge of how the French police operate, they manage to locate the Swiss bank that apparently holds a major clue. Using the clues that Saunière left them the pair manage to retrieve a strong box from the bank and, upon opening it, discover a cryptex built to the original design of Leonardo Da Vinci himself. If not opened correctly, the liquid inside will destroy the secret it holds and they have no idea of the code to open it. There's only one thing for it - Robert must meet with his old time friend, and Holy Grail fanatic, Sir Leigh Teabing. And so begins an adventure that will take them to London and Scotland. But there's still some double crossing to be had, plus an irate French police force on their tail and the murderous Silas from the Opus Dei sect to contend with.
Still, no one ever said that solving one of life's greatest ever mysteries was every going to be easy!
The picture quality of the initial release of The Da Vinci Code drew a small amount criticism from some of the DVD press. Personally, I didn't think that it was too bad, but it's certainly not an outstanding print either, but when you've got a big budget and recently made film you'll be expecting a half decent transfer to go with it too. As you'd presume for a Blu-Ray, it's a 1080p release with a picture quality that ensures any problems with the transfer will soon be highlighted and, for a film that spends most of its time in dark locations, this could be a bit of a problem at times - even for a highest standard of transfer.
However, the question is, is this relatively soft picture a deliberate cinematographic move by director Ron Howard and some sort of attempt to try and recreate the Renaissance period of Da Vinci or simply a lazy production with a suspect print? Whilst the black levels do still manage to impress (and there's plenty of those to enjoy!) once Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu find themselves outside in the sunshine there is a nice warmth to the image - even if it can be a little grainy at times. Whilst it's a little unfair to say that this is a disappointing transfer (it's certainly no better than the original Blu-Ray release) it's fair to say that it's a transfer that's not going to set the Blu-Ray world on fire either. All in all, I was expecting something better, but what is offered here more than meets the film's needs.
One thing that The Da Vinci Code did for me was to highlight the impressive work of Hans Zimmer, so much so I went out and purchased the soundtrack for both this film and the Angels and Demons sequel. The orchestral soundtrack is never overwhelming and it loiters in the background wonderfully throughout the film and adds a dramatic edge to the film. I'd even go as far to say that the score in the final scenes of the film in Paris managed to raise the hairs on the back on my neck and give me a lump in my throat. To say it added to the emotional climax of the film is an understatement and it was fantastic proof that Zimmer was the right man for the job.
With what is essentially a very heavily dialogue based film, the TrueHD Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a bit of a cracker with every word easily heard and every accent, whether true or acted, easily audible throughout. Whilst the surround and LFE channels are rather quiet, when they are used they become extremely effective and help to add some tension and drama to the proceedings. If you consider the image transfer to be a bit of a disappointment then the soundtrack should certainly be considered as a triumph.
As to be expected with all Blu-Ray titles, the menus are pleasantly animated with clips from the film and scored with the film's haunting Hans Zimmer theme music. Being Java based menus some DVD players will load quicker than others, but at least I wasn't kept waiting for too long on my trusty Samsung player. The extras as spread across the two discs with the usual, and fairly pointless, BDLive and CineChat features on the first disc. Fortunately, the first disc is not totally devoid of extras as there's a good Picture-in-Picture facility and a number of good scene commentaries from Ron Howard. But before you've even finished with those there's a whopping seventeen featurettes on the second disc too!
The Unlocking the Code Picture-in-Picture facility on the first disc contains Interviews, Storyboards, Prop Talk, B-Roll, Photographs, Symbols and Codes, Langdon's Journey and Location Trivia. At the relevant position in the film an icon identifying one of the subjects will be highlighted on the bar across the top of the and you can then select and view the related material. With so much information to look at it'll take hours to visit everything, but I'm sure those legions of fans will stick it out. Next up is the Select Scenes Commentary with Director Ron Howard. With a total of twenty-seven scenes running for nearly forty minutes they can either be individually selected or played in one go. Although they cover the entire film, they are not the same as a full audio commentary track from the director. Never the less, they are all interesting little segments (some longer than others) and there's plenty of information to be gleamed about the various sets and locations in the Britain and France. Even history buffs might learn a few things too. It's all very interesting and worthy of a look in.
One of the "exclusive" portions of the disc is the fact it was being released prior to the cinematic release of Angels and Demons in the hope people will also buy this disc. So in order to tempt those new Blu-Ray purchases, the disc includes an exclusive high-def seven minute complete sequence from the new film. Fortunately, you're not left pondering what on earth is going on as, before the scene starts, director Ron Howard sets the scene.
