At the movie theaters, finally, it’s That Time Of Year: no more January dumping ground; no more summertime bullshit. We’ve endured our share of bad cinema to get here — but that’s all over. We did it. We made it. It’s time for strictly the good stuff now.
Just kidding. HAPPY INFERNO DAY.
Inferno is this year’s Bad Cinema dead-cat bounce: that glorious last-gasp of dumb before we have to go on and be smart again. And while other people don’t seem very excited about it … honestly, that’s fine. A lot of important art isn’t recognized as great in its time. And we’re probably excited enough for everyone, anyway, as it is.
Which is to say: Before you dismiss Inferno completely — first just please hear us out. We’ve put together a short Q&A: a quick, informative, Inferno ’logue to try to ease your tastefulness blues — and to help you get into the right frame of mind as you decide whether or not to see the Bad Movie event of the Good Movie season. After that, it’s up to you.
This is 74 Questions: Inferno:
1. What’s Inferno?
It’s a movie starring Tom Hanks, and directed by Ron Howard, based on the bestselling Dan Brown book of the same name. It’s also the second sequel to The Da Vinci Code.
2. Wait — they really made another Da Vinci Code sequel?
3. Why does Tom Hanks keep signing on for these???
Because he loves them.
4. He loves them?
5. What makes you say that?
He always seems really happy in them.
6. Happy how?
Like: You know how, in Stranger Things, the main kids get picked on a lot within the general population at school? But then suddenly it becomes AV Club O’Clock — and their swagger snaps on, and their smiles come back, and they R U N T H I S S H I T? That’s Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code universe.
7. That makes sense. So, who is Ron Howard in this analogy?
8. Got it. So you’re positive that Tom Hanks isn’t having, like, financial problems or something? I will Venmo.
9. All right, I believe you — Tom Hanks loves these movies. But, ugh, I’m sorry: It’s still weird. They’re just … not good. Why does he love them?
Try to think of love less as the answer to a question, and more as the question to another question, itself unanswerable.
10. For sure. Enough about Tom Hanks, though. Let’s talk about Tom Hanks’s hair. Is it still messed up?
Yeah, it’s still messed up.
11. It’s still flat and straight and long and sad?
You mean like this?
Yeah, it’s still pretty much like that.
13. So it still looks like an unfinished drawing of hair called Unfinished Drawing of Hair?
Yeah, it does.
14. It still looks like if Nicolas Cage’s hair in Con Air got a job?
Yeah, it does look like that still.
15. It still looks like the series finale of hair?
Yeah — the very last episode, you don’t really enjoy it anymore, you’re just kind of watching to see how it ends.
16. Got it. But other than the hair: If I liked The Da Vinci Code, will I like Inferno?
17. And if I liked Angels & Demons, will I like Inferno?
No one liked Angels & Demons.
18. I did.
OK, then yes. You’ll like Inferno a lot.
19. What if I didn’t like The Da Vinci Code — is there any chance I’ll like Inferno?
20. No chance?
21. Seriously none?
I think of it like this: The Da Vinci Code is about a MURDER that happens in the LOUVRE. And for this genre of movie — i.e., movies where someone who knows what “tenure track” means tries to flex action-ward — that’s the royal flush of plotlines. You can’t top murder, and you can’t top the Louvre. “MURDER — in the LOUVRE” is like the Da Vinci–verse’s Joker — once you’ve done that movie, you have to start thinking of ways to top yourself other than “quality.”
Usually, of course, the solution is quantity: more plotlines, more villains, more locations — just … more. This is when you end up with a movie where the Big Bad hatches a scheme premised on canceling football (Bane was ahead of his time!), or where one of the major criticisms levied against your film is that it underutilized Topher Grace. For the Da Vinci Code universe, this is pretty much what Inferno ends up being: It’s the bloated, messy, “quantity” movie.
Inferno is a movie where the World Health Organization can’t just be the World Health Organization — it has to also be POSSIBLY A FINISHING SCHOOL FOR THE TREADSTONE ASSASSINS IN THE BOURNE IDENTITY. It’s a movie where there can’t just be a mysterious high-level private security firm in play, as a third-party wild card, to keep things exciting — the head of that private security firm also has to be a sociopathic, knife-wielding, maybe-deadpan comedian, who works from a [puts on elaborate pirate costume, slowly reads you the Maritime Constitution cover to cover] deluxe Wi-Fi-enabled industrial boat. And it’s a movie where there can’t just be a MURDER in the LOUVRE — there has to be an extinction event in the basement of a Turkish orchestra fundraiser.
Which is fine: The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t bother me; I genuinely like Spider-Man 3; and if big dumb messes are your thing, then Inferno is a good dumb time. It’s a lot, a lot, a lot More — and not in a bad way.
But it’s not better.
22. Yeah, I know what you mean. Except: What if I haven’t even SEEN The Da Vinci Code, but — maybe I’m a Felicity Jones head; or maybe my favorite part in A Bigger Splash is when Ralph Fiennes is peeing on the side of a road and Matthias Schoenaerts says, “Come on, that’s a grave,” and Ralph Fiennes says, “Yeah, well, Europe is a grave”; or maybe I’m writing a dissertation on Renaissance mourning jewelry — I still want to see Inferno this weekend. Would seeing them out of order be a mistake?
