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‘Angels and Demons’ Movie Review

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in ‘Angels and Demons.’

Angels and Demons

I’m thinking Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books weren’t meant to be made into movies. They’re an enjoyable read, but there’s so much backstory to digest, so many minute but important details involving the cases Langdon becomes involved in that neither The Da Vinci Code nor Angels and Demons have translated well into feature films. Plus, whether a conscious decision or just one made to make the films flow smoother cinematically, they’re a whitewashed version of Brown’s controversial swipes at the Catholic Church.
While Angels and Demons is a better movie than The Da Vinci Code (just the fact Tom Hanks’ hairdo doesn’t look ridiculous in this film, as it did in Da Vinci Code, is an improvement), it’s not nearly as entertaining as the source material. Those who’ve read Brown’s books are likely to walk away from this film sadly disappointed. And for those who haven’t read Angels and Demons, the experience isn’t going to be all that much better.Without giving anything away, much of the power of the ending of the book Angels and Demons is sadly missing from the film adaptation. And one of the more interesting central characters has been completely removed from the film version. It’s an action film minus serious thrills, a whodunit that doesn’t pull in the audience the way it needs to.

The Story

The Pope passed away and now it’s time to elect a new one. Crowds gather in front of the Vatican and the College of Cardinals is prepared to go into seclusion in order to elect the next leader of the Catholic Church. But wait, there’s a huge monkey wrench tossed into their plans: there’s a bomb on the premises and the four favorites to be elected Pope are suddenly missing.

Angels and Demons

Armin Mueller-Stahl and Ewan McGregor in ‘Angels and Demons.’
© Columbia Pictures

Enter Robert Langdon, noted Harvard symbologist and one of the few people on the planet who has studied the secret organization behind the plot to blow up Vatican City. Langdon knows as much as one can about the Illuminati without actually being a member of the renegade group. He’ll have help tracking down clues and trying to find the bomb from a gorgeous scientist (played by Ayelet Zurer). She and her father were employed by CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and devised a method to create antimatter, a tiny, tiny amount of which was stolen and is set to explode at midnight. And those cardinals that are missing? Well, the Illuminati will execute one an hour leading up to midnight.So, let’s recap Langdon’s tasks: Find the clues, follow where they lead, try and save each cardinal before he’s killed in a horrifying manner, work around the Church’s security personnel who don’t really believe in the Illuminati or in the fact they will be annihilated at midnight, try and find the bomb, and then figure out the best way to render it harmless. All this must be accomplished in just a matter of hours, including the research necessary to figure out the Illuminati’s secret hiding places – something no one has ever done. Given that Angels and Demons the book is set before The Da Vinci Code (though the film isn’t), it’s unlikely our hero will perish while trying to save the Vatican.

The Cast

Tom Hanks is fine as Langdon, and it truly is a blessing that he’s not being forced to wear that silly wig again. When Hanks was initially cast in the role of Robert Langdon back in 2004, I was skeptical because he isn’t anything like how I pictured the character while reading Brown’s book. But director Ron Howard knew what he was doing in casting his friend/frequent collaborator in the lead. Both films needed someone charismatic, relatable, and able to talk us through the ins and outs of the hunt, and frankly there aren’t that many actors in Hanks’ age group who fit that bill.Hanks is the best thing about Angels and Demons. Although he’s surrounded by a talented group of supporting players that includes Stellan Skarsgard, Ewan McGregor, and Armin Mueller-Stahl, none makes an impact the way Hanks does. Even his lovely co-star, Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer, doesn’t stand out. She’s relegated to being a minor player in the film, while in the book her role in the action was greatly expanded.

The Bottom Line

Angels and Demons

Tom Hanks in ‘Angels and Demons.’
© Columbia Pictures

Yes, Angels and Demons succeeds in ways The Da Vinci Code failed, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth devoting your time to in a movie theater. Watching Hanks as Langdon do his impression of a Tasmanian Devil racing all around Rome trying to get to specific Illuminati-related locations in time to stop murders is only mildly fun.Angels and Demons is bedeviled with problems in logic, the majority of which were spelled out in the book but were lost in translation on the way to the screen. And then there’s that final act…one which I won’t spell out here…that’s a tepid version of the book’s. That alone was enough to ruin Angels and Demons for me.


Angels and Demons was directed by Ron Howard and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.


May 15, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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