Here’s why Tom Hanks’ The Lost Symbol film, a part of the Robert Langdon franchise, was canceled and eventually adapted into a series. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is the third installment in the established Robert Langdon timeline, dealing with the Harvard symbologist’s race against time in Washington D.C., which purportedly hosts an ancient portal promising apotheosis. As director Ron Howard and leading man Tom Hanks decided to skip this text in the movie franchise, The Lost Symbol was transformed into a television series that acts as a prequel in the franchise itself, featuring a younger Langdon.
The show premiered on September 16, 2021 and aired its 10-episode first season on Peacock. Unfortunately, the show didn’t have much success in reigniting the Robert Langdon franchise, as The Lost Symbol show was canceled in January 2022, two months after the first season wrapped. Clearly, the story hasn’t had the best of luck in being told and even the previous success of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard’s Robert Langdon movies was not enough to make The Lost Symbol work. However, there are some clear reasons while The Lost Symbol film never took off and came to the small screen instead.
The Lost Symbol Movie Became A Show Because Of Inferno
While The Lost Symbol movie connects to Robert Langdon’s storyline and would’ve been well-received with Tom Hanks at the helm, the decision to turn the book into a television prequel might’ve been the smartest choice based on Ron Howard and Hanks’ reasoning — even though the series was canceled. Despite dealing with a wide range of secret societies, underground cults, cryptic documents, and monuments laden with religious and cultural significance, all Dan Brown novels follow a formulaic approach in terms of the Robert Langdon narratives.
The explosive success of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons on the big screen can be attributed to the intricacies of the plot, which branches out like a maze and unites discordant elements and symbols across history and time. While The Da Vinci Code dealt exclusively with the Holy Grail’s lore and its related symbolism, the Robert Langdon franchise’s second installment, Angels and Demons, forayed deep into the crypts of the Vatican’s best-kept secrets, and the existence of a society named The Illuminati.
Despite Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code being made out of order, the Robert Langdon franchise should’ve continued with The Lost Symbol movie. However, in 2016 prolific director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks decided to release Inferno instead, and it was announced that The Lost Symbol movie would be turned into a television series. The Lost Symbol TV show eventually emerged on Peacock in 2021.
What Is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol About
It is interesting to note that The Lost Symbol deals exclusively with Freemasonry and the quest for a higher knowledge that allows man to ascend into divinity. This, of course, plays out in quintessential Brownian fashion, with Langdon (Ashley Zukerman) at the nexus of the mystery, exacerbated by the kidnapping of Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard).
In an interview (via CinemaBlend), Hanks explained that he and Howard worked on The Lost Symbol movie for a while to gauge whether it would work, but came to the conclusion that the plot was too reminiscent of the first two films in the franchise. The exploration of Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol echoed the theoretical dilemmas touched upon in Angels and Demons, while also mirroring the Priory of Sion with The Lost Symbol‘s secret Leviathan Group as well as The Knights Templar in The Da Vinci Code.
Why Tom Hanks and Ron Howard Canceled The Lost Symbol Movie
Because of these narratorial and thematic similarities between The Lost Symbol movie and its cinematic predecessors, Howard and Hanks decided to skip ahead and focus on Brown’s next novel, Inferno. This was an interesting choice, as the narrative of Inferno hinged on Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, along with a plotline that focused on a transhumanist scientist hell-bent on unleashing a biological plague in order to halt the world’s population growth.
While Inferno provided a tonally fresh aspect to the Robert Langdon trilogy, the adaptation was unable to do justice to the source material and received mixed to negative reviews from critics, despite being a commercial success. There’s no telling if The Lost Symbol movie would’ve faced the same issues as Inferno; however, the television series was not well-received with some audience members citing confusing mythology (such as the hallucination machine “The Araf” featured in episode 2) and odd pacing as reasons behind the show failing.
Why The Lost Symbol Is A TV Show
Recognizing the untapped potential of The Lost Symbol movie, the project was re-conceived as a television series in 2019, initially titled Langdon. Soon, Peacock picked up the series, which serves as a prequel connection to Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon movies, with Ashley Zukerman (Fear Street trilogy) assuming the role of a young Langdon. The Lost Symbol TV series delved into Langdon’s psyche in great detail and had the opportunity to flesh out his inner motivations and present him as more than a man entranced by symbols.
However, the series was panned by critics and audiences alike, thus it was canceled after season 1. While the show offered a lot in the way of symbols and puzzles, like the complicated Triskelion, it wasn’t enough to keep the show afloat. The Lost Symbol also offered a glimpse into the characters of Mal’akh (Keenan Jolliff), Peter Solomon, and Catherine Solomon (Valorie Curry), which was a delight for those who are fans of the literary series.
Why The Lost Symbol’s TV Show Was Also Canceled
A key part of The Lost Symbol‘s cancellation was its mediocre reception from critics and fans and its disappointingly low ratings. At the same time, however, the series’ producers (along with its streaming home, Peacock) have said that The Lost Symbol season 1 accomplished everything that the show had set out to do. Obviously, this would negate the need for a season 2, even if the first season had been better received.
It makes sense that The Lost Symbol season 1’s story is meant to feel complete, as it adapts the entirety of Dan Brown’s novel of the same name. Had Ashley Zuckerman’s version of Robert Langdon been more of a hit, Peacock may have been able to adapt more of Brown’s novels for the series, or even branch into original content. As it stands, however, The Lost Symbol simply wasn’t the hit that Tom Hanks’ Langdon films were, and audiences will never know where season 2 could have gone.
Why Ron Howard Didn’t Make The Lost Symbol Movie (In His Own Words)
Though there might have been plans for The Lost Symbol film before the franchise fell apart, Ron Howard did have the chance to make the movie earlier. The Lost Symbol was initially thought to be the third movie in the Robert Langdon franchise, however, Howard decided to go with Inferno instead. Though he had plenty of praise for Dan Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol, Howard explained (via Cinema Blend) that he felt it would be too similar to The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. On the other hand, Howard found that Inferno “immediately felt like a cinematic next step, and that excited us.“
While it is understandable that Howard wanted to try something new with the third installment in franchise, it could have been the decision that killed the series altogether. Inferno was seen as the worst of Dan Brown/Robert Langdon movies by many fans and critics and its failure at the box office could be because fans wanted to see more of the puzzle-solving that had defined the franchise up until then. However, with the cancellation of The Lost Symbol show, it seems that the future of Dan Brown adaptations is far from certain regardless of the medium.