Like most Dan Brown novels, "Angels and Demons," has a smart, digestible story that convinces its audience that they've learned a little something about theocracy and art history as they're being entertained. But for all its intellectual trappings, the film is still a summer blockbuster in a tweed suit.
The plot introduces "The Da Vinci Code's" protagonist, professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a symbology specialist with a knack for getting involved in conflicts between occult groups and the church. This time, after the death of the pope, the Illuminati, a shadowy secret society, abduct four cardinals considered the prime candidates for the papacy, plant a bomb stolen from Switzerland in Vatican City and threaten to destroy the church in its hour of weakness. Naturally, a Harvard professor is the right person for saving the day.
As intelligent as the plot is, it feels like a grown-up version of "Scooby Doo." All the characters are like puzzle pieces intended for a specific purpose but thin as pancakes. Once all the curtain of mysteries is pulled away, all that's left is a flashlight shining on a cardboard cutout. It's satisfying, no doubt, but the thrill is temporary.
Having never read any of Dan Brown's books, I was at times thoroughly confused by the plot's details. I soon discovered that it was definitely a movie where you had to pay attention to the dialogue and keep bathroom breaks at a minimum. Maybe if I had popped an Adderall beforehand, I would've been able to pay more attention, but, sadly, that was not the case.
I went to see it again on Sunday, and the second time around was more enjoyable because I caught so much more. Although at times too fast paced, the film kept my interest. Not expecting some of the twists and turns probably made it more suspenseful for me than it did for Casey, who actually read the book. Still, it was a little too long for my taste. Also, if you're looking for a character-driven film, this is definitely not the movie to pick.
CASEY: At two hours and 20 minutes, the film is definitely long, but there's enough packed in that I didn't think it felt artificially lengthened.
The lead roles of Dr. Langdon and Swiss scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) are incredibly bland. Zurer comes across as a shadow person with almost nothing to recommend about her other than that she looks good. The best I can say about Hanks is that he dropped the disturbing hairdo he had in "The Da Vinci Code."
Ewan McGregor was far more interesting as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna. The Camerlengo was the deceased Pope's right-hand man. During the cardinals' conclave to elect a new holy father, the Camerlengo wields the power without the hat, and McGregor does an excellent job conveying his tortured conflict between duty to the church and to the man he adored.
LAURA: I agree that the characters played by Hanks and Zurer were pretty boring, and there's very little chemistry between the two. In truth, it's pretty hard for me to imagine Hanks having chemistry with any female, but I think director Ron Howard could have made a better choice with his leading lady.
Maybe I am just attracted to Rome's art history and architecture, but I did feel like I got a relatively good crash course of the ancient city and its mysteries. I feel like a sucker, but the movie inspired me to borrow a copy of the book, which is most likely better than the film.
Visually, the movie was beautiful. I am sure production had a hefty budget to work with, and it definitely showed through in almost every shot.
CA S EY: "Angels and Demons" isn't an example of stellar film making, but it succeeds in being a more-stimulating summer blockbuster that still manages to entertain.
LAURA: Both interesting and entertaining, the movie is definitely worth the price of admission. For Dan Brown newbies, I'd suggest doing some research on the material first.