I wasn’t impressed with the novel and I was even less impressed with the characterization of an aging Robert Langdon in it. I’ve outlined the story of Dan Brown’s Inferno in my review of the novel so I won’t repeat any of that here. But although the novel was so much more inferior to Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, surprisingly, I found the film adaptation of Inferno better. Director Ron Howard, it seems, has finally gotten the right formula for translating a Dan Brown novel for the cinema.
The Da Vinci Code adaptation was too full of flashbacks to give historical context to the story. Sadly, they were unnecessary for the most part. Angels & Demons, meanwhile had too much lecture-y dialogues. Inferno, the novel, was eighty per cent travelogue, architecture and history (accurate or not, I do no know), and twenty per cent plot. But, on film, the storytelling was tight, the pace was good, the stunts were commendable without going over-the-top, and the locations were superbly highlighted without detracting from the storytelling. The key, obviously, was to strip Inferno of all fluff.
Ron Howard did a good job in directing the film. He managed to take out what’s bad in the novel and focus on what would look good on the screen. The excessive background information on every building, park, street and museum art piece was ignored; only the very thin storyline remained. Howard even managed to turn the smug Robert Langdon, as he was portrayed in the novel, as a more likable person. Unlike in the novel, the film adaptation’s Langdon was not someone more intent on giving a lecture if given the slightest excuse and, sometimes, even without any provocation at all.
The story was still ridiculous but that is not Ron Howard’s fault.
So, why did I bother seeing the film knowing how bad the novel was? The film locations. I thought the chase in the Boboli Gardens in Florence would be interesting, and I was not disappointed.
There are hundreds of ancient cisterns underneath Istanbul. Basilica Cistern is 500 feet southwest of Hagia Sophia. It is 9,000 square meters in area and is supported by 336 30-foot high marble columns. In Inferno, the Basilica Cistern was the venue of a concert. Look at that photo above and see what Ron Howard did to create a gothic scene that depicted old with new, and darkness with light. It was pretty awesome.