The mystery genre is one of the most popular genres in literature, film, and television. It is also one of the oldest genres in existence. The mystery genre has been around for centuries, but it hasn’t seen any significant changes since then. What does that mean for the future of this genre?
Dopey is a word with many definitions. The overall mystery that feels dopey is something that has no definitive answer.
The Lost Symbol is an earnest but half-baked puzzler with competent, appealing characters and a clunky clockwork storyline with few shocks, based on Dan Brown’s best-selling Robert Langdon symbologist series’ third novel.
After ABC’s Lost concluded in 2010, networks scrambled to find the next supernatural mystery box series. It’s amazing that a Dan Brown book has taken this long to be adapted for the small screen, given the amount of Lost clones we’ve seen since the show’s conclusion. Langdon’s adventures seem tailor-made for an episodic format, which may be due to the fact that his books were big-screen Tom Hanks films for a decade. While this is true for The Lost Symbol, the pilot episode, “As Above, So Below,” does not precisely establish the tone for the remainder of the series. This is a simple, by-the-numbers scavenger quest.
Robert Langdon, a Harvard University professor who understands all there is to know about religion iconology and symbolism, is played by Ashley Zukerman (Fear Street). Parts of Zukerman’s performance are delightful and funny, as he portrays a detective who is both endearing and irritating in equal measure. The mix of informative and annoying is a sort of sweet spot for TV snoops. In this sense, a figure like Langdon should be both out of his depth and in his element at the same time, and Zukerman is a good, satisfying Langdon in this respect.
The disappearance of Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard, once again in Hannibal-style danger), is brought into this period, but it isn’t instantly intriguing. Similar to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a loved one prods Langdon into action, pushing him to discover a rumored ancient gateway that leads to limitless knowledge and power.
In contrast to other of Brown’s more globe-trotting excursions, The Lost Symbol is a trip into Masonic mumbo-jumbo in which everyone will learn a useful lesson about fiddling with the unknown and researching the past. There is enough popcorn content to satisfy in this regard, but not much more.
Dan Trachtenberg of 10 Cloverfield Lane directed “As Above, So Below,” which has gruesome scenes, subterranean tunnels, booby traps, Dan Brown secret society mercenaries, and, of course, Langdon’s renowned gorgeous head of hair (which Hanks was lightly roasted for lacking). This first chapter moves along well, with flashbacks filling in important character information and focusing on Langdon as he deciphers clues left by a villain called Mal’akh. It’s typical junior league mystery stuff that, for the most part, conceals its boring nature by turning everyone into fast-talking Wiki pages.
Langdon’s think tank includes Katherine (Valorie Curry, The Tick), Peter’s daughter and Langdon’s old love, CIA investigator Sato (Sumalee Montano), and astute Capital cop Nunez on their trip (Rick Gonzalez). Because he’s a little s***ty about Katherine’s area of Noetic Science, Langdon’s quest is punctuated with light squabbling between him and her. While Izzard’s campaign is interspersed with light squabbling between him and Katherine because, well, he’s sort of s***ty about her area of Noetic Science, he offers important emotional stakes here (as well as a very distracting academic ponytail). That’s a discipline that’s proven to be much more interesting than Langdon’s particular area, which seems to be nothing more than fancy infographics (he’s teaching a Harvard seminar on what “certain symbols currently signify”).
Nothing in The Lost Symbol is meant to shatter stereotypes or rattle cages, but it’s a great way to switch off your brain for a bit while a few “smart” characters spew out clever things.
What’s our conclusion?
The Lost Symbol debut is basically OK, since it belongs to a beautiful network TV-style nest of delicious potboilers that can rapidly bounce us from scene to scene, clue to clue, without delivering anything really remarkable. Ashley Zukerman’s Robert Langdon is a fine “everyman” hero with a bit of academic arrogance and situational discomfort, but the whole puzzle is unoriginal and dopey.
The dopey synonym is a mystery that feels like it has been around for centuries. It is an overall feeling of being dopy, or dulled out by something.
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