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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.77%
Worth A Look: 26.42%
Average: 16.98%
Pretty Bad: 18.87%
Total Crap33.96%

6 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Angels & Demons
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by Erik Childress

"Dan Brown & Akiva Goldsman Are The Latter"
1 stars

Just last week I was having a discussion with a friend (an actor, actually) over his claim of “The Tom Hanks Effect.” According to him, he could watch any movie with Tom Hanks in it even if he didn’t like it. Any movie. Any time. If Tom Hanks is on screen, the movie becomes imminently watchable. I believe I may have even said in the past something to the extreme of “those who don’t like Tom Hanks are Communists.” He’s just so darn likable and, to top things off, is a fantastic actor to boot. So even with my extensive dislike of The Da Vinci Code, I was keeping the faith on its prequel-turned-sequel. Giant box office aside, surely director Ron Howard heard the complaints and recognized where the film could get a boost, guaranteeing a second go-round wouldn’t be nearly as tedious and silly. See and hear no evil apparently since Angels & Demons only exemplifies the problems with both movies and, thanks in part to a headsmacker of a third act, winds up being worse than its predecessor.

No sooner than scientists at a particle physics lab calculate the precise moment to create a sampling of “anti-matter” does a murder occur and one of the cannisters is stolen. Also lifted on the eve of the Pope’s sudden death are the four Cardinals who figure prominently on the Conclave ballot to fill the position. Word is that one will be murdered every hour leading up to midnight when the anti-matter is scheduled to create armageddon in St. Peter’s Square. Things are so bad for the Vatican that they call in the one guy who revealed some of their best-kept secrets to the world. Symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) is flown overseas to assist in solving the riddles of the Illuminati, an ancient group of scientists and mathematicians who were once demonized and wiped out by the Church for their dissenting views.

Also on the case is Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), one of the anti-matter scientists and Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard, who Skarsgards his way through the role) who heads up the Swiss guard and appears constantly annoyed at the extra bodies at his side. Another one is the Vatican’s Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor), a trusted aide of the former Pope who is now caretaker of Church affairs in the interim between Popes. He urges Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) to delay their Conclave and order an evacuation of the area, but since stubbornness is a virtue of the Catholic Church, they press on endangering an entire league of red robes and every lay person camped outside looking for colored smoke. Meanwhile, Langdon is busy putting together the pieces of the Illuminati codes hidden in their watermarked poetry to discover the locations of the snatched Cardinals and must drive fast to one location after the next.

With all the trumped-up controversy that comes anytime a film with theological underpinnings is made, the most shocking thing about Angels & Demons frankly is just how often Langdon is flat-out wrong. Seriously, if you keep tabs on the frequency of this expert either miscalculating, misleading or just getting there too late, you have to imagine there’s little hope in Rome being saved. Robert Langdon is the film equivalent of Monty Python’s The Bishop and not a very interesting character aside from being played by Tom Hanks. Certainly he can dissect a little ancient code and recite history, but that’s really about it. Everything that comes out of his mouth is just another extended passage of exposition to bring us closer (or further away from) the central mystery. Even on the final trek to the bomb, Langdon is throwing out history at the pace of a Gilmore Girl and you’re just waiting for someone to tell him to shut up. Screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp attempt to work in a little gibberish about his lack of faith in a world of science, but its an aspect of both the character AND the film that no one appeared to have any interest in exploring.

Perhaps that’s not the best way to interrupt a pot-boiler with all those senseless ideas and stuff, but Howard & Co. can’t even use the beat-the-clock elements to get our hearts racing, let alone our heads. Unlike TV’s 24 (which can be equally preposterous at times), Goldsman and Koepp cast the fatal error over this hour-by-hour race by never giving us a rooting interest. In Ransom, there was a child at stake and a baddie in Gary Sinise we wanted to be caught. In Apollo 13 we cared about the astronauts safely returning to Earth (and we already KNEW the ending!) Should we be worried that a five kilaton bomb is going to go off? Maybe. But haven’t the Illuminati been established early on as the underdog in this fight? Revenge may not be everyone’s answer, but in fairness, they weren’t the ones who drew first blood. It was the organization more intent with control rather than spreading the word of peace. At some point you have to think, Go Illuminati Go! What’s four more faceless Cardinals and a Square full of people with nothing better to do than to worship a guy in a funny hat? By the end of it all, we’re wondering less about the future of the Church and more about when in the past author Dan Brown read the original Watchmen comic.

