Angels & Demons premiered last week and I’ve just seen it. Please be warned, there are minor spoilers to follow.
For those of you living under a rock for the past long while, Angels & Demons is the second film adapted from a Dan Brown book. Angels & Demons again teams up director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, starring as the mystery-solving lead, Robert Langdon. Other familiar faces includes Ewan McGregor, who plays Chamberlain to the Pope and is suddenly thrust into great power, Stellan Skarsgard as the head of the Swiss Guard and Armin Mueller-Stahl as one of the church’s leading Cardinals. Taking up the mantle of Robert Langdon’s token female side-kick is Ayelet Zurer. Another one of my favorite actors, Carmen Argenziano even makes an appearance early in the film.
The basics of the storyline are: The Pope dies. Sorry, it must be said. Following the Pope’s death, the Chamberlain to the Pope inherits quite a bit of power while the Conclave of Cardinals meets to elect the next Pope, resulting in a bit of a power struggle. During this time, four Cardinals, candidates for the succession to the Papacy, are kidnapped. The Vatican needs help to solve the crime and find the missing Cardinals. Who do they call on? Symbolist Robert Langdon, of course. Early in the film, the villainous threat is exposed – the Illuminati. What began as an organization of loyal Catholics who believed science and religion were happy companions rather than the bitter nemeses the church believes them to be. Essentially, the book and film tackle the age-old debate of science versus religion.
Now to the review portion. The sets are gorgeous – ancient chapels and Vatican City and beautiful sculptures. The books and movies always inspire me to learn more about church lore. Yay for history . . . or salacious scandal, whichever works for you! Tom Hanks was good reprising this role, as were many of the supporting actors. However, the film is just okay. The screenplay just didn’t hold up. Overall the effort felt totally contrived. The film turned out to be one giant narrative. Characters run from place to place. Once they arrive at their destination, they simply tell the audience what is happening. There were no great shockers here and the clues were just too simple. Who needs a symbols expert? If you can find Waldo, you too can follow the signs.
And yet the biggest problem with this movie is the last half hour. When you think the story has finally unfolded, there is, what is meant to be, an unexpected twist. But wait, that’s not all, another twist. And, wait for it . . . another twist. Unfortunately for the audience, these twists are not exactly shocking. Perhaps, it’s simply the pacing of the film. In the end, the entire film follows a pattern that can all but be timed out.
Having said all that, I must admit this movie was a good for what it is – a way to escape for a couple of hours. It’s not any kind of big blockbuster or mind-bending thriller, but good entertainment.