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Angels and Demons (2009) July 5, 2009

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2009

“Ripped from the headlines”, phrase usually associated with American TV dramas like LAW & ORDER, could be used to describe the plot of ANGELS AND DEMONS, 2009 thriller directed by Ron Howard. Made as an inevitable sequel of immensely successful 2006 adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel THE DA VINCI CODE, this film has plot based on Brown’s previous and less successful work which had good fortune of having elements related to certain current events.

The film begins in Switzerland, where CERN launches its (in)famous Large Hadron Collider in order to conduct important physical experiment and possibly capture so-called “God’s particle”. The experiment produces three vials of anti-matter, but immediately afterwards one of the vials is stolen. The experiment coincided with the death of pope Pius XVI and gathering of cardinals who would elect its successors. Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks), symbologist from Harvard University, is summoned to Vatican when it appears that a vial is apprently held by members of Illuminati, 400-year old secret society which used to battle Catholic Church over its hostility towards science. Langdon and physicist dr. Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayalet Zurer) must help authorities discover the vial in order to prevent nuclear explosion. To make things even more complicated, Illuminati have apparently kidnapped four “papabili” – cardinals most likely to become new pope – and threaten with their ritualistic executions. Langdon must use his expertise to decyphre clues about cardinals’ whereabouts, while Zurer must find way to prevent nuclear reaction that could destroy Vatican.

Last year’s media hysteria over apparent alleged capabilities of Large Hadron Collider and 2005 media frenzy over election of Benedict XVI, which illuminated some of the inner workings of Vatican politics to the general public, serves as good frame for the script by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman. Unforunately, just like in the case of THE DA VINCI CODE, interesting background is much better than the actual content of the film. The conspiracy thriller plot is weak – both complicated and formulaic –  and all those who had watched THE DA VINCI CODE would experience unpleasant deja vus. Again, characters don’t have much depth or chemistry, protagonists have to deal with super-human assassin, while the film ends with “surprise” twist that looks less unexpected than the authors hoped for. Unlike THE DA VINCI CODE, what is supposed to be the main theme of the film – conflict between science and religion – isn’t presented in interesting or thought-provoking fashion, being reduced to few words easily forgotten in series of action scenes.

Howard, just like in THE DA VINCI CODE, tries to rescue film with some interesting and attractive action scenes, but even his best efforts can’t compensate the weakness of plot and characters. Even the most spectacular scene that happends at film’s (false) finale proves to be disappointing, looking like a piece of superhero film forcefully edited into otherwise conventional superhero film. ANGELS AND DEMONS is hurt most by the inevitable comparisons with its predecessor – unlike THE DA VINCI CODE, it doesn’t provide any coherent vision of the world that would justify flaws in portraying them.

RATING: 4/10

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