Angels and Demons Review

(1 STAR)

I think I might be one of roughly fifty people in the world who hasn’t read any of Dan Brown’s mega-best-selling Robert Langdon books. I tried to read “The DaVinci Code,” but I couldn’t get into it. That being said, I actually kind of enjoyed “The DaVinci Code,” the generally reviled big screen adaptation of Brown’s most popular book. Sure it was dumb, poorly acted, and featured clunky dialogue, but its frantic pace and ridiculous plot actually roped me in. “Angels and Demons,” director Ron Howard’s follow-up, doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I’ve read many people who believe it’s a step-up, albeit a small one, from “DaVinci.” I thought it was lifeless. The plot goes nowhere, but takes a long time getting there. The acting and dialogue are just as bad. And there’s simply no joy in the film, no fun to be had. It was a near-excruciating experience.

The book series treated “Angels and Demons” as a prequel. The film version, however, is a sequel to “DaVinci.” In Rome, the Pope mysteriously dies, his four possible replacements are kidnapped, and in Geneva, a scientist working to create antimatter is murdered. Who you gonna call? Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), of course. The Harvard symbologist and expert on the Illuminati (the ancient anti-religion, pro-science group claiming responsibility for all the crimes) teams up with scientist and antimatter co-creator Vittoria Vetra (Ayulet Zurer). They run all around the Vatican trying to save the missing cardinals and, in turn, find the antimatter. Helping them (or maybe not) are Ewan McGregor as a diplomatic priest and Stellan Skarsgard as the head of the Swiss Guard.

It’s hard to decide which portion of “Angels and Demons” is more ridiculous: the first 90 minutes in which the film is like a dog chasing its own tail (you know, very active but not progressing toward anything) or the final 50 minutes of “shocking” twists and lengthy explanations. Neither is good, but I suppose the first part is just dumb, while the second part is offensive to the viewer. I hate nothing more than having to sit through a 15-minute series of flashbacks that reveal all the clues you should’ve noticed along the way. And in the case of “Angels and Demons” I predicted the big twist by the film’s halfway point, making these scenes completely worthless.

Another major problem I had with the film is that it’s completely devoid of any happiness or sense of fun. Everyone is deadly serious, and while the plot is pretty solemn (despite it being laughable), there had to have been some room in there for a one-liner or two. The screenplay doesn’t even permit Langdon to crack a smile. Films that are mindless need to be amusing to make them watchable (“Transformers” is awful, but at least it tries to have some fun).

The acting is a disaster. Hanks has never been worse. He has no charisma and no chemistry with his fellow actors. The female lead, Ayulet Zurer, serves no purpose whatsoever. Ewan McGregor hasn’t been this bad since “The Phantom Menace” (if not longer). And Stellan Skarsgard doesn’t know the meaning of subtlety (although I think at least some of that is the fault of the screenplay).

Ron Howard is a good director. He’s made some great films, as well as some bad ones, but this has to be his worst. It just doesn’t do anything right. It exists only because of the fans of the book, but even they must be disappointed by what Howard and his crew have done. Thankfully, this debacle wasn’t the blockbuster that “The DaVinci Code” was. I hope that means we can put this character and series to bed. I doubt anyone will complain.

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