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Great new for fans of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels: Ron Howard reportedly will not return to the franchise to helm a feature-film adaptation of The Lost Symbol for Sony Pictures.
Listen, Howard is an excellent director. Certain material fits right into his wheelhouse. But he was the wrong fit for Brown’s rapidly paced narratives. The Langdon novels move like runaway trains. They are the textbook definition of the term “pageturners.” Howard’s adaptations never captured that sensation. And while the director’s two stabs at the series earned serious money for Sony – 2006’s The Da Vinci Code pulled in $217 million domestically, while Angels & Demons posted just over half that with $133.3M – a quick scan of each film’s Rotten Tomatoes page reveals such dismissive terms as “middlebrow,” “inert” and “a disaster.” Which helps explain why the studio is moving in a different direction, according to Deadline.
The report does make it sound like it was Howard’s decision not to return to the franchise, stating an unwillingness to rehash the same characters for a similar story in Lost Symbol, which finds symbologist Robert Langdon tracking evil Freemasons around Washington, D.C. And that may be true, though Howard’s Langdon films are the only movies on the filmmaker’s resume to make any money since 2001’s Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind. Still, money isn’t everything, and Howard might just have been ready for a change of pace. He already has several other options at his fingertips, from the Formula-1 racing drama Rush with Chris Hemsworth to a rumored Spy vs. Spy film for Warner Bros.
As for Lost Symbol, it’s unclear who Sony will plug in to the director’s chair. And will they have Tom Hanks in the lead? Truthfully, Brown’s story could survive without Hanks, who was a decent Langdon (particularly in Demons) but isn’t essential to the film’s success. The studio needs to consider directors with action on their resume. Doug Liman (Go, The Bourne Identity) could be an excellent fit for Brown’s material. Jon Turteltaub also could transition over from the National Treasure franchise with ease. We’ll see what happens in Robert Langdon’s world now that Howard has moved on.