As a director Ron Howard is unremarkable. His filmography is almost exclusively adaptations and true stories with barely anything along the lines of original. This is not a bad thing. Many directors have a preferred niche and genre they favor over others. Martin Scorsese became a legend for adapting novels about the mafia, Michael Bay is all about large-scale action, and James Wan specializes in horror. Not everyone can be Stanley Kubrick with a filmography more diverse than an SJW hate mob and Howard seems comfortable with his chosen signature. Was Inferno another acceptable Dan Brown adaptation or was it terrible?
After waking up in a hospital with amnesia Langdon, played Tom Hanks, finds himself in the midst of a plot involving a billionaire trying to spread a plague to cull the world’s population. In the race to stop the spread of the contagion, he is pursued by different organizations with separate agendas.
I understand mysteries are supposed to be confusing to throw off audiences. A lie here and a red herring there are designed to lead us in a direction that makes sense before the truth is revealed. Inferno is a great mystery that throws you off with not only an unreliable protagonist, but also many players whose intentions are kept in the dark. However, getting to that point is a struggle to sit through.
If nothing else, Howard can be counted on for quality. Regardless of the material, his movies are well made, and Inferno is the complete antithesis of good filmmaking from top to bottom. The storytelling and action are a congealed mess that you must hack through to get a clear picture of what is going on. I am not surprised because this problem was shared by Da Vinci Code, Howard’s first Dan Brown adaptation, where I think he did not know what he was doing.
Information in a mystery must be clear enough to take in so it makes the reveal impactful. Inferno is so dense with information that it was difficult to follow. First you have a rogue cop trying to kill Langdon, then World Health Organization agents have their own dramatic subplot in the background, and an illuminati-type organization is doing something else on the side. Even after the reveal it does not make the most sense because the utter mass of story to absorb is too much. If the goal was to confuse the shit out of me, mission accomplished. Still does not change the fact Inferno is more bloated than a Walmart shopper (sorry; I could not resist).
As a mystery, the possibility of good action is superfluous, but I am going to talk about it anyway. Like Da Vinci Code, the action consists of running away from things and stopping to find a piece of the puzzle before more running. It is acceptable, yet poorly constructed. You have shaky cam that I will always complain about until it stops existing. Then there is a drone chase scene that is so bad there will be clips of it on YouTube in a matter of weeks. The action is also presented as if it were intense when it is not. The rather great synth soundtrack and quick cuts make you think what is happening is thrilling, except you do not feel anything of the sort. The movie was trying too hard to engage the audience when we just wanted it to get to the point. Had the action been subtle this would not be a problem.
I would go so far as to say no one really cared to make Inferno good. Howard probably did it out of obligation and Hanks more or less phoned in his performance. So did Felicity Jones as Brooks, but I have not seen her enough to tell if she actually was or if she is just a bad actress. Irrfan Khan and Ben Foster were fairly decent and made the most of the situation with their small parts.
In retrospect, I should have watched I’m Not Ashamed instead. It is Christian propaganda dancing on the corpses of children like Piers “Super Cunt” Morgan, but I would have had something of substance to write about afterward. With Inferno, all I got was a poorly put together mystery that could have been better with some intense editing. This was Ron Howard on a bad day and I recommend Angels and Demons for an example of a good day.