DIR: Ron Howard • WRI: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman • PRO: John Calley, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard • DOP: Salvatore Totino • ED: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill • DES: Allan Cameron • CAST: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer
Following the 2006 fantastical Church-bashing orgy that was The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard returns with Angels & Demons, similarly adapted from the outrageous imaginings of the mind of one Dan Brown. There was a time when Brown was one of the most controversial figures of the literary world, presenting as he did a hotchpotch of the most seditious conspiracy theories out there in a series of high-octane, and even higher-selling, novels. Brown, presumably still dizzy from the sight of royalty cheques, has yet to produce a follow-up to the aforementioned Da Vinci Code, but fans can keep their appetites whetted with this sequel-that’s-really-a-prequel. Not that chronology is an issue here.
Angels & Demons sees Tom Hanks reprise the role of Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor and Symbologist, with a particular penchant for religious iconology. Drafted in by his nemeses at the Vatican to lend his riddle-solving genius to their latest crisis, Langdon finds himself caught in the middle of the age-old battle between religion and science, or more accurately, the Catholic Church and that fabled band of medieval scientists the Illuminati. With the pope having just passed, the church is about to embark on conclave as it attempts to elect the next Holy Father. However, the Illuminati have other ideas and, having gotten their hands on a potentially lethal canister of anti-matter from the CERN headquarters in Geneva, they plan to bump off all four of the bookie’s favourites for the top job before blowing up Vatican City. Their intent on using anti-matter is symbolic of the struggle itself, representing as it does the ultimate question of existence itself.
More pressing than the question of existence, however, is that of who decided to recast the expired pope’s camerlengo as an orphaned Irish cleric in the shape of Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor)? It is an unfortunately comical turn from McGregor, made all the more baffling by the wide-eyed underling’s Troubles-coloured history. Visually, Angels & Demons is quite stunning, impressively bringing to life both Rome’s majesty and the machinations of the Vatican itself. However, the plot’s one dimensional nature (riddle-solve-riddle-solve) and bizarre climax lack punch, mainly due to its attempt to cram as many ‘Wow, really?’ moments in as possible.
Brown’s talent lay in his ability to catch the great (religiously) unwashed with its guard down and his skilful presentation of intriguing conspiracy theory as fact. His unprecedented success is doing so, however, has let the cat out the bag somewhat. With Hollywood having muscled in on his success, we are left with a mildly entertaining caper that never quite attains credibility.
(See biog here)
Angels & Demons is released on 15th May 2009
Angels & Demons – Official Website