Review - Angels and Demons: Exceptionally Unexceptional!
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I am not an admirer of Dan Brown, and though I have read the Da Vinci code, I did not bother to see the film, as I found the book to be very badly written. The fictional universe of Angels and Demons is set in a time post the events depicted in the Da Vinci code, as the initial dialogues make clear.
This is not a caper film, it is not a heist film, and it is definitely not in the tradition of The Omen and The Exorcist. Both The Omen and The Exorcist had Christian themes, but dealt with eschatological and primordial fears of mankind, as portrayed through Biblical imagery. This made the films powerful and terrifying at the same time. Angels and Demons has a far more prosaic plot and is set in the modern world. Here the premise is that of a treasure hunt; a hunt where the hero has to figure out various clues to achieve the outcome. The movie that immediately comes to mind is Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was also based on a Biblical theme. But that movie had a hero with pizzazz, Indiana Jones with his trademark fedora and bull whip embodied the archetypical hero, who was masculine, dashing, and intelligent.
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon just does not make it. His role is too flat, all he does in the movie is to crinkle his eyes and spout Vatican history related dialogues. Maybe it is not Hank's fault at all, the character of Robert Langdon is very unidimensional. He exists only as a prop to keep the plot moving, and nothing else; we do not understand and relate to him as a human being, as there is a total absence of character development. That holds true for all the other characters too, the only exception being the character of Cardinal Strauss played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. But even there, it is the physiognomy and presence of Mueller-Stahl, which gives his character a definition. Ewan McGregor as the Camerlengo has the maximum screen time and is a key plot point, but is as common as they come. Stellan Skarsgard’s character could have been played by a mannequin and it would have made absolutely no difference at all.
The screen play makes Robert Langdon rush around Rome and Vatican City, all huffing and panting, and make his way through various churches, crypts, and catacombs, accompanied by a pretty nuclear physicist (Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra), who has absolutely nothing to do, but look suitably impressed and worried by turns. A hand held camera is used to convey a sense of urgency, but it gets repetitive after some time. The clues are all references to Renaissance works of art and would appeal only to art historians (assuming they are factually true). There is no sense of mystery, no sense of awe, as the clues are uncovered. For a film of this premise to work, this would be mandatory; the viewer must be transported to a place and time far removed from everyday reality and would at the same time experience a heightened contrast with the everyday present.
The director throws in a few scenes to highlight the struggle between religion and science, but does not tilt it either way. The climax has a final twist, but one accepts it as just another happening in the scheme of things. There is no catharsis, no upsurge of emotion, and definitely no feeling of redemption as we watch it.
Ron Howard is a professional and here he has dished out a Hollywood processed fast food offering; one eats it and as long as one is eating it, one is conscious that something is going on, but the moment it is over, one cannot even remember a vestige of the taste, however hard one tries.
Strictly for Dan Brown fans only.
This review is by guest reviewer Anand S. Anand lives in Pune and is a Miscellaneous Culture Vulture. He is deeply interested in music, food, books, films, and intelligent women. He views himself as a Falstaffian figure, who does his best to indulge his appetites.
- Violence: A few gunfights
- Language: Clean
- Nudity & Sexual content: None, we are dealing with the Holy See after all!
- Concept: Pseudo Religious mythology translated into an adventure
- General Look and Feel: Realistic, everyday.
Angels and Demons - Movie Details
- Producer: Ron Howard, John Calley
- Director: Ron Howard
- Lead Cast: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Ewan McGregor
- Supporting Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Thure Lindhardt, David Pasquesi, Cosimo Fusco, Victor Alfieri, Franklin Amobi
- Story: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman
- Screenplay: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman
- Cinematography: Salvatore Totino
- Editor: Daniel P Hanley, Mike Hill
- Music Director: Hans Zimmer
- Costume Designer: Daniel Orlandi
- Art Direction: Giles Masters, Marc Homes, Luke Freeborn, Alex Cameron
- Running time: 138 minutes
- Reviewer: Anand S
- Language: English
- Country: USA
- Genres: Adventure, Religion, Thriller