Angels & Demons is an adaptation of the best selling Dan Brown novel of the same name and reunites director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks for their fourth collaboration. Even though Angels is theatrically a sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the novel was published years before Code, which meant Howard, Hanks, and Brown had to play the film as a sequel rather than a prequel, which created an interesting challenge for all involved.
During the testing of the Large Hadron Collider, a small amount of anti-matter is created and separated in three canisters for testing. At the same time the Catholic Church is in the middle of both mourning the passing of the Pope and trying to choose his successor. The secret society known as The Illuminati is trying to disrupt the Vatican’s search for a new pope. To accomplish this, they not only kidnap the top four candidates, but steal one of the anti-matter canisters with the intention of destroying the Vatican. To carry out this threat, The Illuminati has an assassin who will kill each of the candidates at key spots — one per hour until midnight when they’ll expose the anti-matter to matter which would cause a devastating explosion.
The Illuminati leave ancient symbols in their notes, but it’s beyond the Church’s comprehension, so they reluctantly reach out to symbolist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) who’s been at odds with the Church for years over books he’s written. However the Church knows that Langdon is their best shot at finding the missing cardinals and preventing the explosion of the canister.
Langdon must solve the puzzles in order to deduce where the cardinals are and stop the canister from exploding. To help him there’s Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) who becomes Langdon’s sidekick and assists him in solving the puzzles and locating the cardinals. He also has help from a surprising source — interim Pope Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) who wants to end the Illuminati threat and gives Langdon access to documents that Langdon has been petitioning the Church for years to allow him access to. While his skills as a symbolist help him solve the puzzles, Langdon’s life is in constant danger as Illuminati agents are trying to prevent him from doing so and will do what it takes to stop him.
The movie is very much an action/thriller, and Hanks is great once again as Langdon who doesn’t take sides in religion versus science — he just wants the truth. However when looking for the truth, what you find isn’t always pretty. McGregor turns in a great performance as a member of the clergy who isn’t exactly what he seems and may have his own agenda as to who becomes the next pope.
The extras on Angels & Demons are spread out across two discs. On disc one the extras are:
"Rome Was Not Built in a Day" – This behind the scenes featurette showcases all the locations that had to be recreated since the actual locations were forbidden. It also delves into what it took to make the film’s Rome look as authentic as the real one.
"Writing 'Angels & Demons'" – This features director Ron Howard talking about the differences between adapting The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Howard also talks about how he’s never wanted to direct a sequel before since he’s always looking for something new, however when they were filming The Da Vinci Code the possibility of him directing the sequel was discussed and when it came time to shoot Angels, Howard was interested. Then screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp share their thoughts about adapting the book to screen. Finally author Dan Brown appears and talks about what originally inspired the book.
"Characters In Search of the True Story" talks to the actors involved with the film and this featurette lets us learn what they used as motivation for their characters, as well as their thoughts on the script itself.
"Cern: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge" Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research is where the Large Hadron Collider is housed. This featurette shows where Ron Howard and his crew were allowed to shoot before talking about what Cern has accomplished, making sure the scientific jargon was correct and more.
Moving over to the second disc, where the extras are labeled exclusive to the two-disc edition:
"Handling Props" – This is a featurette with prop master Trish Gallaher Glenn who shows the viewer various props used throughout the films, including the centuries-old maps that had to be recreated for the film. Glenn also takes the viewer on a tour of the set as well.
"Angels & Demons: The Full Story" – There is a bit of repetition here as some of the set construction stories and more are rehashed. But the featurette also focuses on the stunts involved as well as costumes and challenges the production crew faced.
"This is an Ambigram" talks with Wordplay author John Langdon who talks about where the word ambigram came from and the connection to author Dan Brown, in addition to how he feels that the titular character shares his last name as well as being portrayed by Tom Hanks.