Angels & Demons is the 2009 sequel to 2006's The Da Vinci Code, with Ron Howard returning as director. It stars Tom Hanks, reprising his role as Professor Robert Langdon, and also stars Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, and Stellan Skarsgard. It is also the first live-action sequel to star Tom Hanks.
The Roman Catholic Church mourns the sudden death of Pope Pius XVI, and the papal conclave prepares to elect a new pope. Four of the cardinals, each who is favorited to potentially become the next pope, are kidnapped by someone claiming to represent the Illuminati. The kidnapper threatens to kill each cardinal one by one, and then detonate a bomb that would destroy all of Vatican City. The Vatican calls upon Robert Langdon to help rescue the four cardinals and save Vatican City.
As I noted in my review of The Da Vinci Code, many of the plot points revolve around fictitious takes on ideas that are central to the Catholic faith. One example is the Holy Grail representing a woman and not a cup. Any educated Catholic can tell you this is simply not true.
Is this any different in Angels & Demons? Yes and no. First, the bomb that is used to potentially destroy Vatican City is composed of antimatter, which in reality, doesn't have quite the explosive results that the book and film indicate (I am no expert scientist, so I can't explain any major scientific details involved with how antimatter works). Secondly, Ron Howard seems to insist on cranking up the level of absurdity, and its glaringly obvious. It's appropriate to say The Da Vinci Code has high amounts of absurdity, but it seems much more prominent in Angels & Demons.
For starters, Robert Langdon seems to have taken the time in between The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons to masterfully craft his wizardry in code-cracking and puzzle-solving. Langdon asks a hefty amount of questions in the first film, and it sometimes takes him a little longer to find the next clue. This time, Langdon seems to go from check point to check point, and figure out what to do next with little to no hesitation. Either he's secretly a puzzle savant, or the Illuminati does a terrible job of covering their tracks. If that wasn't enough, the entire quest to rescue the cardinal and save Vatican City takes place over the course of around 5 hours. And these are not simple shoot-em-in-the-head murders by the kidnapper. The kidnapper attempts to murder each cardinal in a specialized way (I will refrain from spoiling what that is).
- The cinematography. One strength that Angels & Demons can flex is its cinematography. The many Churches we observe have wonderful artwork, and Vatican City makes for many gorgeous-looking overhead shots. If you're looking to tour somewhere abroad, I would highly recommend Vatican City as an option.
- Angels & Demons has a lot of creative potential. Sadly, neither Ron Howard nor screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp are able to fully execute it. Tom Hanks is too easily able to uncover the mystery, and the Illuminati villain is far too one-dimensional to be convincing. All we learn is that our evil group despises the Catholic Church, and when they start doing bad stuff, the heroes will come to save the day.
Sadly, Angels & Demons fails to improve upon its predecessor, resulting in a dull and ridiculous mystery thriller that is sometimes far too predictable. The potential to be interesting and creative is there, but you'll ultimately find yourself pretty less than satisfied.
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