Having not read any of Brown’s books, I still feel like I already have since his twists and turns are no more sophisticated than a Hardy Boys mystery or even the first couple Harry Potter novels. Discovering the secrets of Angels & Demons will be of surprise to no one who already is aware of the differences between the behaviors of a faux villain and a real villain. Even before we get to the eventual unmasking in a third act that goes on forever, we’re too busy deciphering how any writer found this to be an acceptable conclusion. Without revealing too much, you have a climax that begins with not a red-wire/blue-wire defusing, but the replacing of a battery pack. You see they have to find the bomb with five minutes to spare so they can replace it. Only when they do the one person who knows how to do it stops midstream to speak for nearly a whole minute that it may be too late. Just think – if the anti-matter were connected to an iPhone the film would be over 17 minutes in. This leads to an act of sacrifice with a helicopter that I’m not even sure Blue Thunder could have pulled off while all of Rome awaits the inevitable proclamation to kneel before Zod.

Putting together the plotholes of Angels & Demons is a job that even the most rabid fundamentalist couldn’t wrap their belief system around. You think of how many opportunities the bad guys have Langdon in their sights to eliminate him; particularly the assassin who wipes out a room full of cops but allows Langdon to escape. And then a second time when he would rather casually salute him. Funny how even the screenwriters use their next encounter as an opportunity for the killer to explain WHY he’s left Langdon alive. Because he was never seen as a threat. Yeah, no kidding. Unless you count Langdon’s proximity to saving the final Cardinal and thus, scrapping the mission he’s been paid for. The question of Langdon’s perceived interference towards the Illuminati’s mission may be the most persistently sloppy element of the story. When Langdon is trapped within the minimalist oxygen confines of the Vatican library, are we to believe this is deliberate or merely a part of the strategy to locate the bomb by shutting off various electrical grids to see if the background light on the bomb in front of a camera would go dark? Don’t ask. Assuming the former, why wouldn’t the assassin then have orders to finish the job? He makes clear his faith doesn’t make him a killer, but man himself. So if Man gave the order, wouldn’t he just kill Langdon and just answer to THE Man later?

Watching The Daily Show (where Tom Hanks was a guest) that night, I was struck by two things. The first being that I could not remember the very clip they were showing to promote the film a mere five hours after my screening of Angels & Demons. The second was a reminder of how funny, smart and charming Hanks normally is and I couldn’t figure out why an actor of his caliber who has spent a good chunk of the last 15 years exploring his fascination with the outer reaches of space (Apollo 13, From the Earth to the Moon) and the historical consequences of warring ideologies (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Charlie Wilson’s War) would find himself attached to such barren tales like Da Vinci and this? Da Vinci at least made some room for the debate through an audience-friendly chase structure. Indiana Jones this is not though and there’s an even greater hypocrisy in Angels & Demons for replacing anything considered thought-provoking with red herrings that make the discussion moot. The simplicity of the final thoughts between science and religion is so casually tossed in (by a character we have no reason to think would believe the rhetoric they spew) that it makes the East/West peace accord of The Last Samurai seem palatable. If you want to see serious adult entertainment of this fashion, immediately queue both Robert Zemeckis’ Contact and Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige into your Netflix account. If you want to test the authenticity of “The Tom Hanks Effect” then, by all means, see Angels & Demons. At the very best, it won’t make you think any higher of “The Nicolas Cage Effect.”

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originally posted: 05/15/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell better than the first film 3 stars
12/18/10 mr.mike Much improved sequel with faster pace and Hanks more comfortable in the role. 4 stars
4/29/10 TreeTiger Oh yes, this is truly utter crap... 1 stars
12/01/09 action movie fan fairly interesting but too long and ultimatley dissappointing 3 stars
11/27/09 Monday Morning Totally overbaked. But what does Dan Brown care? He got paid. 2 stars
11/25/09 longdon Utter Crap - an Indictment to the continuing fall of western society 1 stars
10/29/09 millersxing Full of crappy exposition in front of some statue or in a car fighting traffic. Forgettable 2 stars
9/05/09 rob fuking absurd film, worst shit i seen since 'happy days' 1 stars
7/03/09 Kermit Crissey not as good as the book 3 stars
5/22/09 Ole Man Bourbon I want to know how an expert symbologist in Roman and Italian hist can't read Latin nor It. 2 stars
5/19/09 Aesop Makes Battlefield Earth look like Shakespeare.Hanks and Howard continue career suicide pact 1 stars
5/19/09 mark Much better than DaVinci. Well shot. Worth a look. 4 stars
5/18/09 Aaron A riveting thriller that had my attention from beginning to end. 5 stars
5/17/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Shape-shifting god Amen's obelisk still in vagina circle of St. Peters Square. Needs nuking 1 stars
5/16/09 mick Hardcore Miss Marple starring tom hanks, boring. 2 stars
5/16/09 james obrien just seen it better than the firsst 5 stars
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  15-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Nov-2009


  DVD: 24-Nov-2009

Directed by
  Ron Howard

Written by
  Akiva Goldsman

  Tom Hanks
  Ayelet Zurer
  Ewan McGregor

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