HANKS’S HELL ON EARTH
Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in the film version of Inferno, ready to save the world from a virus designed to kill half of humanity
Actor Tom Hanks says that while his latest film tackles overpopulation creating hell on earth, humanity has more to fear from its own ignorance.
Ahead of the world premiere of Inferno, the latest in the Dan Brown series that features Hanks’s return as symbologist Robert Langdon, the US actor said the film aimed to enlighten audiences about real issues as well as entertain.
Inferno, the third film following on from Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, takes a darker tone and brings together an international cast, including Bollywood’s Ifran Khan, Felicity Jones from the UK and French comedian Omar Sy. As readers and audiences have come to expect from Brown’s novels and their film adaptations, the plot references a historical text, this time Dante’s early renaissance epic poem “Divine Comedy”, and his description of hell. Largely set in Dante’s hometown of Florence, but also Venice and Istanbul, the film takes place over 24 hours, with Langdon racing to save the world from a virus, created by billionaire Bertrand Zobrist who wants to save the world from overpopulation by wiping out half of humanity.
Zobrist’s dire warnings about humanity and the world’s population trebling in 80 years are based in fact, director Ron Howard says.
But despite humanity overloading the world, the villain isn’t necessarily humanity itself.
“I think it’s about a crisis,” Howard says. “I don’t think humanity is the villain ... I would say society, because it’s not tackling the crisis head on, it’s creating a vacuum and in that vacuum an extremist has moved in – this is what happens in society.
“This (is a) larger looming crisis that needs to be addressed but politicians and general citizens don’t necessarily want to face it.”
Similarly, Hanks says the film deals with a global reality.
“You don’t have to look very far to see a hellish example of what overpopulation can do to a nation or to an area,” he says. “There are plenty of places where environmental or economic chaos reigns because quite frankly there’s too many people there.”
The environmentalist, who in the past has donated to Democratic Party presidential campaigns, laments the tendency “to embrace some form of very simplistic answers to extremely complicated problems” and says “the biggest threat to humankind is ignorance and the embracing of ignorance”. While the world has always faced crossroads, at the moment “it just seems to be much louder and a more constant echo chamber”, Hanks says, in a veiled reference to the current US presidential election.
“Part of it’s because every four years in the United States we embrace this kind of question and we deal with it but also there is no doubt the world seems to be more and more chaotic than ever before,” the actor says. But Hanks believes “all of our problems are man-made, all of our problems can be solved by humankind”.
The two Hollywood superstars say they returned to the series not out of contractual obligation, but because they find Brown’s novels and their film adaptations thrilling to make, and it often means time on location in European cities.
Hanks even imparts some advice for travellers to the increasingly crowded Italian city, after having spent a month filming there: “If you want to avoid the tourists in Florence, go to a laundromat on Sunday. No tourists in the laundromat on Sunday!” Inferno opens today
Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones on the balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica for a scene from Inferno.