Tom Hanks, Ron Howard Misfire With Ridiculous ‘Angels & Demons’
CHICAGO – Ron Howard’s “Angels & Demons,” the sequel to “The Da Vinci Code,” is an absolute mess, a film that tries hard to break free from the dull tone of its predecessor but ends up even more ridiculous, frustrating and generally worthless.
Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures suspense thriller Angels and Demons.
Photo credit: Sony/Zade Rosenthal
As if in response to the criticisms about the dull nature of the 2006 blockbuster that spawned it, “Angels & Demons” tries to be a faster-paced, more enjoyable thriller than the first film, but Howard and screenwriters David Koepp & Akiva Goldsman make the cardinal sin of playing an over-the-top story ridden with plot holes with a straight face.
I had read both of the Dan Brown books - “Angels & Demons” actually came before “The Da Vinci Code” but the chronology has been switched theatrically - and actually thought that this Robert Langdon adventure might make a better film. Without spoiling anything, the climax of Brown’s book is downright loopy and I read the book with a smile on my face, thinking it could be a tongue-in-cheek, Indiana Jones-esque adventure story, far less self-serious than the 2006 film.
So, I was even more frustrated as “Angels & Demons” unfolded with nary a hint of humor, wit, or any sense that the filmmakers needed to do more than just adapt the bare bones of Brown’s plot to get people to buy a ticket.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is already well known to the church and the first person called when an elaborate and nonsensical plot surfaces in Vatican City. The Pope has just died and the college of cardinals gathers to elect a new leader of the church as the four most likely candidates are kidnapped. One will be killed every hour, on the hour, until Vatican City itself is blown up at midnight in a burst of blinding light.
Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer star in Columbia Pictures suspense thriller Angels and Demons.
Photo credit: Sony/Zade Rosenthal
The chase structure of “Angels & Demons” is simple enough - Langdon and his partner-in-running, a gorgeous scientist named Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), will stay one step behind the kidnapper/murderer as they race through Rome trying to stop the destruction of the Vatican and mass murder. Vetra tags along because she helped gather the anti-matter (or “God particle”) that the villain of the piece is using as a ticking time bomb.
Vetra’s inclusion and her development of the “God particle” might have made for an interesting discussion of science versus religion, but that’s only used in the vaguest sense as a plot device. There’s no time for interesting discussion, leaving us with a script that focuses so distinctly on the wild goose chase that it allows audiences to pick apart the plot holes. Without giving anything away, the way the events unfold in “Angels & Demons” relies so heavily on coincidence and knowing exactly what Langdon would do that the idea that it was orchestrated by anyone is simply ludicrous.
Fans of “Angels & Demons” will tell you that it’s all in goofy fun. Ask them to name one line of dialogue, one character detail, or one interesting plot twist that they honestly laughed, smiled, or even remembered when the credits rolled.
Other than the professionalism of the production - Rome undeniably looks great - the entire team, including another dull turn from Hanks, feels like they’re going through the motions. The supporting cast, an element that was actually interesting in “The Da Vinci Code,” includes Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, and Armin Mueller-Stahl and not one of them brings anything other than their predictable routine to their character. Like everything else in the movie, they are merely plot devices in a plot that makes no sense.
“Angels & Demons” is a by-the-numbers movie made for-the-numbers (as in box office). After the critical acclaim he received for “Frost/Nixon,” Ron Howard seems like he could be at a point where he could actually take a risk and try something new. And I miss the Hanks that used to be unpredictable and interesting. They both should know better. They have a movie confessional to go to.