I've never been particularly impressed with the BDLive functionality - especially when all that you can do is watch a couple of trailers for the company's other releases (and waiting an age for them to download in either HD or SD too!). However, at least The Da Vinci Code has two three minute featurettes which are actually related to the film (well, OK, it's actually related to all the fuss and bother to do with Angels and Demons). Neither are really of any interest, with what is essentially a trailer for the film and a couple of clips of the stars on a red carpet. The CineChat facility is a total waste of time. The tag line is send on screen instant messages to your friends around the world while watching the movie together!" whilst neglecting to mention time zones so I'm sure your friend in Australia is really going to be wanting to watch a film and chat to you at 4am in the morning!
This extended edition also includes a whopping number of featurettes on the second disc. With seventeen of them to go through I'm not going to go into any great detail here, but the featurettes on the Blu-Ray disc include First Day on the Set with Ron Howard, The Filmmakers' Journey two-part featurette, A Discussion With Dan Brown, A Portrait of Langdon, The Codes of The Da Vinci Code, Who is Sophie Neveu?, The Music of The Da Vinci Code, Unusual Suspects, Book To Screen, Magical Places, The Da Vinci Props, Close-up on Mona Lisa, The Da Vinci Sets, Re-creating Works of Art, Scoring The Da Vinci Code, and The Visual Effects World of The Da Vinci Code. I think you'll agree that you're going to need a fair amount of spare time to plough your way through that collection of extras!
This bountiful collection of featurettes, ranging from a few minutes to nearly thirty minutes in length, pretty much has every base covered and I think it would be extremely difficult to squeeze any more information onto another "special edition" DVD release. I think it's fair to say that this is going to be the definitive edition (unless some new wallet unfriendly "anniversary" edition comes a long in a few years time - even more so if Dan Brown's other books inevitably get made into films).
The only disappointment for me was that The Music of The Da Vinci Code featurette was so short (running at a mere three minutes). Considering that I thought that the musical score was one of the most dramatic, involving and haunting I've ever had the joy of listening too, I had hoped the featurette offered more detail than it did. Fortunately, there's a much longer nine minute Scoring the Da Vinci Code featurette with more involvement from Hans Zimmer. If you can bare to watch anything else, things are rounded off nicely with trailers for Close Encounters, Damages and Seven Pounds. They may not be the most exciting of trailers around, but where is the trailer for The Da Vinci Code?!
The extended addition released on Blu-Ray adds an additional twenty-eight minutes of never-before-seen footage. It also results in the BBFC rating increasing from the original 12 for the DVD release to a 15. However, I'm not sure whether this is down to the new footage or any additional extras - although I suspect the former as there's a bit more on screen violence. Unfortunately, given that the extra footage is scattered across the entire film, it's very hard to identify which footage has actually been added (although there were some additional scenes in the latter half of the film which I don't remember seeing either at the cinema or original DVD release). Never the less, the changes are only subtle and they don't really add a huge amount of new information to the film and there's still plenty missing from Dan Brown's best-seller.
I can only speculate that these extended scenes were simply restored from the original release which was trimmed to get that all important theatrical running time down and "more bums on seats". Still, it's good to see that we've finally got a definitive edition - although why this wasn't done for the original DVD release is another question. Perhaps a bit of "double dipping" was always under consideration from Sony, although at least we've got some newly designed packaging and additional extras to avoid it looking like a blatant money making exercise ahead of the release of the Angels and Demons sequel (which, in Dan Brown's books, was actually set before this film).
Given that the picture quality isn't really a massive improvement on the standard DVD version, existing owners really only need to consider whether they upgrade to the high-definition version based on the additional running time and extras. Personally, I do like the film, and it gets better on each viewing, and given that the two-disc edition is a good value, it's definitely worth considering an upgrade.
- Interviews: Hear from filmmakers and the cast
- B-roll: Observe the action behind the scenes
- Prop Talk: Learn how props were made
- Storyboards: See the shots before the cameras rolled
- Photos: Behind the scenes snapshots
- Langdon's Journey: Keep track of Langdon's every move
- Symbols & Codes: discover hidden symbols put in place by filmmakers, including the enlightening Alchemic Journeys of our two heroes
- First Day on the Set with Ron Howard
- The Filmmaker's Journey Part 1
- The Filmmaker's Journey Part 2
- A Discussion With Dan Brown
- A Portrait of Langdon
- The Codes of The Da Vinci Code
- Who is Sophie Neveu?
- The Music of The Da Vinci Code
- Unusual Suspects
- Book To Screen
- Magical Places
- The Da Vinci Props
- Close-up on Mona Lisa
- The Da Vinci Sets
- Re-creating Works of Art
- Scoring The Da Vinci Code
- The Visual Effects World of The Da Vinci Code
- Trailers - Close Encounters of the Third Kind : 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition; Damages : Season One; Seven Pounds