Movie reviewer Justin Morgan goes to see Angels and Demons, and has some stern words for just about everyone involved.
Why is the second movie in a series often the best? Plot-wise, we no longer need to sit through tedious introductions or origin stories. Our protagonists are established and understood characters whose traits can now be tested, and whose rules can now be broken. Unfortunately, Angels and Demons fumbles all opportunities to test, refine, or even reference character traits from the original movie. The follow-up to the 2006 blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, Angels manages to suck what little fun and life there was left out of a movie where people in the audience thought about a book they read once while watching actors on screen pretend to think about things they read in books once. I think.
In Code, an epic battle is joined when Christianity is pitted against women, a battle I would not have liked to handicap, because I’ve known many Christians and many women. In the sequel Angels (which was actually written beforehand, which might make for an interesting I-am-my-own-grandfather novel-movie relationship if both movies didn’t steadfastly refuse to make any more than the most passing and fleeting reference to the potential existance of the other), the stakes are decidedly smaller when Roman Catholicism squares off against the scientific method for what seems like about the nine billionth rematch. I say squares off, but really it’s just the idea of Roman Catholicism against the idea of science. No, that’s wrong too. It’s more like some people say some of the more uninteresting, unchallenging things about both the idea of science and the idea of religion that have ever been uttered, while Detective Scott Turner (Tom Hanks, who actually is playing Dr. Robert Langdon, but who had more sexual tension with Hooch than with his current costar) runs around trying to keep people from killing each other in bizarre ways for mysterious reasons.
Even more bizarre than the creative ways Dan Brown offs his victims was the creative way writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, along with director Ron Howard, put some concrete shoes on the plot of the novel and dropped it into the Meditaranean sea. Any trace of potential romance between Hanks and brunette costar du jour Ayelet Zurer is snuffed out, which longtime readers of my reviews (or, frankly, anything I’ve typed into a keyboard ever) know is sure to arouse (ha!) my displeasure. Now, maybe I can forgive the decision that there was no time for love, Dr. Langdon. It’s the tension-killing, detail-level changes that don’t make sense. Why would the movie give us the first clue in a fax, whereas the novel’s first clue is literally branded into the living flesh of a poor victim? I’m no Hollywood director or writer by any means, but it strikes me that eschewing romance and violence to squeeze in a few more details on the finer points of papal succession doesn’t seem to be the best strategy for creating top-rate blockbuster entertainment.
Fortunately there is one thing that Ron Howard gets right, and that is lush, beautiful shots of Roman scenery and Vatican interiors. The city is pretty to look at, and the movie is drenched in the paint and chisel of Renaissance masters. But if that’s all you’ve got going for your movie, you might want to consider spicing things up a little bit. I recommend a tasteful, implied, off-camera sex scene.
One negative element of my movie-going experience wasn’t entirely under Ron Howard’s control, though. The blame rests with the folks I saw the movie with, at the new Movieland theater on Boulevard. If you plan to spend time in a darkened theater enjoying an audiovisual presentation, you should probably take your bluetooth headset out of your skull, because not only can you not hear with that thing crammed into your eardrum, but the rest of us have to watch the thing blink madly for two hours as though your head was some sort of aircraft. Especially when you don’t use it for the three phone calls you took during the movie, as all three of which for some reason required the physical suspension of your actual cellular phone next to your ear. But not your right ear, because that’s the one with Sputnick stuck up it. What happened to Movieland’s rumored zero-tolerance policy towards disruption?