I really wanted to like the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Granted it had mitigating factors working against it from the outset but I really enjoyed the novel and was hoping for the best. The Da Vinci Code ended up being quite a disappointment for me and I held out no hope for a sequel (prequel) based on Dan Brown’s better Robert Langdon book, Angels & Demons.
When I first heard that Angels & Demons was going to be made into a film, I was honestly surprised. I probably should not have been, being as the film grossed about 3/4 of a billion dollars worldwide but I, and many others, felt that The Da Vinci Code was a one shot deal. For one Ron Howard had never before directed a sequel to one of his films and while it probably was not exceptionally hard to coax him back for another go, what with the truck load of money they probably filled his pool with, it still had never happened before and he has directed some major hits in his time. The second and more major reason I did not see this film coming was that The Da Vinci Code sold really well based on the controversy surrounding its subject matter, Angels & Demons is far less controversial. Sure some nutcases were going to protest it but if you look hard enough you can probably find people protesting sunshine and rainbows, the point is that people will protest just about anything and Angels & Demons is relatively safe material. I just wasn’t sure what they were going to rely on this time around to make their money.
It seems director Ron Howard and series star Tom Hanks decided that with Angels & Demons their goal should be to make good movie and in most respects they got it right. Angels & Demons revolves around a plot to destroy the church. The plot involves far fetched (and incorrect) theories on antimatter, secret societies, murders, intrigue, artwork, and historical inaccuracies and it is all on the shoulders of symbolism professor Robert Langdon to save the day once again. All of which makes for a thrilling ride providing you can close off your brains bullshit detector. Hanks, who was near unbelievable as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, gets his character right this time around and it goes a long way to selling the movie. Something else that helps the movie is the centralization of the films plot. One of the main problems with both The Da Vinci Code movie and the Dan Brown authored book is the fact that the plot of The Da Vinci Code jumps around from location to location. On the other hand Angels & Demons takes place primarily in Vatican City and Rome, Italy, this centralization of the plots locales really focuses the film.
Director Ron Howard seems to have found his focus too and while Angels & Demons won’t rank up there with his more critically acclaimed works, it is a well directed thriller that is arguably his best popcorn flick since 1996’s Ransom. Hanks seems to be having a blast and I can only imagine Howard was having a blast alongside him because Angels & Demons improves on all the things that The Da Vinci Code did wrong. It looks better. It sounds better. It is better cast and in turn better acted, Ewan McGregor in particular is great. The story is better. Angels & Demons is just a better film in every respect to The Da Vinci Code.
Of course just because a film is better than its insanely successful predecessor does not mean that it is not flawed and Angels & Demons is flawed. The biggest flaw for me was in its ending. The pacing of the ending is tedious and the film probably could have dealt with some judicious cuts towards the end. The film is generally true to the book and while the ending works well in print the tension is lost on screen. Figuring out the twist is a matter of simple deduction and anyone with half a brain will have figured it out fairly early on, sadly this just makes the last 20 minutes of the film progress like ketchup stuck in a bottle. You know what is going to happen but you have to wait for the film to catch up to you. Honestly if the ending wasn’t so forced I probably would have left the theater feeling far better about the film, unfortunately I left drained and a little sour on the film.
As a whole Angels & Demons is good. It has it’s problem but what film doesn’t? It won’t light your world on fire but if you are looking for a change of pace from all the explosions, high paced action and crappy CGI then Angels & Demons might just work for you.
3 out of 5
Jay and Brady spend about 12 minutes (seriously) arguing about the quality of Angels & Demons on last Friday’s episode of About 12 Minutes. As you can tell by my review I probably fall somewhere in the middle ground of their argument being as the film was a good serviceable piece of summer entertainment. Anyway, give it a listen.