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Inferno (Blu-ray Review)

20 Jan, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 1/24/17
Sony Pictures
Box Office $34.34 million
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.
Stars Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen.

Despite the enormous popularity of the Robert Langdon novels, squeezing a third movie out of them was likely always going to be a tough sell. Fans of the books had every right to be skeptical after being put off by the previous two adaptations — 2006’s The Da Vinci Code and 2009’s Angels & Demons. For casual film fans, those movies did little to generate much interest in another installment, despite the continued involvement of Tom Hanks (as Langdon) and director Ron Howard.

Accordingly, the budget for Inferno was reportedly set at just $75 million, about half that of Angels & Demons, hedging any potential losses when its otherwise respectable worldwide box office tally ended up far short of its predecessors.

Such hindsight makes it all the more amusing to see Howard in the bonus featurettes ruminate about author Dan Brown writing another Langdon mystery, as if to imply he was anxious to make the movie.

It’s a bit of an ironic clip, given how the production team already skipped over Brown’s third Langdon book to get to this one (though par for the course with this bunch considering how they initially skipped Angels & Demons, the first in Brown’s series, to do Da Vinci Code first). However, it made sense to skip adapting The Lost Symbol, given that its story of Freemasons and American heritage skewed a bit too close to the “National Treasure” films (whose own third installment seems to have stalled out years ago).

At least with Inferno, Howard and Hanks could complete a nifty little trilogy of Langdon, the professor who specializes in decrypting ancient codes and symbols, trotting through Europe solving mysteries based on Christian iconography. In that regard, Inferno is at least of a kind with its cinematic predecessors, even if a Lost Symbol movie might have offered a refreshing change of scenery.

This time around, Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Italy with no memory of the previous two days, finding himself drawn into a billionaire’s plot to save humanity from supposed extinction by releasing a virus to kill half the world’s population, thus freeing up resources for the survivors.

The notion is framed briefly as a philosophical proposition — is it justified to sacrifice some to prevent the deaths of all — but like most of the ideas in this movie it is buried by a muddled storyline that keeps piling absurd improbabilities upon itself. Langdon embarks on a series of clues based on the works of Dante, but never seems as central to the story as the people chasing him.

It’s not a Langdon movie without a pretty brunette to tag along, and this time around it’s Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), the emergency room doctor who treats Langdon after his memory loss and then goes along for the ride when the requisite assassins show up.

In many ways, Inferno is a clever deconstruction of the previous two films, but the screenplay lacks the wit to have any fun with that. Instead, Langdon bounces around from clue to clue like a pawn for some larger conspiracy while occasionally spouting a piece of trivia as if to remind everyone he’s a professor who studies these things.

The story offers its share of plot twists that changes the meaning of certain scenes on subsequent viewings — which may be required anyway if one hopes to make sense of everything going on. That kind of rewatchability is what makes home video a better forum for these films than a one-off theatrical encounter.

The Blu-ray includes 27 minutes of deleted and extended scenes that offer a few character insights but don’t add much to the understanding of the story, so it’s easy to see why they were cut.

Also included are six spoiler-laden featurettes that total about 47 minutes and provide a pretty good sense of the production. Three of the featurettes profile the major characters in the film and look at their motivations. The other three deal with the making of the film with looks at the film’s hellish imagery, casting and locations.

About the Author: John Latchem

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