Review: Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons (2009)
138 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring:  Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard


Grade:  C+

Dan Brown may not be the best author but he sure knows how to write a suspenseful, page-turner for all ages.  From his enormous hit The Da Vinci Code and Robert Langdon’s first adventure, Angels & Demons, it only made sense to adapt these novels to the screen.  Or did it?  Even though Angels & Demons wasn’t entirely faithful to the novel (which is absolutely fine by me) there is something completely lost in translation from Brown’s work to Ron Howard’s vision.

Angels & Demons works as a plot-driven murder mystery/thriller.  It’s fast-paced and packs a lot of information in its two and a quarter-hour run time.  The scenery from Vatican City and the churches are wonderful.  These are all the things that work for the film.  But there are key contrasts that weighs the viewer down during the movie.  These low points separates this film from the memorable summer journeys.

Tom Hanks stars as symbologist/genius/swimmer Robert Langdon who is summoned by the Vatican to assist them diffuse a great threat.  With the recent passing of the Pope, the four Cardinals who are favorite to take his place are kidnapped and threatened to die.  Langdon, his pretty tag-along partner Vittoria (Zurer), the Swiss Guard, and the Carmerlengo (McGregor) all go on a wild goose chase to save the Cardinals and the entire Vatican from an anti-matter explosion (a spec is just as dangerous as a nuclear bomb).

The film does something The Da Vinci Code failed to do, that is it kept up its pace and made sure the audience remained hooked to the premise.  Don’t question why Langdon would risk his life, dodge bullets, escape an vacuum-sealed oxygen-less chamber, and run through fire.  Maybe he understands the importance of religion in society.  Maybe he wanted to be a hero.  Maybe he just really wanted to get the girl.  Whatever the reason, he did one hell of a job.

Although a great portion of the film is highly implausible, you just have to take a seat and enjoy the adventure.  Tom Hanks is a lot more comfortable the second time around as Robert Langdon than he was in the first movie.  And Ron Howard realized that adding some comedic relief could mean the world in a ridiculous conspiracy movie like Angels & Demons.

Overall, the film was an effective summer blockbuster but nothing else.  With the third Robert Langdon novel to be released soon, it’s silly to not believe the third adventure won’t make it to the screen.  I just really want Mr. Hanks to have another crack at an Oscar-caliber film.  I guess I’ll have to wait at least a few years for that chance.


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