For the past few months I written about Angels & Demons, but the content of my posts were intended to be more about my expectations rather than say casting news or production development. Before stepping into the theater, I really wanted this film to work in two ways. The first was my hope that this would be a more compelling film adaptation than the DaVinci Code. The second was if there would be a little more emotion to Tom Hanks’ “Langdon” (who was criticized last time for being lifeless and miscast). But, having read both books, I found this the more complex and action packed story of the two, so stepping into the theater I was just really excited to see it all play out.
PREMISE: A laboratory in Switzerland called CERN has been working on harvesting antimatter. Their hope was to harness and channel its vast but unstable power and one day, share it with the world as means of usable energy, but one sample was mysteriously stolen from the facility. Soon after, the antimatter mysteriously appears in Rome somewhere (at an unidentifiable location) inside Vatican City on the eve of the election of the new Pope. All of Rome is being held for ransom by an unknown assailant threatening to use the destructive power of the antimatter if his demands are not met. The group claiming responsibility for the ransom is the Illuminati, a group which was thought to be dead for hundreds of years, and the Vatican turns to the world’s foremost expert on symbology, Professor Robert Langdon.
HIGHS: First off, Tom Hanks was able to pull off a much more endearing and watchable role than his first attempt in The DaVinci Code, so that was a plus and it got me into the film immediately. Also I found that Ewan McGregor did a wonderful job playing the young but worldly and ambitious Camerlengo. I’ve always liked him as an actor and thought he was talented. He was one of the few actors that pulled his weight and actually shined among the other talented actors in the Star Wars prequels who unfortunately just seemed to walk through the scenes. Aside from the 3 major players in Angels & Demons (Hanks, McGregor and Skarsgård), most of the supporting cast was the right fit for their smaller respective roles and they came across fluidly, giving what I thought was the right about of diversity and nuance to their roles. Next, I think Ron Howard did a better job pacing the story and making this feel like a brainy ‘action’ flick rather than an intellectual thriller. Akiva Goldsman (Ron Howard’s go-to for great screenwriting) did better weeding through the more complex and character laden story to deliver what would be more believable and compelling on screen (although changing things always makes fans of any novel cringe a bit). This ‘film’ is the sequel to The DaVinci Code (although in the book’s time line it is really the prequel) and so they made some references to the first film by dropping some hints about his previous exploits/experience. I found that was a good move, making like it was like the continuation for Langodn who has already proven he was up to the task of this brainy rescue mission. Plus anytime there are references to an earlier film, the audience usually gets a kick out of seeing it. Lastly, to anyone who is interested in the least about historical locations and subject matter, this film (just like the first one) was just pure eye/brain candy. I’ve read and written before about the production crew hiving to take photos and video of places they weren’t able to “shoot” but I only noticed one or two locations that look composited. Either way, this film was joy to watch just for the architecture and locations alone.
LOWS: I’ll admit, having read the book, I came into this film knowing things that the audience didn’t – I already knew the ending and was aware of things they changed from the book (a topic which will undoubtedly happen in an adaptation). Again, although I was a little disappointed in what they decided to change/omit in order to bring this story to the screen, I really didn’t find it a huge detraction from the film. I do wish they had elaborated more on the Hassassin character and his preparation/kidnapping of the cardinals and the steps he took along the way. Also, I think that just a bit more attention to the antimatter and its creation was necessary to make it seem more of a threat (as when they detonated some if it at CERN in the book). Lastly, I felt that Stellan Skarsgård was a wasted talent in this film. He is a gifted an actor but (much the same with Jean Reno in The DaVinci Code film) this character didn’t allow him that much screen time. Since the attention wasn’t on him for more than maybe 15 minutes tops, I feel that the role he played could have easily been handled by a less experienced actor to the same effect.
RULING: As thrilled as I was reading Dan Brown’s amazingly descriptive novel, I was just as excited watching this film. With any book-to-film adaptation there are necessary and sometimes unfortunate diversions from the popular story – it’s just something the audience has to accept. That said, seeing the events and characters brought to life (which I had been imagining since I’d read this extremely detailed page-turner), I believe that this movie delivered and will win over fans of the book and movie goers. Plus when you compare it to The DaVinci Code I think that Angels & Demons succeeded where the previous film fell short: namely pacing and sticking too close to the source material. This film definitely met and really did exceeded my expectations.
G-S-T Ruling: 3.5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED