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 Angels & Demons
 Critic's Rating
   [C-]
 Date Posted
   10th May, 2009
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Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer
Director: Ron Howard

Angels and Demons is a very long, very boring wild goose chase. It is peppered with theological mumbo jumbo and conspiracy theory fluff. This stuff should be fun like the Indiana Jones films, but here it's stuffy and uptight. Blame not just director Ron Howard for his ponderous serving (so generic you can almost smell the packaging the film comes out of) but also the writers of this mess: David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman.

While watching, you realize that the film has very little actual dialogue. The characters talk to one another, but it is all in the form of meaningless trivia. "The Illuminati were", "So Raphael's second painting was", "You mean what Bernini really meant with that sculpture is" and so on. It does nothing except provide endless layers of exposition. This is the film being clever with history, art, religion and everything in between. It wants to serve a big helping of unknown 'facts' that will tease audience members brain cells, but has more of the opposite effect.

The film lingers with moments of extreme sensationalism. The Pope has died, a voting is underway, but the secret Illuminati strike with a bomb threat (anti-matter stolen from the LHC project) in Vatican City. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called upon for his expert knowledge of this cult group and to try and help unravel the mystery. Hans Zimmer's score has all of the expected papal choral chants to wake you up in time for the next stagey murder scene, but everything in between just doesn't sustain. There is something so bland, so sedate, so mechanical about the film and its exploits that I was reminded how helpful, even necessary the presence of Ian McKellen's role was in helping to drive the thrill of conspiracy theories in the much better Da Vinci Code, preventing it from being as pedantic as this film.

The summer movie season used to mean simplistic movie fun, but now it means movie world ridiculousness and this is what Angels and Demons promises and delivers, in huge amounts. Hanks, with the second incredulous attempt as the Professor, has started to remind me of one of those behind the counter managers at McDonald's who likes to get his hands dirty from time to time, annoying us with his everyman attitude. His character might have gotten a new (and better) hair stylist, but I couldn't buy him as an academic, much less a religious skeptic, a point this film tries to make more than once. If the film and its principle character are strangely self aware of their religious stand, it is possibly as a response to the hue and cry made by the general public when the prequel Da Vinci Code (actually the sequel in chronological form) was released, but here it is stagey and unchecked. Not helping with believability is the fact that every garbed Cardinal or Priest is shown as a creep in hiding, and when you first see husky voiced, red robed Armin Mueller-Stahl, you can't help but roll your eyes. - Faizan Rashid

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