Director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks reunited for Inferno, the third adaptation of a book from Dan Brown’s series featuring Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. The Da Vinci Code, released in 2006, kicked the franchise off to a decent start financially, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews. Angels & Demons followed in 2009 and received slightly better reviews overall, according to RottenTomatoes, however its box office take didn’t come close to matching The Da Vinci Code’s. The Da Vinci Code rang up nearly $760 million worldwide during its theatrical run while Angels & Demons made substantially less, grossing $485 million before exiting theaters. That worldwide gross was apparently enough to justify a third film in the series, despite the fact audiences didn’t seem to be clamoring for another Robert Langdon movie to be made.
The third book in Brown’s Robert Langdon series is The Lost Symbol, however Ron Howard and Columbia Pictures shot past that one and went for book number four, Inferno. That’s probably a wise idea as The Lost Symbol was the least cinematic of Brown’s novels. Inferno arrives in theaters 10 years after the release of The Da Vinci Code and it feels like a pale imitation of the first film of the series. With so much time in between Robert Langdon films, you’d expect a tighter script and more of what made The Da Vinci Code appealing to audiences. Instead, Inferno is pretty much a jumbled mess that takes a lengthy amount of time going nowhere.
There’s absolutely nothing new to be discovered about Robert Langdon, and the journey he goes on in Inferno feels contrived from the opening scene through the film’s finale. Inferno begins with Hanks as Robert Langdon coming to in a hospital in Florence. He’s suffering from mild amnesia and has no idea how he got to Florence, Italy, or why someone was shooting at him. Fortunately, Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) is there by his side, protecting him from a rogue cop who attempts to murder him in his hospital room. They flee to her place only to discover almost immediately that they’ve been tracked down by World Health Organization operatives who are either on their side or working against them to find a bomb that will spread a plague meant to kill off half the world’s population. A mentally unbalanced billionaire named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) was obsessed with Dante, and Langdon and Sienna must follow clues relating to Dante’s work to get to the bomb before it goes off.
There’s probably an entertaining film to be made from Dan Brown’s Inferno, but unfortunately this 2016 theatrical release isn’t that film. What could have been a thrilling scavenger hunt filled with exotic locations plays out more like a slo-mo chase that occasionally leaves the audience wondering what’s going on, even with all the expositional dialogue. For a story that’s about a race to save half of the world’s population, there’s a lack of urgency on screen. Not even Oscar winner Tom Hanks was able to add much-needed energy to this lifeless Inferno.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality
Running Time: 121 minutes
Release Date: October 27, 2016