My wife and I started going through the Robert Langdon movies about a year ago with The Da Vinci Code. We were both so bored by it that we never bothered to revisit Angels and Demons, and then Netflix DVD sends me Inferno in the mail. Ugh…this series is awful. I do remember seeing Angels and Demons in Rome and seeing the movie theater I was sitting in on screen during a large panning shot of Piazza del Popolo, but I didn’t even get that kind of thrill of Inferno. These movies are dumb.
Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon isn’t really what I would call a character. He is a vessel for plot with some character tics applied liberally. He doesn’t ever seem to have a motivation other than rushing to the next plot point. He’s remarkably dull, and starting this movie with him having amnesia is just the most frustrating thing. It turns the movie into a guessing game from the very start, and since Langdon is supposed to be just the smartest guy in the world, it’s literally impossible for the audience to even try to stay ahead of him because we can’t follow what’s going on. It’s pretty much incomprehensible by design from the beginning.
So, essentially a Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) is an American billionaire who things that humanity’s growth is out of control and wants to take action to help save the earth and humanity’s future. He’s disappeared for two years, pursued by the W.H.O. (wut?), and dies in a fall off of a bell tower in Florence. Langdon wakes up in a hospital with amnesia where he meets Felicity Jones’ Dr. Sienna Brooks, his attending physician. Within moments, a female Carabinieri comes tearing down the hall, gun drawn, and trying to kill Langdon. And,…they’re off! What follows is a breathless chase from Florence to Venice to Istanbul where Langdon decodes a series of opaque clues to get to the next step.
I just do not find these kinds of movies interesting at all. It doesn’t help when the clues are a series of seemingly random things that only an art historian could begin to decode. Where’s the fun in watching someone else figure out a puzzle that you can’t help with?
This points to why I feel like plot is the least important element in narrative. Plot is purely mechanical. You can get characters from point A to point B, but if you don’t care about the characters moving between the two points, then it’s just, at best, a travelogue. Langdon is a terrible main character because he’s never really invested in anything, has no depth other than a fear of tight spaces (which is really no more than a tic the way it’s used here), and is just following breadcrumbs because they’re there with little more than a generalized “Don’t end the world” mission. It’s dull. Jones’ Sienna is a bit better, but the movie ends up so consumed with double crosses and misdirects by the halfway point that there’s no point trying to invest in anyone.
I understand the appeals of these movies for a single viewing, to a certain extent. The journey is so opaque and unpredictable that the audience gets to be excited with new twists every few minutes, but without anything else to engage, it morphs from a guessing game on one viewing to a memory game on the second. Once you know the journey, there’s nothing else to chew on. Once you know the double crosses, there’s nothing left to surprise. This same story could make a great movie if the characters were stronger, but that would require slowing down every once in a while to have them actually act human, but that would slow the pace of the movie down. Can’t have that, I guess.
The movie is just a mess. Paced poorly with manic movement that never feels like a story, Inferno is shockingly dull. By the time we get to Istanbul and Langdon leads the W.H.O. underneath the Hagia Sophia, it’s just a predictable series of events that will be close calls and the good guys winning the day. The ideas behind Zobrist’s plot are just shouted about occasionally, mere window dressing for the action at play.
I endured this film, but at least it largely looks nice and Hans Zimmer did some yeoman’s work on the score.