Angels & Demons

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Angels & Demons
swan_humdrum
Runtime 138 minutes

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in “Angels and Demons.”

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in “Angels and Demons.”

The advertising campaign for this proclaims, “Better than The Da Vinci Code!” That’s akin to saying that your blind date is “Better-looking than Quasimodo!”
This is brought to you by the same cast of characters who foisted “The Da Vinci Code” on the public. “The Da Vinci Code” was horrible history (author Dan Brown went to lengths to claim he did legitimate historical research, when it appears he got most of the story from someone else’s book, and the “history” was patently bogus), anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, long, ignorant, poorly written, poorly directed, and boring. Even so, it did a phenomenal $750 million in business, which shows you how smart director Ron Howard really is.
So I’ve got some good news for you. “Angels & Demons” did not appear to be as virulently anti-Catholic and anti-Christian as “The Da Vinci Code.” Ewan McGregor said he wouldn’t have taken a role if the film had been anti-Catholic. I temper this judgment because the film does picture the College of Cardinals as a bunch of cartoonish, octogenarial oafs.
After the first hour, I looked at my watch and thought that surely it was almost over. Man, that’s a long first hour. It consists mostly of Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) explaining in his monotonous voice the setup for the story, which is as ludicrous as the story in “Da Vinci.” It’s only saving grace is that Dan Brown hasn’t campaigned worldwide that it’s true, as he did with “The Da Vinci Code.”
The rest of the movie consists of Langdon and his cohorts, Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (McGregor), who is acting head of state of Vatican City until the election of the new Pope, and Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) running through one narrow alley and tunnel in Rome after another trying to find a bomb composed of anti matter created by Dr. Vetra that, if it explodes before midnight, will blow Rome and The Vatican to smithereens. Every one of their breathless runs is accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s climactic music. The trouble is that there should only be one climax, but Zimmer’s music makes each scene seem like the climax is coming. All the while the College of Cardinals is meeting to elect a new Pope and the clock is ticking because the bomb is due to explode at midnight.
The bad guy was so obvious to me I could have left after the first fifteen minutes, but I had to stay to see if it was at least entertaining. There are some dreary performances, led by Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays Cardinal Strauss. Mueller-Stahl is much better and more believable as the bad guy he generally plays in American films, like “Eastern Promises.” He doesn’t cut it as a devout Cardinal. The only performances I thought had quality were those by McGregor, Stellan Skjarsgård, who plays Commander Richter, the Commandante Principale of the Swiss Guards, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who plays the Assassin.
Howard is apparently one of those directors who never shot a scene he felt wasn’t so wonderful it just had to make it into the final cut, which explains why this simple story (David Koepp and Akiva Goldsan) goes on and on and on for almost 2-1/2 hours.
Oh, well. One thing Howard has learned is that a film doesn’t need quality to make money (or suspense; I identified the bad guy the first time he appeared on the screen), and Ron is sure to laugh all the way to the bank on this one.

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