Angels and Demons (12A)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Director: Ron Howard
Running time: 138 minutes
If you’ve ever read a Dan Brown book you’ll already be aware of how much of a trashy novel writer he is. His must-put-suspense-on-every-page attitude (not to mention the fact that he completely removes any credible intelligence from his audience with every word that he pens) will do enough to want to make you want to poke one of your eyes out with a fork. For that would seem a better way to spend your afternoon than to fill your head with his nonsense.
Given that, Mr. Howard has made a second film from these books in the form of Angels and Demons, the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. The story takes us on a journey where it is believed that the Illuminati have resurfaced to destroy Christianity on one of the most influential days of the history of the religion – the papal conclave to elect the new Pope. However, there are a few problems on the day that cause it not to run as smoothly as expected. The four candidates (Preferiti) for the election have been kidnapped and are about to be murdered, one by one, every hour from 8pm onwards. Finally, midnight will see the destruction of the Vatican by an antimatter canister that has also conveniently been stolen. So, the ironic twist works its way into the plot; the Church will soon be destroyed by its evil equal that goes by the name of Science. The hero, Robert Langdon (Hanks), is called in to save the day as he knows the entire history behind the Illuminati (their Earth, Fire, Air and Water symbols) and the Church.
Much has changed between the book and the film. Most notably, the feature is a non-stop action-fest, removing the story-filler from the book; where there are always things happening that keep you wondering what will happen next. A few things seemed to be left out or changed; the development of the relationship between Langdon and Vetra is almost non-existent in the film, as well as (shock, horror!) the ending being ramped up and exaggerated for strict Hollywood audience-viewing purposes. Hanks delivers well – as is the case with most of his work – and almost single-handedly hand-holds us into watching until the end. If he were not in this production it would be incredibly dire… as opposed to almost completely dire. There are funny moments (about four) and moments that are designed to make you reflect (a billion and one, to be pedantically precise).
Ayelet Zurer is almost immediately forgettable in her role as Vittoria Vetra and you cannot help but wonder why Ewan McGregor was cast as the Camerlengo. Being surrounded by 60-somethings in the Vatican, McGregor is the fresh-face amongst them all – nice to look at, but not really nice to watch, if you catch my drift. Usually being a big fan of The McGregor, his performance was a little too insipid to enjoy. His ever-changing accent was probably the worst of all. Unfortunately, I was not impressed by these two actors. Despite everything in the film being overdone and to much haste story-wise, there are moments where the characters have mere minutes to find the next location before the hour is up (and there is another dead body), but lo-and-behold, everybody is standing around and chatting amiably; talking of how they should really get a move on. Sigh.
The best scene in the film happens in the Vatican archives underneath the Vatican itself. The second time Robert Langdon heads down there with the Swiss Guard they have a fantastic tête-à-tête that keeps you grinning and connected with them throughout. The entire farcical scene that unfolds makes it all the more hilarious when you simply remember where they are and how much damage they have just caused; a genuinely funny moment to snigger to.
On the whole, far too predictable and not a very good script. Filmmakers should really abide by the special Unwritten Commandment: Thou shalt not make pap movies. But alas, it is quite clear to see they are going to make another, as Dan Brown just keeps churning them out.
Angels and Demons gets a flimsy one and a half out of five.