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Movie Review: Angels and Demons

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Angels and Demons opens with a brief, unsteady scene around a “large hadron collider.” It isn’t fully explained what this massive device does, but some shoddy special effects and sped-up tracking shots suggest that stuff moves around really fast inside of it.

In this short scene, we’re quickly informed that some scientists have created “anti-matter.” The stuff was around at the beginning, the Big Bang, the creation. To make matters worse it’s extremely volatile.

As quickly as the anti-matter is produced, a container of it is stolen. While supposedly the most dangerous substance ever produced, it's inexplicably kept under the most paltry level of security. Tom Cruise had to go through five times the trouble to steal the NOC list from the CIA.

Enter Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks). After a threat is sent to the Vatican implicating an ancient science-based cult called the Illuminati, Langdon is flown into Rome to give his take on what the Illuminati symbols mean. He soon finds out there is a deeper, darker, and more sinister plan beyond the neat looking, symmetrical words. Four of the church’s cardinals have been kidnapped on the eve of Conclave when a new pope is to be voted in. To make matters worse it seems the anti-matter has found its way to the Vatican and is hiding somewhere within its endless sea of catacombs just waiting to go off and obliterate everything.

Handy that there’s a path that needs following, replete with clues, secret symbols, and hidden passages that only Robert Langdon can decipher.

The characters dart breathlessly around Rome tying together the clues, following the paths of statues, obelisks, and pointing fingers. It’s tiring. The audience will suffer climax fatigue. Each new puzzle produces new problems which are solved at just the right moment. The movie builds itself up to such enormous heights that when we finally reach the end, we're left to fall a long, long way.

Like The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons has all the elements of a fun historical treasure hunt in the vein of the Indiana Jones films but unfortunately if suffers from a dearth of both creativity and lovable characters. There’s no backstory to speak of and each and every symbol and clue is explained ad nauseum by Langdon. 

The ending, while sort of a spectacular sight on screen, is nevertheless laughable. No one is ever surprised in this film. A cataclysmic event happens and five minutes later people act as if it were nothing at all. Which, really, is kind of what it’s like to leaving the theater after Angels and Demons; five minutes later you’ll forget you ever watched it.

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  • Ed McGrath

    The movie follows the book up to the ending and then Ron Howard takes a subtle, but effective swipe at the basic beliefs of the Christians.

    For some, the point may be too subtle but for those who got it, the last dig scored a solid hit.

    In the twist ending, Prof. Langdon proves, with a gold key, that Science trumps faith. The Cardinals were ready to act on “signs” from the Holy Spirit but when they were exposed to Scientific knowledge, they quickly changed their minds. Subtle but Effective. I like this ending much more than the one in the book.

  • http://blogcritcs.org/writer/clarence-yu Clarence Yu

    All the reviews I’ve read seem to point to the same perspective as yours. I don’t know why Tom Hanks agrees to these roles. Can’t he be funny anymore?