Directing his second adaptation of a Dan Brown novel, after 2006’s The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons returns to the ever remarkable life of Professor Robert Langdon, and his apparent fascination with the Catholic Church.
Despite making over $750 million worldwide with The Da Vinci Code, the film was widely panned by critics, and if anything has to battle has to fight against an outright negative view before the opening credits of Angels & Demons even roll.
At least this time around the film’s release has not been slated by the Church, as the first in the series was, and in fact sees Robert Langdon (Hanks) help out the Catholic order. Set in and around Vatican City, after the death of the Pope and kidnapping of four church Cardinals, they turn to Langdon to stop the Vatican from falling into mayhem.
All the while, at the site of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, a vial of ‘ultra-combustible anti-matter’ has been stolen, and after Hanks uncovers evidence that an ancient secret brotherhood, the Illuminati, have re-emerged, fears two are connected and is left with a race against time to save the Vatican and rescue the four Cardinals.
As you might expect after The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons plays in the simple search for the clues format. As Langdon slowly uncovers the underlying mystery, with the help of CERN scientist Vittoria Vetra who’s experiment created the anit-matter vial, they find a clue then race to the location of the next clue, and continues until they at last hit the jackpot. It’s not the most challenging of narratives for Hanks and he somewhat seems to be on autopilot throughout. Ewan McGregor adds a few quirks to the film, though he is a strange casting, perhaps more based on box-office appeal rather than suitability.
Though an improvement on the turmoil in The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons fails to really make the most of the fight between religion and science, and despite raising a few interesting points, the debate always seems sided, this time, on the Catholic Church.
With a little over-explanation in the dialogue, the faux-intelligent plotline of Angels & Demons gives the impression you’re learning throughout and you’ll leave the theatre feeling a couple of ounces cleverer. For that the screenwriters must be congratulated, though for the rest of their work they might want to step it up if there’s a third Dan Brown adapation.
At times Angels & Demons can be a lot of fun, even if it can’t maintain the intensity of the likes of guilty pleasure National Treasure, and while there are a lot of frustrations along the way, Angels & Demons isn’t the complete shambles a lot of people wanted it to be. But then that probably isn’t the greatest endorsement either.