Move over Sally Field. No longer is your beloved TV character the Flying Nun the tops of the airborne theological figures. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, courtesy of Angels & Demons, The Parachuting Pope.
Seriously, who wouldn't want an action figure of this guy?
It is a sight that certainly would not seem out of place in the thematically similar-but-dramatically-lighter National Treasure series with Nicolas Cage, but in a Ron Howard-directed, Tom-Hanks-starring, quasi-serious summer blockbuster?
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me at least try to start with the positives. Hanks, having lopped off The Da Vinci Code's mullet as well as having dropped a number of pounds, looks great.
Well, that's about it. Now on with the bad.
The inherent problem with both films is the character of Harvard "symbologist" Robert Langdon He never really does much but shout where they need to be (many times after arriving too late help a current dilemma). Having never read the books, I can see on page where someone holding a novel in his hands could easily transport himself into the international intrigue that surrounds Langdon. But on screen, he's just inert, no matter how hard Hanks works.
Angels & Demons takes him to the Rome to find out who is killing the great chefs of Europe.. wait, no, that's another film. He's tasked with finding the murder of cardinals slotted to fill the pope's shoes following his sudden death.
He's joined on this outing by female scientist Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayelet Zurer, never given a change to even register). The two are aided by Camerlengo (played by Ewan McGregor, playing as though he's still in a galaxy far, far away), and roadblocked by Commander Richter (played by Stellan Skarsgard, furrowing his brow and looking rather perturbed to even be involved). When they are informed that a cardinal will perish every hour for the next few hours, Robert and Vetra spend most of the European vacation arriving late to the scene of the crime, staring at statues and artifacts, being driven to the next crime scene and staring at more statues and artifacts.
The less you know about how they are able to deduce this criminal mastermind, the better you are. For the trap seems to be cribbed from the old Batman television series, where our hero was able to foil the Riddler by cobbling together the vaguest of clues. Additionally, we really have no feel for the characters whose lives are threatened, having never really knowing them, which is not always essential, but certainly would have helped draw the audience into this race for time.
Of course, this most likely would have meant a longer running time, and of all the things lacking about Angels & Demons, brevity is certainly not one of them.
I realize that the global box office of Code made this film inevitable, but of all the hundreds of millions of viewers around the globe, I have yet to talk to someone passionate enough about the first to crave another. The most enthusiastic response was, "Well, I think they can do a better job with the next one."
Perhaps the next installment the producers could have Popes parachute into a courtyard of Ninja Bishops and all face off against an angry army of zombie priests.
I would even allow Hanks to regrow his mullet back for that one.