Conventional wisdom says that “bad books” make “good movies,” while “good books” make lousy movies. (Given the pervasive blending of genre fiction and literary fiction, this conventional wisdom may need revision.) Since Dan Brown’s Inferno is a paragon of genre fiction, it’s considered a “bad book,” which should give you hope that at least the movie will be good. Not the case, unfortunately. In fact, Dan Brown’s “bad novels” don’t translate well onto the silver screen because, if you’ve ever read them, you know that their primary pleasures stem from cryptography and puzzle-solving, both of which get sidelined in a fast-paced doomsday thriller. Moreover, reading the novels, you can pause to solve the puzzles, whereas the movie’s fast pace doesn’t afford you any time to think. Sure, the story’s ups and downs and twists are entertaining, but only up to a point. Add that Ron Howard soaks his scenes in sappy music. Plus, there are the usual showbiz absurdities: one of the principal characters, during a climactic fight in a cistern, gets submerged in water; yet she walks away in high heels, with make-up unscuffed. So, is Inferno good for anything? The visions of hell, for one, are impressive and creepy. And Felicity Jones plays her part remarkably, while Irrfan Khan’s inflections make his character most interesting and funny. Oh, and Tom Hanks is in the movie, too. That’s worth something, right? Right?
By Alec Julian & Carrie White