‘Inferno’ not that hot, but impressive production

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Ten years ago, “The Da Vinci Code” was the most controversial film of its time. Author Dan Brown was labeled a heretic. The secret in his book supposedly so powerful it could devastate the very foundations of mankind, yikes! The movie, starring Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, was a capable thriller, but not really all that earth shattering.

The sequel “Angels and Demons” picked up the pace somewhat, but this third feature “Inferno” is not that hot and certainly not very towering. Hanks and skillful director Ron Howard return once again with a convincing international supporting cast. On about half the budget, they still take us to European vacation sites approved by our tourist bureau.

In the previous two films, the famous symbologist, Robert Langdon (Hanks) is called to follow a series of historic clues to solve ancient religious and scientific puzzles. Now, he awakens from a head trauma in Florence, Italy with amnesia. As his head begins to clear, he is led on a path of moral dilemmas involving a potential global virus. The only way to stop this eventuality could be found in a rendering of Dante’s “Inferno.” Got that?

The premise is that overpopulation is killing us all. As the population doubles at an increasing rate, our planet will soon be incapable of supporting the mass of humanity. So, humanity is the disease and the virus is the cure. We might buy into that premise if it didn’t take so long to decipher the proposition, characters, situation, etc.

As the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) gets involved, they all race against the clock to stop or help a madman from unleashing “inferno,” the global virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population. We expect the brilliant Langdon to lead the charge, but here, he is mostly baffled, befuddled and embattled.

If we’re supposed to be as dazed and confused as Langdon is when he awakens, mission accomplished. As the action starts early and often, Langdon tries to piece together the puzzle. We don’t know who (or is it W.H.O.?) is chasing who (or is it whom?). A sophisticated audience can bear with that challenge initially, but as we finally begin to grasp some of the issues, they fling red herrings and plot twists into the mix.

It was well over an hour into the feature before much of the plot is explained, but by then, we didn’t really care. Worse yet, as part of the dialogue, several characters go into extended dissertations to explain what has happened. It not only seems forced, but unnecessary if they made any attempt to wiggle in any of the facts along the way.

The production is impressive. We enjoyed visiting favorite tourist stops in Florence, Venice and Istanbul. We hear one museum had over a thousand dollars of paintings on the ceiling alone! LOL. The script, by David Koepp (“Angels and Demons”) is broken and entire project, by usually dependable Ron Howard, who directed the series, seems poorly assembled. Even Hanks has trouble making us believe in his character’s overplayed and overacted hallucinations. His head trauma gave us a headache.

In the original, Langdon’s associate is French, in the sequel, she is Italian and in this feature, Sienna (Felicity Jones) is British. The supporting cast includes French actor Omar Sy), Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen and Romanian actress Ana Ularu. But it’s Indian actor (Irrfan Khan “Life of Pi”) who brings any life to the set.

“Inferno” is two hours (shortest of the three) and rated PG-13 for sequences of action, violence, disturbing images, language, thematic elements and brief sensuality. This is actually Brown’s fourth book. The third, “The Lost Symbol” was decided too difficult to film. He has recently released a fifth book in the series, “Origin.”

This entire series boasts intelligent plots, but this one finds a way to outsmart itself. It might better be described as frantic, frustrating and exhausting. Some leaps in logic produce gasps, but the ones here prompt apathy and not worth your twelve bucks. It was Dante himself who once said, “He who knows most grieves most for wasted time.”

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Ron & Leigh Martel