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Inferno (2016)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 1/24/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/16/2017

When filmmakers are planning a sequel, they should be planning things very carefully. If a sequel is warranted, this implies that audiences liked something about the original project. Now the question becomes, do you give them more of the same or try something a little different? If it's too similar, it may be boring, but, if it's too divergent, you may lose that core crowd. The most obvious answer would appear to be to shoot straight down the middle -- you keep enough of the original elements to make everyone happy, but you bring in something new so that it doesn't feel like a retread. This appears to be the approach taken by the makers of Inferno. But, were they able to achieve the perfect balance?

Inferno continues the adventures of Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), who we previously saw in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. As the film opens, Landgon awakens in a hospital in Florence, Italy. He has a head wound and no idea how he got to Florence, as he last remembers being in Cambridge. His physician, Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), assures him that this is amnesia tied to his injury. Before Langdon can ask more questions, he is attacked by a woman posing as a police officer, and with the aid of Brooks, flees the hospital. Safely in Brooks' apartment, Langdon discovers that he is in possession of a small projector (?) which shows the map from Dante's Inferno. This is tied to billionaire industrialist Bertand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who was recently found dead. Langdon recognizes that the map is a puzzle and that solving it will lead him to...something. He can't remember why he has the map or what he's supposed to be doing, despite having flashes of memories. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has gotten word that Langdon has been exposed to a virus and they are after him. With Brooks assistance, Langdon sets off on an adventure across Europe to solve the puzzles and clear his name.

If you've seen the other Robert Langdon movies, then you know that the man is all about history and puzzles, and he certainly gets plenty of those in Inferno. However, this film opens with a twist, as neither Langdon, nor the audience, know how he got to Florence or what he is supposed to be doing there. Therefore, the first half of the film is a giant puzzle. This is a great way to open the movie, as it places the viewer right there with Langdon and the way in which Inferno hits the ground running (we're barely 10 minutes in and Langdon is fleeing for his life) makes it immediately intriguing. In addition, the visions which Langdon keeps experiencing are filled with horrific images of torn and twisted bodies and floods of blood. (In the extra features included here, Director Ron Howard admits that these scenes aren't his usual thing, but he had a blast shooting them.)

Veteran filmgoers know that few films can maintain this kind of momentum and Inferno is no exception. The new ideas trotted out in the film's opening eventually give way to concepts which will be all too familiar to those who have seen the other movies. While still on the lam, Langdon travels from place-to-place finding clues which give him another piece of the puzzle. Of course, these mysteries involve ancient literature and art, here centering on the works of Dante and the man himself. Not only does the movie fall into a well-known pattern, Langdon also finds himself racing to save the world from the works of a madman. Hey, didn't he do the exact same thing in Angels & Demons. Not only does the sameness hurt the movie, the solving of puzzles really slows things down at times, as the film is forced to explain to us where Langdon is and what he's doing.

So, Inferno is a decidedly mixed-bag. Again, the opening is very well done and there is a twist at the outset of the third act which I did not see coming. (Although, I should have given some plotholes in the hospital scene.) The actors all do well and Howard has assembled a nice international cast. Perhaps its due to his confusion and desperation in the beginning, but Langdon is a more interesting character in this outing. However, much of that goodwill is squandered when the movie becomes a carbon-copy of the other films. Again, I can understand why they wouldn't want to alienate fans of the series, but it does make things seem quite trite. (And the fact that this entry didn't even make back half of its budget at the box-office may something about interest in the films.) If you aren't a die-hard Langdon devotee, then this one is definitely a rental.

Inferno should have done a better job explaining how Brooks rented that car on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, and although some of the film takes place at night, the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the picture has a nice amount of depth. The daytime scenes display the sort of bright crispness which sets 4K apart. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. From the outset, this track flexes its muscles, as Langdon's visions deliver audio which fills the speakers, and triggers the subwoofer. The street scenes provide a nice amount of effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen and the score sounds very good.

The extras features in this Inferno set are found on the enclosed Blu-ray Disc. We begin with seven EXTENDED & DELETED SCENES which run about 27 minutes. The bulk of these are simply longer versions of scenes from the finished film, with some extra moments. There are no new characters or subplots here. The only difference is that the very end is staged somewhat different in a cut scene. In "Visions of Hell" (6 minutes), Ron Howard talks about how Langdon's hallucinations were envisioned were brought to life and how they were influenced by the work of Dante. "Inferno Around the World" (14 minutes) examines the international scope of the movie, including the diverse cast and the various locations. "A Look at Langdon" (6 minutes) profiles Hanks' character and examines his modus operandi. Similarly, "This is Sienna Brooks" (6 minutes) introduces us to Jones' character, and looks at how she changes in the movie. Ben Foster is given a chance to talk about his role in "The Billionaire Villain: Bertrand Zobrist" (5 minutes). "Ron Howard, A Director's Journal" (10 minutes) allows him to show us how he's using social media to release information about his movies to his fans.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long