No, I think it would probably be fine. Inferno is pretty much its own movie.
23. With its own beginning and middle and chase scene wherein Tom Hanks eludes a STATE-OF-THE-ART DRONE ATTACK by knowing about architecture and end?
24. Also, speaking of Felicity Jones: Felicity Jones! That’s cool, that she’s in this.
Yeah, it’s cool, I agree, she’s good.
25. Do they hook up?
26. But do they?
You mean Jones and Hanks???
No! He’s like twice her age.
28. But doesn’t he hook up with Audrey Tatou in The Da Vinci Code?
It’s a great point — although, no, I don’t think that Tautou and Hanks hook up, strictly speaking. I think it’s more like: They kindle a soft flame of mutual attraction and “maybe we’ll hook up later at some point” and respect.
29. So they hook up.
Like I said: no.
30. Is there at least a shipper video of them on YouTube set to the Swedish indie rock band The Perishers’ 2003 single “Nothing Like You and I”?
Yeah, of course.
31. So Jones and Hanks are — what, just friends, then?
Yes and no.
32. The poster really makes it look like a Dork Bonnie and Clyde situation.
I probably shouldn’t say more. I don’t want to ruin it.
33. Are you saying there’s a twist???
THERE IS A BIG-ASS TWIST.
34. Will I see it coming?
35. I don’t know — I’m pretty sharp when it comes to twists.
I don’t doubt it.
36. I bet I’ll see it coming.
37. How sure are you?
38. OK. So: Hanks, Jones …
39. … Are there any other stars in this?
More like what.
The location budget.
42. Oh, great, I love a good location budget. What are we talking here — Chicago?
No. Wait, what — no.
45. OK, umm, I don’t know, what’s better than Boston: London?
No, that was the first movie.
That was the second movie.
48. Do they go to Florence, and then Venice, and then Istanbul?
Yeah. Like I said, it’s a really good location budget.
49. You weren’t kidding. Here’s the issue, though: I’m not sure I’ll be able to enjoy those locations unless, every time they walk past someplace or something, Tom Hanks — without anyone asking him to — gives a pedantic explanation of that place or thing.
You should be fine.
50. That’s a huge relief. And I have to be honest: Inferno is starting to sound pretty loaded. Hanks, Jones, sad hair, a big twist, expensive locations … there’s no way that Ben Foster gives a fake TED Talk in this, right?
51. You’re lying.
No, he really does.
52. Wow, OK. But I’m sure it’s not a super-charismatic broad-strokes rant in which he makes a 2 or 3 or 4 percent convincing case for killing billions of people?
I prefer the term “DIY overpopulation remedy.”
But yeah, that’s what his talk is about.
54. Jesus. Is it good?
Like I said, it’s Ben Foster giving a fake TED Talk about killing people.
55. About wiping out half the planet.
56. So this is, like, an elite-level Ben Foster performance.
That’s what I’m saying. This is Ben “They Had A Lot Of Weapons, Mister” Foster firing on all paycheck cylinders — the uncut and camped-up Benny Blue Eyes Experience: a little high and mighty, a little in the gutter, a little “I don’t get it,” a little “I’d hit it,” not nearly too diabolical to initiate a long-shot genocide in a nice Barbour jacket; not even close to too proud to debut his January beard in October; and if you think there isn’t a scene where he quotes Dante as foreplay during sex, you’re out of your mind. Also, I’m not really sure I understand why doping in the Tour de France had to become such a big deal, all of a sudden; it was just ruining people’s lives and bringing bracelets back into low fashion and making the world a slightly but definitively worse place? I don’t know, that’s just a thought I have sometimes. Also rings aren’t cheap!
57. For sure. And thank you. I mean, this all sounds wild. How does it hold up, though, as … you know, cinema?
58. What do you mean?
Well, it has good intentions.
59. It wants to be cinematic?
60. But it’s not?
No, it is, at times — but just not in the right way. I’d say it suffers from … “mismatched” ambitions.
61. Mismatched how?
Like: There are these … body-horror-ish interludes, where Tom Hanks hallucinates Hell on Earth? Faces are on backwards. Snakes are just, sort of, there, hanging out, chilling inside of people. Tidal waves of blood are rushing through the streets.
62. What’s wrong with that? That sounds cool.
It is, for sure — in theory. The problem is that it’s Ron Howard’s version of that — and of cool. And don’t get me wrong, Ron Howard is great. But it’s like …
63. It’s like your dad’s best friend directing Pan’s Labyrinth?
64. It’s like your high school math teacher directing Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans?
65. It’s like your dentist who sometimes goes to good concerts directing The Cell?
66. Rush is still awesome though, right?
Rush is still awesome.
67. Is it OK if I ask something a little personal?
68. What’s the movie’s puzzle situation like?
It’s very strong.
69. The puzzles are strong?
70. And is the pretense for needing them in the first place always mind-blowingly flimsy — and sometimes even completely unclear?
Yes, and yes.
71. And could you replace the puzzles with, say, $20 in burner phones — and make the exact same movie?
72. Really — the same one?
Yes, I think so.
73. But way worse?
74. Because puzzles are tight?