Remember 10 years ago when Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and a ridiculous mullet teamed up to adapt The Da Vinci Code, one of the most laughably stupid thrillers ever spat out of the blockbuster machine? Yea, well, you shouldn’t have watched it for the chuckles. You only encouraged them. Not only did the band get back together for the equally awful Angels & Demons, but now they’ve done it again in Inferno. The results are worse that ever before. It’s a movie that will make even the most undemanding viewers of supernatural claptrap shake their heads and feel like morons for spending their money. Sure, it’s ironically funny. After all, this level of stupidity demands campy laughter and lots of it. The trouble is that the folks behind these movies are convinced that people actually like them. They need to be stopped.
So, once again Tom Hanks plays a famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. If that term doesn’t sound real, it’s because author Dan Brown made it up and millions of readers worldwide accepted it. This time Langdon is out to stop a world domination plot involving a deadly plague in a plastic baggie. Of course, he doesn’t know that at first. The tale kicks off with Hanks waking up in a hospital bed in Florence suffering from a convenient bout of amnesia that allows him to wonder aloud about the plot throughout. The bump on the head he’s received also causes him to have visions of demons and hell to justify the Halloween release date for this nonsense. He quickly teams up with a nurse (Felicity Jones) who is a big fan of his symbology adventures, and since she exclusively wears pants suits, he’s obviously a big fan of her. From there, it’s time for another holiday destination globe trotting adventure where Hanks visits famous locations and solves dumb puzzles. At one point the dynamic duo even watch a TED Talk on YouTube to get plot exposition. Yep, this is a special brand of stupid.
Throughout it all, Tom Hanks at least maintains a certain level of dignity. After all, the guy is a master of playing a bumbling everyman in danger. He knows this stuff inside and out. So he should only feel mildly embarrassed (especially since the movie was an excuse for him to host SNL and host it well). As for everyone else in the cast, they are all overqualified and underserved by the material. These movies make enough money that this was clearly a paycheck project for the likes the soon-to-be-super-famous Felicity Jones, the perpetually underrated Ben Foster (who could have been a great villain if there was a character for him to play) and an impressive line up of foreign film stars in insignificant roles. Essentially every character on screen is a plot device, sometimes with a twist, but mostly not. The strong cast do their best to spit out the nonsense dialogue while appearing to be vaguely human, but Dan Brown’s crap writing prevents anyone from registering.
As usual Ron Howard shoots everything confidently, and without much flair. He had a chance to do some interesting creep out material with all of the hell and demon inspired hallucination sequences, but the friendly filmmaker clearly is too concerned with pleasing viewers to deliver anything remotely scary. It’s a bunch of CGI silliness inspired by frightening hellfire without actually delivering anything remotely unsettling. It’s a massive missed opportunity. However, the filmmaker does make the international locations look appealingly beautiful. I suppose that makes sense. Since no one’s brain or heart was actually committed to the movie, it was mostly treated as a delightful paid vacation for everyone involved, and the best parts of the project are the blockbuster snapshots of all the sweet places they visited.
As you may have gathered, there really isn’t much positive to say about this idiotic threequel. I suppose it does live up to the promise of the dull disappointment that you might anticipate from something that could have been called “Ron Howard’s Inferno.” It is all laughably stupid enough to provoke giggles from the sidelines for those who enjoy marvelling at the insanity of horrible filmmaking, and it’ll likely do well on bad movie podcasts in a year or so. It’s just a shame the flick can’t be released directly to the bad movie podcast circuit to save everyone else the trouble of having to show up sincerely and feel heartbreakingly disappointed. Maybe one day. Dare to dream.