“Angels & Demons” a good looking if flawed thriller
Perhaps if the term “historical science-fiction” were used to describe popular author Dan Brown’s books, the movie adaptations of his novels would be given more latitude. As it was with the more lethargically-paced and less satisfying “Da Vinci Code,” its’ follow-up, “Angels & Demons,” is being crucified by supposed scholars and all-knowing critics who find much of the film “preposterous” and “unintentionally humorous.”
Brown’s fans will likely disagree, because they knew what they were getting before they bought their ticket. “Angels & Demons” is not director Ron Howard’s best work, but the film has a ramped-up momentum and a spectacular look to go along with some well placed ghastly moments that make the film-no more, no less-than a nice upgrade over “Da Vinci Code.”
The energetic pace is fueled by stolen “Anti-Matter” which is then hidden beneath Vatican City, while a conclave to choose a new pope is set to begin. Noted symbologist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is brought in, along with beautiful scientist Vittoria Vetra (an alluring Ayelet Zurer of “Munich”) to find the canister containing the substance which will blow much of Rome to kingdom come in six hours if not diffused.
Four of the preferiti, the Cardinals most likely to secede the Pope are kidnapped, which leaves much of the crisis in the hands of a young Camerlengo-the beloved secretary of the deceased pontiff (a wide-eyed and charismatic Ewan McGregor).
Like Brown himself, Howard juggles the convoluted plots and historical details with aplomb, though much of the set-up will seem cryptic and a bit plodding to neophytes. Strangely, as in the “Da Vinci Code,” the gifted and likeable Hanks doesn’t quite convince as a scholarly professor. His everyman quality works against his dry, rote explanation of the historical facts that pop up with unrelenting convenience.
At least his haircut has received an upgrade. There is only a superficial treatment of the science versus religion argument here, and there is little character development of which to speak. But the sets, some actual and others CGI, are stunning and the credible cast gives the film a tangible gravitas.
“Angels & Demons” is the “National Treasure” for adults: harmless, but engaging fun that even Catholics shouldn’t get too worked up about. Unless of course the very idea that Galileo was a member of a secret society called “The Illuminati” causes them to lose sleep.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.