Angels & Demons

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is back. This time, instead of fighting against the Church, he’s teaming up with it. A member of the Vatican shows up one day and tells him that kidnapping have taken place and Langdon is required to do something to help. The Pope has just died, and it’s time to choose a new one. However, those kidnapped were the four most likely people to be chosen as the new Pope, which would cause a problem, I’d assume.

Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in St. Peter’s Square. That’s the thing to do after the Pope dies. They wait for the white smoke to come from a chimney, as that means that a new Pope has been chosen. Countries from all over are represented, all hoping that a member from their country will be picked. Little do they know that their lives are in danger. A bomb has the potential to go off at midnight, so Langdon is going to have to try to find that as well. Does this guy ever get a break?

See, we open off with a group of scientists trying to create antimatter. We later find out that they were hoping to create a new energy source (apparently, one speck of antimatter could power an entire city for a month). Someone steals one of the three vials they create, kills everyone except for a scientist named Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer). The thief passes her in the hall, although he doesn’t eliminate her at this time. That proves to be a bad move, as she’s going to be Langdon’s sidekick for this film.

The bad guys are the Illuminati, who have stolen this potential bomb and kidnapped the four potential Popes. There’s a lot of potential here, it would seem. They send a video to the Church that lays out how things will work. Beginning at 8:00 PM, they will begin killing these people. One at every hour on the hour. The battery that keeps the antimatter suspended in the vial will run out at around midnight, and when the antimatter touches anything, it will explode.

So it’s a race-against-the-clock movie that just happens to involve the Illuminati and the Catholic Church. There’s some science versus religion dialogue throughout, although it doesn’t amount to much. We basically just follow Langdon and Vittoria running through the city for 90 minutes, and then we get a conclusion that you’ll see coming from a mile away. If you thought the ending of The Da Vinci Code was anticlimactic, you’ll be even more let down by this one.

Where did my plot go? I remember that in The Da Vinci Code, I had to have a lot of things explained to me. There was conspiracy and depth to what was going on. Where did that go? It kept me engaged, and while the exposition did eventually wear me down, the information presented was still interesting. It seems that director Ron Howard was aware that too much exposition was a problem with Angels & Demons‘ predecessor, so this time around, he eliminated it altogether.

What’s left is a film that holds your interest just by the actions of the characters without a secondary action to keep your attention. The plot is just what I described above: A race. Sure, there are clues that lead to more clues that lead to even further clues, but once they’re brought up once, they aren’t referenced again. They show up just to propel our characters to another church, but then they disappear, showing us that they weren’t all that important. Robert Langdon is a smart person, and he solves the puzzles quite easily here, but to what end? He doesn’t get to uncover anything — he’s just trying to save a bunch of lives that could be saved anyway if the Church wasn’t so reserved in its traditions.

There’s one character that I haven’t mentioned yet. His name is Patrick (Ewan McGregor), and he is the Camerlengo. For those not knowing what that is, he basically holds a bunch of power if the Pope happens to be dead and another one hasn’t been chosen yet. Or something like that — the film doesn’t make it particularly clear. He’s allowed to grant access to the Vatican Archives, but he apparently cannot issue evacuation orders. He tries, but he gets turned down for some reason. Again, it’s not made particularly clear, but he’s shown as the smartest person because, you know, there’s a bomb that could go off and would level all of Vatican City, but because of tradition, an evacuation — not even a warning — cannot be issued.

If the film takes any stance on religion or science, it’s that one. Adhering to tradition is bad if it’s for the sake of it just being tradition. That’s about it though. It isn’t really pro or con religion or science, which is an interesting take considering how The Da Vinci Code ended up working. I guess there’s no corruption inside the Church anymore. Oh wait, the “surprising” twist near the end says otherwise. What a shame.

It seems that characters have been largely forgotten about, just like the plot. While I wouldn’t call the ones in The Da Vinci Code particularly deep, at least they were characters that we could somewhat relate to and enjoy our time with. This time, everyone is there to fulfill a certain purpose in the plot with absolutely no depth or way to relate to them. They often don’t even act like real people, although since our two leads are a professor and a scientist capable of creating antimatter, who am I to say that they don’t act realistic?

Angels & Demons is for those of you who liked the puzzle solving in The Da Vinci Code, but otherwise thought the story required too much thought. This one is easy to follow, requires almost no explanation, but also isn’t as interesting to me because of that. It’s a film where characters go from locale to locale with little more purpose than “the statue pointed that way.” But it’s tightly paced and overall exciting, even if it needed more depth to its plot and characters.

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