Inferno is the latest installment of the Robert Langdon film franchise, which stars Tom Hanks as the conspiracy-busting professor. Directed by long-time Hanks collaborator Ron Howard, the film is based on the best-selling book by author Dan Brown.
For those who haven't seen any of the movies from the series, Langdon looks like the nerdier cousin of Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones. He has a haircut as bad as Donald Trump's (to be fair though, greatly improved in Inferno), can't really do much in a fistfight, but is the foremost authority when it comes to cryptology and solving riddles.
But this geeky hero has managed to save the world on the big screen at least three times already. And he's out to do it again.
Billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) believes that humanity is headed for ruin, thanks to overpopulation and over-consumption. His solution? Inferno. Wipe out half of the world's population by releasing an epidemic. You see, Zobrist is obsessed with Dante Alighieri and puts up an elaborate string of puzzles for his followers to find the virus, in the event that something happens to him. Basically, he couldn't just spread the plague and get it over and done with.
The World Health Organization then enlists the help of Langdon 9and his receding hairline) to look for where Zobrist hid the virus. And once again, he is paired with a beautiful young lady, this time an ER doctor named Sienna (Felicity Jones).
Watching Inferno feels like sex on the first date. Sure, it can be exciting, although you can't help but get the feeling that everything is happening much too fast. Most of Brown's novels that have been adapted into film suffer from the same problem. Condensing everything into a two-hour film hurts the original material.
Part of what makes his books popular page-turners is that readers feel like they are deciphering the mystery with the characters. Flipping through Brown's pages gives one the luxury of analyzing and reviewing each paradox that Langdon tries to unlock. In the movie, you don't get to experience his thought process—he just arrives at the answers and you're supposed to take this at face value because he's Robert freaking Langdon, riddle-solver extraordinaire.
So what happens is you get taken to all these famous museums and exotic locations all over the world in a span of a few minutes without you even remembering how things got there in the first place. It's as straightforward as your companion asking you, "How did we get to Venice again?" and you answering, "A dude solved a puzzle and decided to go there." We dare anyone to explain it any better than that. Half of the fun in the books is in how informative it is, but that gets lost in translation in the film.
Tom Hanks is one of the most likeable actors and why the hell not—he's terrific when it comes to his craft. But he's not really given much to do with the character of Robert Langdon. As movie heroes go, the professor is pretty uninteresting. We know that Indiana Jones named himself after his dog that died and that despite his bravado, he's terrified of snakes.
But what do we really know about Langdon? All we really know about him is that—for the nth time—he's good at puzzle-solving and he's claustrophobic. That's basically it. We don't know what drives him, what his internal conflicts are or if he even has any. Simply put, Hanks' talent and charm are terribly wasted on the character.