Angels and Demons
The intellectualism that this film serves up is mostly of the pseudo variety. There is a lot of talk about religion and history and science and human nature but none of it really seemed based on fact. There are a few lectures but sadly no conversations and none of the conspiracy theories are really given any time to shine. But be that as it may I will take pseudo intellectualism over what most mainstream movies prefer (proud knuckle dragging) any day.
Angels and Demons is, of course, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, that morose, depressed movie from 2006 that somehow sucked all of the life out of one of the most fan friendly books in history. On paper this film is a huge improvement (tighter script, less self seriousness yet higher ambition), but on screen is really only a minor improvement. The film opens with an amazing set piece as we watch in on a pope's funeral and then quickly cuts to a nonsensical scene where a bunch of antimatter(?) is
stolen out of a laboratory. Soon the other pieces are in place and everything comes together. The Illuminati are stalking about (where is Alex Jones when you need him?) trying to get retribution for past wrongs perpetrated by the Church by whacking four prominent Cardinals and then setting off an antimatter bomb. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is dragged into the mix and pretty soon we are bouncing all over Vatican City, from one church to the next, as Langdon tries to stop this evil plot.
The idea behind all this is that reason and thought (represented by Langdon) are far superior to fear and anxiety (represented by the Church and Illuminati). That is all well and good but kind of an obvious point. That aside, we are still left with a quality action flick that zooms along with a real sense of urgency. The cinematography is bright bordering on cartoony, but I loved the way it looked and this is probably Ron Howard's best looking film to date. However, there is still, sadly, a disconnect from reality that this film has that was bothersome to me. I was left feeling like I had just watched a richly textured episode of 24. Cliffhangers lead to more cliffhangers which lead to inevitable betrayals. . . and no there is no situation that can't be solved with a heaping portion of absurdity. The twist ending was pretty obvious from where I was sitting. Hell, even "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was able to fool me. The acting was passable but nothing
excited me. Hanks plays Hanks, McGregor plays McGregor. Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer (as Langdon's partner in crime Vittoria) is really just taking up space as her character is dragged around under the premise that she will defuse the bomb once they find it. That means that except for translating a few lines of dialog her only job, until the climax, is to give the boys something decent to look at. Skarsgard, with his sudden taste for Hollywood blockbusters, is the most interesting as he will forever be a brooding academic to me so even this role seemed like a stretch. But he does fine and so does the film. Fast, easy and hard to dislike. What more do you need these days? Well, maybe a little believability wouldn't hurt, but there is still enough good going on here to give it a mild recommendation.