Inferno (2016) Blu-ray Review: Well, It Certainly Is Hellish…

If there’s one grouping author Dan Brown never imagined he would be lumped into, it’s that of the works by purported novelists E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer, and whoever it is we have to blame for those Hunger Games and Divergent books. And yet, thanks to terrible film adaptations of the works of Dan Brown ‒ to say nothing of other (real) writers whose works have been equally massacred by Tinseltown scribes who keep appearing to miss the moral of the story ‒ it has almost become virtually impossible to distinguish legitimate writers from hacks. Brown’s messages to humanity first became garbled when Hollywood’s most notorious hack, Akiva Goldsman, attempted to adapt The Da Vinci Code for the silver screen.

In what instead became one of the most unintentionally funny films of 2006, Goldsman’s butchering of Brown’s novel (as directed by his frequent directing partner, Ron Howard) was a particularly interesting experience for yours truly, as it awarded me with an opportunity to watch my then-girlfriend ‒ who had just frantically finished reading the source material ‒ experience a harrowing phenomenon people generally classify as “having a cow.” Her heavy, labored breathing and numerous efforts to tear off the tip of the solid wood auditorium chair’s arm via a hand which had been permanently set to “Death Grip” mode indicated Goldsman’s script may have overlooked a few things. In fact, watching her suffer become more entertaining than the actual film itself.

Though it seemed promising when Goldsman dropped off of the radar when it came time to turn Brown’s Angels & Demons into a moving picture three years on, the end-result was still just as bad ‒ if not worse ‒ than its cinematic predecessor, thanks largely in part to paint-by-numbers direction by Ron Howard, a largely lethargic performance by returning actor Tom Hanks, and a script by David Koepp which almost made his previous Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull screenplay seem decent. But, much like Akiva Goldsman’s The Da Vinci Code, 2009’s Angels & Demons essentially equated into nothing more than one easily forgettable mess of a movie.

In fact, it wasn’t until nearly ten years later when a copy of Inferno ‒ the latest offering from the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks film franchise ‒ that I actually recalled Angels & Demons existed in the first place. And even then, it was fragmented bits and pieces of bad green screen action covered with hard-to-miss CGI. So, shortly after this dull 2016 adaptation of Brown’s Inferno ‒ an apocalyptic end-times thriller laced with cryptic life-and-death puzzles (or “a Dan Brown novel,” if you will) ‒ opened with Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon experiencing a bad case of amnesia from what physician Felicity Day claims was a bullet grazing his noggin, I could not help but relate: I wished someone would have shot me in the head as well.

For his latest big-screen misadventure, Brown’s Robert Langdon (once again phoned in by an appropriately sedated Tom Hanks), in the accompaniment of his aforementioned tagalong guest star from Rouge One, trek across the globe (well, Europe and North Africa, mostly) in order to find a viral time bomb planted by a recently deceased hipster cult leader (Ben Foster, who has appeared in worse). With no idea as to what is going on (a sentiment shared by the audience) Langdon is not only unable to recall the word for coffee, he is also uncertain of who to trust ‒ a feeling of uneasiness which is felt mostly by the audience, as Koepp’s reinterpretations of Brown’s twists are as formulaic and as predictable as can be ‒ as everyone seems to be out to get him.

Among the ensemble of potential allies and nemeses are international actors and actresses such as Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu, and Ida Darvish. Alas, with all of that talent on-deck, nary a one of ’em are capable of holding a candle when Irrfan Khan is on-screen as shadow organization manipulator extraordinaire Harry Sims. Possessing all of the grace and elan the rest of the cast seems to have traded in for the cash equivalent, Mr. Khan is ‒ by and far ‒ the only saving grace for this otherwise lamentable shot at preserving a film franchise which was better off left alone in the first place. In fact, if Inferno had been even remotely successful, a Harry Sims solo feature probably would have been the first thing commissioned.

Alas, we’re stuck with Inferno. Interestingly enough, the film wasn’t even supposed to be the next one in line: Dan Brown’s other Robert Langdon novel, The Lost Symbol, was originally slated to be the next feature in line, with initial planning taking place after Angels & Demons hit screens in 2009. Several years (!) later, Sony decided to summon Inferno into existence instead ‒ which could explain the apparent lack of effort the filmmakers took in establishing something resembling plausibility. The noticeable shift in the financial aid department ($75-million may seem like a lot to most of us, but it won’t get you very far making a movie in Hollywood) is also hard to miss, especially once the bad CGI effects start up.

Some of the budgetary restraints may have been responsible for the shift in visual quality, as well, since Inferno was the first film in a series to be shot digitally. It’s also the only film to not be filmed in a widescreen scope format, making it look all the more like a bad direct-to-video sequel which they decided to released to theaters at the last minute since the main actress was going to be appearing in the first solo Star Wars film two months later. And now, nearly three months after its theatrical debut in the US, Inferno hits home video. While the movie wasn’t very hot, the presentation on this Blu-ray is as perfect as can be for those of you who love their A/V equipment. It may warrant a rental for that reason alone, it nothing else.

As far as special features go, Sony’s Blu-ray of Inferno includes nearly a half-hour of deleted/extended scenes (some ‒ if not all ‒ of which are presented in raw form, without finished FX). There’s really nothing groundbreaking to be seen or heard in these snipped scenes, and the perfunctory assortment of EPK making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes you’d expect to find on a release such as this are, naturally, present and accounted for. A slew of previews for other easy-to-forget flicks is also included, none of which appear to be scripted by Akiva Goldsman or David Koepp. But don’t jump for joy just yet: both repeat offenders are attached to many more unnecessary adaptations, sequels, and reboots, all set to debut over the next couple of years.

Suddenly, unleashing a population-killing virus doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

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Luigi Bastardo

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