HOLLYWOOD - Not a single foot of film has been shot, the movie doesn't open for a year and a few critics already are denouncing it, but The Da Vinci Code nevertheless has made its multiplex debut.
Sony Pictures, the studio behind the Ron Howard-directed adaptation of Dan Brown's mammoth best-selling novel, has released a short Da Vinci Code trailer, which has been playing in a number of theaters just before Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.
The "teaser" trailer, as such early previews are called, is debuting just as Britain's Westminster Abbey announced it would not allow Howard's movie to film there because the abbey considers the book "theologically unsound."
But the movie will be able to film inside the Louvre, the Paris museum in which the book's opening murder scene is set.
The Da Vinci Code teaser trailer, which has been playing on an unspecified number of Revenge of the Sith's 9,000 film prints, sets out to accomplish three things: stake out the film's release date of May 19, and thus keep competing movies at bay; remind the book's legion of readers that the film is in the works; and establish the production's international cast, which includes Tom Hanks, France's Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno, and England's Alfred Molina, Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany.
"It just seemed like there's so much knowledge and awareness of this book, it seemed natural" to run a trailer a year early, said Brian Grazer, Howard's longtime producing partner. With John Calley, Grazer is producing The Da Vinci Code.
In keeping with the book's theories about hidden messages, the teaser contains a few secret communications. At one point, scattered letters briefly spell out "Find Robert Langdon," the name of the novel's symbologist.
Without any film to include in the Da Vinci Code spot (production begins at the end of this month), Sony and trailer maker Intralink Film Graphic Design concocted a computerized model of what appears to be a desert landscape.
The camera swoops into the apparently parched earth as a narrator intones, "What if the world's greatest works of art held a secret that could change the course of mankind forever?"
The dry canyons are soon revealed to be cracks in the painted canvas of the Mona Lisa. At that point the narrator says, "No matter what you have read, no matter what you believe, the journey has just begun." That last line could be interpreted as a way to head off some of the novel's critics, who argue that its story of Jesus' and Mary Magdalene's having children is blasphemous. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has gone so far as to say Roman Catholics should not read the book.
Brown's 2003 tale of hidden mysteries, code breaking and the Catholic Church has sold more than 25 million copies in 44 languages.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.