Unlike previous Dan Brown movies, Inferno is about a contemporary problem

Tom Hanks with co-star Felicity Jones.
Tom Hanks with co-star Felicity Jones.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

The latest Robert Langdon movie Inferno is going contemporary, instead of delving into the past like previous instalments did, as it explores a current pressing issue - overpopulation.

In Inferno, cryptologist Langdon finds himself running through the streets of Europe as he tries to foil a plot by billionaire biologist Zobrist to ease the world's overpopulation via a deadly virus.

Its director Ron Howard, 62, tells regional reporters at a press event in Singapore: "Inferno is a thriller that we can all connect with in a very modern world. It's about a controversial idea that doesn't deal with the past. It's all about the present."

He also helmed the previous two films in the hit franchise, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009).

We’re not grinding these things out every three years in order to fill a slot on Sony’s release schedule. We get together and discover whether or not it’s worth going after.

TOM HANKS (with co-star Felicity Jones in a scene from the film, Inferno)

Actor Tom Hanks, who reprises his role as Langdon for the third time in Inferno, adds at the same media conference that the new film is a lot less "theological" than its predecessors. That arguably makes it more relatable to people of every culture.

The 60-year-old leading man says: "The thing about The Da Vinci Code was that it was this worldwide phenomenon that got everybody involved in a very interesting and yet obtuse theological question - the divinity of Jesus.

"The second movie Angels & Demons dealt with the selection of the pope, which is also a very theological question.

"But with Inferno, I think the themes have moved from the supernatural and the theological to the practical and to the shared among all cultures. So it's not just the scavenger hunt that goes on and it's not just the clue trail.

"It really does go forward with this idea of maybe we would be better off with half as many people on earth, and then what would that cost be?"

Inferno is the third film adaptation of a Dan Brown book that features the thrilling adventures of Langdon.

Joining Hanks in the film are Ben Foster (playing Zobrist); Indian actor Irrfan Khan, who plays a man who helps Zobrist in his mission; and English actress Felicity Jones, who plays a doctor named Sienna Brooks who helps Langdon escape from a group of mysterious assassins.

Although the former two Dan Brown films have succeeded commercially, they have never been popular with film critics, who say that they are ridiculous and overstuffed.

But Hanks is quick to say Inferno is not a sell-out project, stating that he continues to make more movies in the franchise because he truly believes that there is a strong and original story being told each time.

"I'm not contractually obligated to make any Dan Brown-Robert Langdon things. I must admit, they're very pleasant movies to make. I mean, I once changed my clothes, my pants, in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre at three o'clock in the morning for The Da Vinci Code.

"And for Inferno, we were in the actual palazzo of the Hall of 500 shooting in Florence. So life experience-wise, they're great. But that's secondary to, 'Well, what are we bothering with here?'

"We're not grinding these things out every three years in order to fill a slot on Sony's release schedule. We get together and discover whether or not it's worth going after. And I don't think there's any other way in order to do it."

Later, he adds with a grin: "The only thing they have in common is I get beat up in every single one of them. That's the calling card for any Dan Brown movie - there're always alliances that Langdon gets beat up."

Howard interjects: "And when there's not enough of it in the script, Tom reminds me and I seem to add it on the shooting."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'All fired up over population'. Print Edition | Subscribe