Movie Review: Angels & Demons by uncdiversions
May 19, 2009, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It would have been hard to swallow even if it had been a completely smooth ride.

Like a passenger aboard the Olympic after her sister ship Titanic found her watery grave at the bottom of the ocean, it was hard not to believe that Dan-Brown-inspired doom wouldn’t consume “Angels & Demons” as It had with 2006’s atrocious “The Da Vinci Code”

Well, first the good news. It’s a far better movie than its predecessor. Sadly, this doesn’t mean it’s actually a good film.

Despite improvements in almost every category you could judge it by, “Angels & Demons” ultimately falls prey to a hopelessly convoluted plot and action sequences that start off entertaining but become mired in cheesy schmaltz.

Setting the stage, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has once again been called on to save the day. This time he must protect the Vatican from a terrorist threat that involves Illuminati and an anti-matter bomb. I won’t go further with the story because if I did, I’d have so much to explain, I wouldn’t have space to actually critique the film.

To his credit, director Ron Howard really has upped his game and actually comes close to directing a successful thriller. Gone are the stale, unmoving camera angles that made viewers of “Da Vinci” feel like a cold observer with no stake in who lives or dies.

During fight scenes in churches across Rome, Howard captures the action with shots that dart from blow to blow, at times even abandoning steady cam, thus giving the movie a rawer feel that the other sorely lacked.

But Howard strikes real pay dirt in analyzing the hypocrisy of a Catholic church that refuses to accept the modern world. Shoving close-ups of Cardinals smoking and giving up their PDAs and cell phones right next to slow pans of the holy men retiring to Conclave to pick a new Pope, he throws into sharp relief the contrast between their modern lives and the church’s ancient rituals.

Hanks too has finally come into his own as Langdon. He’s dropped his bland impression of the already flavorless Nicholas Cage in “National Treasure” and has replaced it with a cool, quick-witted jackass of an anti-hero that treats the whole situation as an entertaining joke until he gets either Galileo or a gun shoved in his face.

Ultimately, however, the ills of the first movie come back to kill this one too. The premises of Brown’s novel are too many and too complex to all co-exist in one movie. A plot against the life of the Catholic Church, a scientific threat that links itself to Switzerland’s newly fired-up Large Haydron Collider and a journey to find the lost temple of the Illuminati is just too much to pack into one movie.

Because of this and the fact that Howard lapses into gag-inducing, over-the-top action for his end, “Angels & Demons” becomes a long-winded ride that has little genuine suspense to keep it from becoming tiring.

And though I’d like to say that the third time could be the charm for Hanks and Howard, it’s hard not to remember the Titanic and its sister ship. Thanks to the Nazis, that Lusitania reached a similar sad end. So maybe they should just stop while they’re ahead.

– By Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence


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