"Angels & Demons": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2009)

11/22/2009 Posted by WeekinRewind

Movie Review

“Angels & Demons”

Directed by Ron Howard, written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, 140 minutes, rated PG-13.

By Christopher Smith

The Ron Howard movie, “Chaos & Disorder”--sorry, “Angels & Demons”--is a sequel to 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code,” the latter of which helpfully inspired hunger strikes, picketing, accusations of blasphemy, prayer vigils, endless debates and hype beyond reason.

This is, in fact, another murky tale told by Howard by way of one of those forgettable Dan Brown best sellers people only admit to reading after their third martini.

While "Code" thrived under controversy, “Angels & Demons” enjoys none of that.  It actually comes stamped with the Vatican’s blessing, which pretty much is the kiss of death for the movie.

That blessing, by the way, is true.  The Vatican’s newspaper, “L’Osservatore Romano,” drank the Kool-Aid and happily touted the film as “harmless entertainment.” For a film that was positioned for blockbuster status, let’s just say Howard and his producers were kneecapped by the Papacy.

About the movie. Now that we’re out of Paris, where “Code” took place,” and in Italy, the best parts of the movie are, in fact, the scenic shots of that country and its cities, specifically Rome, which looks beautiful and oddly well-scrubbed, as if it shook off its filth in preparation for its close-up. For a specific reason, viewers are better off for it--Rome looks so good here (much of the Vatican was recreated via seamless special effects and through physical reconstructions on a Hollywood backlot), it distracts you from the plot, which is at once absurd and hilarious.

From David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman’s script, this is a movie in which people are here to run. They run and they run and they run, and then they run some more--through streets, over rooftops, through the Vatican--if only to get to the next clue, and the clue that follows that clue, and then the next clue, until the lot of it leaves you clueless.

Back for more but minus the mullet is Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who this time out finds himself up against the “Illuminati,” a secret group of scientists who have hired an assassin to do all sorts of unthinkable things in the wake of the pope’s death, such as blowing the hell out of Rome, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square via one neatly packaged bomb filled with nuclear antimatter.

It’s up to Langdon, working alongside the amusingly named Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) to use a wealth of religious clues to find the bomb before it’s too late. Meanwhile, in subplots, cardinals are kidnapped and grotesquely murdered, and a priest (Ewan McGregor) and another cardinal (Armin Mueller-Stahl) come under close scrutiny. Are they doing God’s work--or advancing their own careers?

Beneath all this clutter is the framework for a good thriller that promises at its core a heated collision of faith and science, but Howard’s top-heavy movie suffocates it. Throughout, the performances are good and one scene involving a helicopter is well done, but most of the action is bogged down by uninteresting rhetoric and twists most will see coming long before the next clue is offered, the next chase scene ignited, the next revelation revealed.

Grade: C-

View the trailer for "Angels & Demons" here:

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