Watching Tom Hanks traverse Dante’s layers of hell in Inferno I suddenly realized that my tolerance for The Da Vinci Code franchise has become as short as Hanks’ haircut progression throughout the series.

It only took him a decade to get a normal haircut.

Inferno finds stalwart professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) waking up in a Florence hospital with memory loss following an apparent attack. Before he has a chance to get his bearings straight, he finds himself on the run with his OCD doctor (Felicity Jones) as he tries to decipher a new set a clues (this time centered around the poet Dante) that not only may restore his memory but may also prevent worldwide biological Armageddon at the hands of a fanatic (Ben Foster) who aspires to save the world from the looming doom of overpopulation.

infernoA step up from the previous Angels and DemonsInferno suffers from an overly convoluted plot (a victim of condensing an already too convoluted novel) presented in a disjointed production. Three pictures in and already feeling formulaic in every sense of the word, the greatest mystery of The Da Vinci Code series is not solving the ancient mysteries of philosophy and religion but rather how such a triumphant team of filmmakers can continue to blunder a novel series that is practically laid out like movie screenplays to begin with. Even worse, the script jettisons what is arguably the one most unique twist in the novel leaving for a bland, routine denouement.

While Inferno attempts to shake things up by introducing the tired concept of an amnesiac man on the run, it fails to present any sense of wonder and its urgency is stripped at every turn by lucky conveniences and coincidences. Hell, presented with Inferno‘s tendency for last-minute secret passageway escapes to practically every chase, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next film had Hanks escaping the Statue of Liberty via a secret underground tunnel to Wichita.

The lone positives are that the film, under Ron Howard‘s hand, is visually impressive, punctuated by some truly ghastly depictions of Dante’s hellscape. Hans Zimmer‘s score helps ump the ante the film lacks (am I the only one that kept hearing traces of Tron Legacy‘s music in there?). The performances are good but stiff, reminiscent of wooden pawns playing the most confusing game of chess ever – the plot. The exceptions are Hanks, who even at his most tired can make anything watchable, and Irrfan Khan who thankfully injects the film with a few sly touches of dry humor that it desperately needs. Ben Foster has a good but brief supporting role as the ultimate villain but by the third of many flashbacks to his lectures on overpopulation, I was suddenly wishing I was in the hell he so perfectly described.

Overall, Inferno is not quite infuriating but it is evident of a faint and flagging series. In hindsight, Ron Howard’s efforts would have been better served adapting a film about Dante’s Inferno rather than Dan Brown’s. For those sad that the producers skipped Brown’s third Langdon novel, The Lost Symbol, I would recommend National Treasure – a film just as hokey and silly in concept as any Langdon adaptation yet includes the one concept that is missing entirely: fun.

Inferno (2016)

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