REVIEW: This was supposed to be the third outing for Tom Hanks as Dan Brown’s Harvard Symbologist.
The crowning glory of Ron Howard’s monster moneymaking Robert Langdon trilogy that started with 2006’s The Da Vinci Code. But, somewhere between the polarising reception to the novel in September 2009 (The New York Times described it as “impossible to put down”, while the Financial Times thought it was filled with “cliche, bombast, undigested research and pseudo-intellectual codswallop”), and the July 2013 announcement that Howard, Hanks and company were going to focus on the then just released fourth novel Inferno instead, the project got quietly shelved.
Now, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is back (streaming on both Neon and SkyGo from tomorrow, Monday, December 6) in a very different form.
Part of the Criminal Minds and Revenge writing teams, Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie have been charged with turning the Freemasonry-focused, 671-page paperback into a 10-part “Young Robert Langdon” prequel.
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This allows them to not only recast their main man – the 65-year-old Hanks replaced by 38-year-old Succession star Ashley Zukerman – but also craft a new path, free of the baggage of the film trilogy.
The result is kind of a cross between TV’s Young Indiana Jones and Hannibal. While that makes for entertaining viewing, what this lacks is the latter’s sense of character and the gravitas that comes with a top-notch cast. This has a police-procedural feel about it ( Zukerman’s Langdon and Sumalee Montano’s Inoue Sato possessing a similar dynamic to Elementary’s Holmes and Watson) and Eddie Izzard hamming it up as Langdon’s mentor Peter Solomon.
It is a supposed phone call from him that sparks this adventure. A plea for Langdon to present a keynote speech for an imminent Smithsonian Institute gala. But when our young professor gets there, he finds an empty lecture theatre and an awfully familiar-looking severed hand.
Subsequent contact reveals Solomon is being held captive and will only be released once Langdon has uncovered and opened an ancient portal said to be the key to “unlocking abilities of the mind”. As an initial visit to Solomon’s secret sub-basement study indicates, it’s an arduous task, not without its dangers.
Despite a fractured narrative, which takes us further back to when Langdon first met Solomon and his adult children – psycho-physiological scientist Katherine (Valorie Curry) and rebellious adventurer Zachary (Beau Knapp) – events move at a fair clip, an engaging, easy mix of puzzle-solving and danger dodging.
Zukerman is a solid, if unspectacular lead, with Montano and Curry proving to be fine foils, the former belying one book reviewer’s assessment of the character as “the Jar Jar Binks of the franchise”.
However, like the Langdon movies, this appears afflicted by the “sub-par villain syndrome”. Certainly on the early evidence, the nefarious mastermind of all this appears awfully similar to Code’s hooded disappointment Silas.
Still if you’re looking for an easy summer watch to dip in and out of, The Lost Symbol could be just the ticket.
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol begins streaming on Neon and SkyGo from Monday, December 6.