Dan Brown's novels have a single extraordinary trick to them that play out in both film adaptations, "The Da Vinci Code
" and "Angels and Demons
." Essentially, the movies (and books, respectively) are tours of Europe's most famous landmarks given at break-neck speed and cloaked in a cheesy dinner murder mystery that gives them an edge most museum or Vatican tours don't have. In that context, "Angels & Demons" is a success. In all others however, it fails miserably.
Langdon is a symbolism professor called upon by the Vatican to unravel the symbols that point to the location of four cardinals who are to be murdered each hour leading to midnight. Then, as a cherry on the cake, a massive anti-matter bomb is going to take out Vatican City at midnight. All of this points to a conspiracy by the ancient clan, The Illuminati, acting in revenge for being all but wiped out by the Catholic church hundreds of years ago.
The plot candy has the same convoluted taste of a season of 24
, except without the moral dilemma and depth of character. Langdon is essentially just a talking head, sans the Jedi hairdo this time, and Ewan McGregor
plays opposite him as the Pope's right hand priest. Basically he's there to wax poetic about the merits and flaws of science and religion. Both have flaws, both have merits, can't we all just get along?
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Dan Brown and Ron Howard
can't match the fun and personality of rival franchises like "Indiana Jones
" or "National Treasure
" but bring a certain credibility to their setting that these other films lack. Like "The Da Vinci Code," if you want to travel to Vatican City and walk the path of Langdon, and see the symbols for yourself, you can. Although you might have some trouble getting into the Vatican Archives, you can definitely travel to the mausoleums and churches and see the statues that point the way to the Illuminati's fabled secret path. In both films, the sets are really the main character, and for nerds who are interested in finding out how much fact Dan Brown claims is actual fact, its interesting to visualize these scenes from the book.
Other than that, the story is a complete mess. The ending twist really isn't a twist at all, but more of a blind alley that everyone sees coming and nobody really wants to take. The characters are all flat and passionless, except for McGregor who makes Tom Hanks
look like a clueless Keanu Reeves
in every scene they're in together. And there are even a few scenes where shameless CGI ruins what would have otherwise been a good effect.
Despite all of this, "Angels and Demons" isn't a bad film. The Dan Brown card doesn't work its spell the same way as it did in "The Da Vinci Code," mostly because it lacks the controversy of the Jesus Christ bloodline plot and there isn't nearly as much given about the Illuminati as there is about the Knights Templar. But the thriller aspect is a tinge more suspenseful and there are some better action sequences this time around. If you liked "The Da Vinci Code," you'll like "Angels and Demons." Put simply, it's the same film, different place. Different hairdo. Did you see "Angels & Demons?" What did you think? Let us know in the comments!
Story by Eric Jones
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