Apparently, reassigning literary properties from the cinema screen to the TV screen – in these cases, streamers – is the fashionable thing to do.
Following the lead of Amazon Prime Video, which teamed up with John Krasinski and turned Jack Ryan, everyone’s favorite CIA analyst, into a hot limited series, NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock, did the same with Robert langdon, the symbolist of the fame of “The Da Vinci Code”, in “The Lost Symbol”.
Produced by the team behind Langdon’s three films, it features all the hallmarks of this franchise, from fast-paced puzzle puzzles and Tom Hanks. Whoops. Excuse me. It would be Ashley Zukerman filling the shoes of the legendary actor and character. No one should envy Zukerman in this task.
But as long as we’re making comparisons, it’s a whole different storyline as far as with Jack Ryan, who was played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine (did anyone tell me? missed?), the actors had already developed a track record.
Robert Langdon has a new face
While Zukerman may bring in a “Hey, I know that guy vibe,” for some he’s still an unknown parent with a few credits – “Designated Survivor” and “Succession” – sticking out.
In the three episodes made available by Peacock, I went from cognitive dissonance to not fully caring about who portrays Langdon. Three episodes do not represent a sufficient sample to allow the formation of a fully informed opinion. It’s a long way of saying: let’s see how it goes.
And that’s more due to the fact that I liked – not liked – two of those movies for what they were. Langdon was pretty much a low-key Indiana Jones, only a nerdier and without the ability to crack a whip. In fact, it doesn’t have much of a cool factor on the surface.
However, for us geeks, who indulge in cheesy and dumb stuff without hesitation, he might as well be an icon. It’s something Hanks acknowledged, and it looks like Zukerman does too.
The filmmakers, including director Dan Trachtenberg (“The Boys,” “10 Cloverfield”), wisely take Brown’s fourth book and use it as a template to start over.
This time around, a younger Langdon (obviously) is still a respected Symbolist, but doesn’t have as much seriousness outside of academic circles. He was mentored by Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard), who is missing in Washington, DC, and the kidnapper, the mysterious Mal’akh (Beau Knapp) only wants one person to search for Solomon. Guess who?
Searching for clues in Washington, DC
He heads to DC where he renews his “friendship” with Katherine (Valorie Curry), Solomon’s daughter, and together they try to find her father.
Mal’akh isn’t about to make this easy. He’s only looking for one thing: a mysterious artifact that is believed to imbue its possessor with eternal and infinite power.
Written by Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie, the duo, along with Trachtenberg, set the right tone for Brown’s tome. Throughout those first three episodes, they provide audiences with just enough information to get us all hooked and come back for more. In that regard, it plays out exactly like Brown’s adventure stories.
The story of the tale always turns out to be intriguing, and Brown has earned a reputation for being a meticulous researcher. Having the creative team translating this to the screen is a feat in itself and something that Ron Howard, who directed the films, never received enough credit for.
And what about Zukerman? I’m assuming he’ll put his own mark on the character in future episodes and, possibly, future limited-series adaptations. However, for now, I’m happy to see how this breakout piece plays out in the coming weeks – it airs on Thursdays – because so far it’s hooked me up.
George M. Thomas dabbles in film and television for the Beacon Journal. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas.
Series: “The lost symbol”
To throw: Ashley Zukerman, Eddie Izzard, Valorie Curry, Beau Knapp
Realized by: Dan Trachtenberg
When: Streaming Thursdays on Peacock