Although the commotion surrounding the worldwide release of “The Da Vinci Code led Egyptian authorities to ban the film, the sequel “Angels and Demons – though it is based on an earlier Dan Brown novel – arrived to local theaters without a splutter or so much as an “ahem from the censorship.
No wonder. Whereas its prequel raised questions about the divinity of Jesus Christ and challenged the accounts of Jesus in both the Bible and Quran, in “Angels and Demons, Harvard Symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called upon to save the potential leaders of the Catholic Church and prevent the destruction of the Vatican.
The Vatican still created a fuss about filming in the Holy See, forcing the crew to relocate some scenes to a Hollywood set. However, “Angels and Demons emerges as an apology to the Catholic Church for any bad feelings created by “The Da Vinci Code, as opposed to an attack on the institution.
In fact, the filmmakers should thank their lucky stars for Catholicism’s loud rhetoric against Dan Brown – it has given a mediocre thriller far more publicity than it deserves.
Crisis hits the Vatican when four cardinals are abducted during the Papal elections. Worse still, a stashed-away vial of highly-explosive anti-matter has been stolen from CERN labs, which threatens to create quite a show in the Catholic capital.
Luckily Robert Langdon is on standby.
His job is made significantly easier by a videotape left by the Illuminati (a science-worshipping society), confirming that they are the culprits and outlining their next moves in not-so-cryptic messages. Mainly that they will kill each cardinal in hourly intervals and end the day with a bomb of anti-matter.
Robert Langdon is helped along on his quest by a foxy but colorless physicist played by Ayelet Zurer and the young, energetic Camerlengo, the Pope’s closest aide (Ewan McGregor). They scurry around Rome and the Vatican’s secret archives, decrypting clues and finding cardinals. As the clock ticks, the pace quickens as does Langdon’s dialogue, spurting sound bites of knowledge at every opportunity all the way to the climax, and afterwards.
Langdon certainly knows his stuff and we are quickly made aware that this is serious business. But “Angels and Demons can only work as a fun, fast-paced action movie. In contrast to the worrisome expressions of the actors, I found the experience rather more snigger-worthy than tension-filled.
Yes, we are told that the Illuminati was a secret society persecuted by the church in the 17th century for attempting to reconcile science and religion and thus, there is a wider thematic substance. However, the information provided is too fragmented and superficial for us to engage in a meaningful debate.
Langdon’s views on the church remain vague, the film’s approach is carefully conciliatory and so we are left to enjoy the entertainment value in what feels like a drawn out episode of CSI with better special effects and guest-starring a few A-listers that seem to have lost their way.
“Angels and Demons is evidently reluctant to embrace its comedy status and instead clings to a seriousness that is not matched by any substance, leaving the audience unfulfilled and uncertain about what the film is trying to achieve.
The formula of academic-come-witty, rebellious blockbuster superhero that worked so successfully in Indiana Jones fails to translate into Robert Langford’s character, who is too strained to have fun and save the Vatican at the same time.
His drab suit and pudgy looks make him trying as an action hero and even less convincing as a romantic lead during his brief moments of flirtatious banter with the physicist. And his religious humor, intended to provide us with light-hearted relief, only produced a trickle of sarcastic giggles from the audience.
Yet it was the attempts at profundity, expressed by predictable and cliché one-liners running through the script, which provoked collective cringes in the theater and tipped the balance from fun to just plain silly.
I concentrated on the special effects. Interestingly, science won the day as the film crew created a brilliant explosion of anti-matter, generating a cosmic effect and wowing the crowds on screen with spectacle and pomp that the Vatican could only provide a backdrop to.