Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Ron Howard Afraid of Offending Muslims?

Ron Howard has managed to perfectly illustrate where Hollywood divides popcorn entertainment from the intolerable and the inflammatory. He has shrugged off the risk of insulting a billion Catholics. When it comes to Muslims, though, he has a very different policy: hands off.

Howard’s choices on how to adapt Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons speaks more loudly than anything in the film itself. (Incidentally, Angels & Demons takes place before and was written before Brown’s first blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, although in the movies the order of the two stories is reversed.)

Brown’s novel, clumsily written as it is (”So we meet yet again” is a typical line of dialogue), gives characters deep backgrounds and ample motivations. The girl in the book, for instance, is a scientist who is out to find who killed her colleague and father. In the movie, the murder victim is simply her lab partner. Simplifying the book and eliminating characters is necessary, but there is no reason for Howard to de-Islamify the book’s central killer.