For me, author Dan Brown stands somewhere between a talented storyteller and a guilty pleasure.
His fast pace and rapid cross-cutting between frayed lines of narrative make for great page turning, but his use of pseudo-history and misleading “facts” often make his work feel a little slick and commercial for my taste.
I read “The Da Vinci Code” and was working on “Angels & Demons” before the premiere of the latter’s film version, but ran of time.
So, armed with this little bit of Dan Brown primer, I set out to see “Angels & Demons” with high hopes that director Ron Howard could pull it off. What I was met with was a let down of epic proportions.
From the first frame, “Angels & Demons” sets off at a pace even faster than book. So fast, in fact, that any nuance the book offered was brushed aside and quickly replaced with raw plot.
The “scientific” and “historical” aspects of the plot were spliced in via massive chunks of expository dialogue. Without these key elements being given the attention they deserve, “Angels & Demons” is simply a mediocre suspense thriller.
Performances were as good as could be expected from the likes of Tom Hanks, back as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, and Ewen McGregor, who plays priest Patrick McKenna. However, I still feel that Langdon, the hero of Brown’s series, carries a little more swagger than what suits Hanks. I LOVE Hanks, but I have never liked him for this role.
“Angels & Demons” is the first Robert Langdon adventure penned by Brown and takes place before the events of “The Da Vinci Code.” In this chapter of the story, Langdon is rousted from his alma mater and flown to Rome to investigate a threat to the church by an ancient secret society known as the Illuminati.
There he meets Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayelet Zurer), a physicist who was involved with the most important discovery in science to date — antimatter. This highly volatile new energy source was stolen and is now involved in the plot to destroy the Vatican city during the ceremony for choosing a new pope.
This would effectively wipe out the Catholic Church.
Langdon and Vetra then go on a wild goose chase through Rome, fueled by Langdon’s knowledge of Illuminati lore. And of course, there is the obligatory twist at the end — which isn’t altogether difficult to spot coming.
I can take it or leave it when it comes to this picture. I wasn’t bored out of my mind, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, either. Again, most of the nuance of the book is shoved aside to advance an action-packed plot.
My suggestion? You can pick up the paperback for about 10 bucks. That is just a hair more than the cost of admission to the movie on a Friday night. I say check out the book. It has all of the suspense of the movie AND it comes with all that fun, dopey Dan Brown science.
1½ stars (out of 4)
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Ewen McGregor and Ayelet Zurer
DIRECTED BY: Ron Howard
RATED: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 18 minutese scene.
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