Review: Angels and Demons

When in Rome...explosions?

When in Rome...explosions?

Synopsis: After the devastating haircut that haunted him while trying to annoy the hell out of the Catholic Church, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) gets a new haircut and decides to make amends with the Catholics. How? A shadowy organization long thought to be extinct (Monty Python?) has returned to destroy the Catholic Church, and has kidnapped the preferati, the four strongest candidates to the papacy, during conclave, when the eyes of the world are looking towards Rome. Oh yeah, the Pope is dead, which is why they’re voting for a new pope. Plot twists and historical inaccuracies ensue!

Recommended for: People who thought that Angels and Demons was a better novel than the Da Vinci Code. Which it was. Also for people who like to see the tourist sites of Rome being desecrated in ways that will hopefully never happen in real life. Also for people who would like to see CERN scientists involved in something that actually may have real-life ramifications. Because in real life, well, they’ve been underwhelming.

Review: I still can’t get used to the fact that the director of the film versions of Dan Brown’s novels is Ron Howard, the brilliant uncredited narrator of Arrested Development, a role he’ll probably reprise in the film version of the TV series. Because that is the only work that I tend to associate with him, I somewhat expected some sort of absurd hilarity to ensue in his movies, but I guess there’s nothing particularly funny about the kidnapping of old priests. Actually, when I put it that way, it does sound mildly absurd. Alas, Mr. Howard does not capitalize on the opportunity, and instead leaves all the narrating and explanation to Tom Hanks.

Now, people have criticized this movie, saying that it is unrealistic for a person to babble about the particular history involved with a certain statue or sculptor while chasing a murderer/terrorist all around Rome. Obviously those people have never met academic types. When faced with stressful situations, it is natural for a person to talk on and on about random things. For academics such as Professor Langdon, it is natural that they talk about what they know about best, which happens to be relevant to the story. Plus Langdon has experience, as he’s rambled on about surprisingly helpful random facts while trying to discredit the Catholic Church in the Da Vinci Code.

The decision to make Angels and Demons a sequel to the Da Vinci Code as opposed to a prequel was an interesting one that worked quite well. I liked the whole “reconciliation with the Catholic Church arc” better than the “let’s save the Catholic Church, then forget we did that and piss them off” angle that the novels took. Another positive change that the filmmakers decided on was the removal of a particular scene where Robert Langdon jumps off a helicopter a couple miles above Rome without a parachute and manages to survive with minimal injuries. That would have never worked in the movie, as Tom Hanks cut off the hair that might have enabled his fictional self to survive such a stunt. I’d mention other changes, but they’d spoil the movie for you.

All in all, Angels and Demons is a fun summer blockbuster to watch, especially for those who want more thrill and less explosions (though there are some spectacular explosions) in their films, but among juggernauts like Star Trek (YES), Transformers (DOUBLE YES), and Harry Potter (BRITISH YES), it can only hold onto a niche market for mystery novel aficionados and art historians. Actually, that’s a pretty good market to hold onto.

Lessons Learned:

Various procedures regarding the papacy: Angels and Demons doubles as the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Papacy, as you get to learn all about the succession of the papacy, the various procedures that are involved with conclave, and other random tidbits that you may or may not know about the Pope. Fun times.

Tom Hanks does not know what to do with his hair: Although vastly improved from his ghastly hairdo in the Da Vinci Code, Tom Hanks’ new hairstyle in Angels and Demons continues a tradition of, um, “unique” hairdos that dates back to at least Forrest Gump.

Movies can survive without a romantic subplot: As surprising as it might sound, a movie without any sort of romantic tension can actually succeed as a decent movie. So studios don’t really need to bog down movies with love scenes that should have never been put on paper. Attack of the Clones, anyone?

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