Angels & Demons: A Mediocre Attempt at the Thriller Genre

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Angels & Demons, for the most part, ends up being slightly better than its predecessor The Da Vinci Code, which is unfortunately not saying much. For all of Ron Howard’s strengths as a director it still amazes me that he can find any sort of positive attributes to Dan Brown’s writing which can usually be categorized as hack thriller drivel. Mixing a mediocre literature source along with the combination of a crack-pot writing team consisting of David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman (War of the Worlds and Batman & Robin respectively) is just an epic road for disaster. However, Mr. Howard is able to direct and mediate this ridiculous story into a tight production where the result is somewhat enjoyable. Too bad the story is so off the wall unbelievable while throwing in an acting team that couldn’t seem to care less about the project leaving us with a product that is in the end forgettable, which is the road more frequently traveled for summer blockbusters.

When you have time to contemplate the plot of Angels & Demons it can be described as implausible and yet due to that drastic leap in believability it becomes incessantly complex as the film tugs along. To say that there is a lot going on in the film is to put it mildly for it ranges from a murder of a priest and the theft of a nuclear substance bomb (known as antimatter) to the kidnapping of four cardinals and an election of a new Pope. All of this happens in a span of two days in the film. Because the storyline becomes so squeezed for information and exposition that the film has no real time to explore or explain any of the real issues or situations it attempts to take on. Mind you the role of exposition is not supposed to act as a “look-what-I-know” section of the movie, which has the protagonist Robert Langdon, played indifferently by Tom Hanks, rallying off facts on Bernini and Gallileo while running to the next clue.

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Langdon has been called this time around by the Catholic Church itself, despite his past degradation on some of the Church’s beliefs. An ancient group known as the Illuminati, interpreted inaccurately as a vigilante science group out to get revenge on the Church, has kidnapped the preferati, four cardinals that are the favorite in line to become the next Pope. So why has a symbologist from Harvard been called on to solve this obviously illegal predicament? Well fortunately the evil Illuminati in their aspirations for revenge have provided clues through ancient texts, symbols, and statues so that Langdon and company have a chance to find each Cardinal before they are brutally killed on the hour by the hour (starting at 8pm and then 9, 10, and 11). To top it all off there is a nuclear device, known as antimatter, which will ignite at midnight in Vatican City after its battery life runs out amidst the Cardinals convening to select a new Pope.

Even though the story has its ridiculous moments Ron Howard is able to contain the story from going out of control and guides the film in a proper direction. Mr. Howard has quite a keen eye for visuals and still makes this film look finely tuned and beautiful with the help of the elegant Italian scenery and landmarks. The horrid pacing problems that existed in 2006’s The Da Vinci Code are not existent this time around, which makes the possibility of enjoying Angels & Demons a bit higher. However, when the film begins to attempt a philosophical approach relating to the supposed division between science and religion, this hokey thriller begins to take itself way too seriously. It fails astoundingly in trying to show this gap between science and religion because the movie fails to show that the Church was ever against science (and anyone who has taken some sort of history class should know that this mythical conflict between science and religion is blatantly exaggerated as it is).

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If the script wasn’t bad enough it seems as though the cast knew it was bad while filming it. Seeing actors like Stellan Skarsgard and Pierfrancesco Favino forcing their lines out as if they could care less about the positive outcome of this project was entertaining alone but brings down the movie scene by scene when it happens. They are not the worst on screen follies in the film for that reward really can go to Tom Hanks, who seems so apathetic about what is going on and almost tired of the process itself. Ewan McGregor gives a little too much passion in his performance while Amir Mueller-Stahl could almost bore you to tears with his incredibly dry and lackluster interpretation of a stubborn and by the book religious leader. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic nor are they interesting an aspect that ultimately aids to the absurdity that is the climax of Angels & Demons.

As summer blockbusters go one has to keep in mind that entertainment is usually the ultimate reason why an individual would attend these films. However, there is a standard of quality that these films need to be held accountable to and when they fail to meet these expectations, either with their story or with caliber acting, there needs to be recognition for those failings so it won’t happen again. But with a product such as Angels & Demons it is obvious that some people settle for mediocre rather than quality and that includes the creative minds behind the project itself. This film, due to its inflated and ridiculous story combined with poor acting and character scenarios, is widely forgettable and not memorably entertaining and if it fails at that than it has ultimately failed its intentions while sacrificing quality for numbed down mediocrity.

Grade: C-

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Comments
One Response to “Angels & Demons: A Mediocre Attempt at the Thriller Genre”
  1. DFabiano says:

    I agree…the film itself was better than the Da Vinci Code, but better film making still could not overcome the inherent deficiency in the script. I hated this book, it was just stupid and way to unbelievable.

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