Angels and Demons is another Dan Brown adaptation from Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, and the latest effort is no more of a quality film as the disappointing Da Vinci Code. A film that bounces between fun for the first two hours and tedious in the final thirty minutes never seems to know when to say when, Angels and Demons is neither very good nor very worthwhile. And there might be some spoilers in this review, so watch out.
Okay, so what? I knew going into this film how disappointed I had originally been with The DaVinci Code, but I am willing to give everyone a second shot. Howard’s first attempt wasn’t a terrible film, and it certainly boasted a lot of talent, so it was at the very least a quality bad film, albeit somewhat frustrating and tedious.
So I walk into the theater expecting the worst, and let me tell you, it starts off pretty well. It seems as if the screenwriters had decided to simplify Brown’s original source material, something they had utterly and painfully not done the first go-round. With The DaVinci Code, it seemed like every little nook and cranny within the book was being scrunched into a film that just felt so bloated and overdone as it was. I’d read The DaVinci Code and, like everyone else, had expectations, and mine were not matched.
So, naturally knowing that an Angels and Demons film was sure to follow, I decided NOT to read the book. I wanted to walk into the theater with the bare minimum of expectations, and I’ll be damned, it was actually working. As the story got going, I found myself guessing and thinking, both entertained and interested. After nearly two hours of a decent enough film, it COMPLETELY and UTTERLY falls on its face, and ruins any good will it had amassed. And for this, you have to blame the original author.
Dan Brown might be able to sell a shit-ton of books, but I think this has to prove that his films just simply do not translate well to the big screen. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just that he includes a lot of character arcs and stuff, and you just can’t get them all in a film while giving them adequate time.
The film plays like an episode of 24 (when the show was good), and that’s a compliment. It keeps you somewhat on edge, even though you know that at each turn, its only going to lead to more turns, and so on through the maze. But you watch Hanks and Company on screen and get swept up in their journey as well.
Tom Hanks is just an incredibly watchable actor, and here is no exception. While the acting around him isn’t particularly good, he’s doing just fine. He’s playing a sort of new-age Indiana Jones, and Hanks does what he can. There is always quite a bit going on, but Hanks is the calming force, the one I truly enjoyed watching on-screen.
The problem is that there are SO MANY supporting characters, its hard to get a name of half of them, let alone any significant character development. New characters just appear on a whim, important to the story, but not to a viewer. They follow Langdon through part of the maze, and when they’re purpose is up, they’re gone. Most of them are generic law enforcement roles or temporary antagonists, but they just sort of exist.
The subject matter is pretty serious, and how this movie got a PG-13 rating is kind of puzzling to me. Not once, but TWICE we are shown human beings on fire, burning to their deaths. It’s very graphic, and while I wasn’t offended, part of me was pissed off because the little sexual reference gets a film an R rating, while a movie set in Vatican City directed by Ron Howard can light two people on fire and still be PG-13. Fucking MPAA.
And Howard’s definitely a good director, he’s just pretty obvious. He doesn”t take risky chances, and he makes safe ones. He has a technical prowess that shows in his work, and I wish he would take a chance and not do such a major project. He is not Steven Spielberg. While Spielberg makes his films of 2+ hours routinely engaging and engrossing, Howard’s seem more tedious and laborious, because it feels like he’s trying too hard to make them grand and epic. This film goes on, and on, and on, and on, until the point where I was actually begging it to end.
And that says a lot, because for two hours, the film had me. I was interested in the journey, mainly because this time around, they weren’t explicitly answering one question just to ask another. There seemed to be more of a central path that Langdon and Company were taking, one with a logical end. Then, at that end, they go ahead and fuck it up and tack on about another half an hour.
In this half hour there are major twists and they really ruin the movie. Where five minutes earlier I was cheering Ewan McGregor’s priest as he piloted a helicopter filled with the anti-matter into the night sky, thinking how heroic he had been as he parachuted back down to Earth, now he’s the mastermind of the whole scheme? The cardinals are thinking of modifying church doctrine to make him Pope, and now he’s the bad guy? Give me a break. They had a character that seemed built on virtue, and honor, and truth, and now he’s the one pulling all the strings? Just to show that corruption can come from within, from the last place you’d expect? It seems as if they obviously do this on purpose, building up such a noble character only to flip him at the last turn to shock the audience, and it doesn’t work at all. What it does do is ruin an otherwise pretty enjoyable movie.
While I can’t recommend this movie because of the brutal ending, I can say that it isn’t bad for the first 2 hours. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse, paint by numbers thrillers, you’ll eat it up. If you’ve read the book, which I haven’t, I assume you’ll like it because you’ll know what’s coming to a degree. You won’t feel as completely had as I did. It seemed a little tighter than The DaVinci Code, not trying to cram in too much during the chase, it completely ruins any good will by having such a terrible ending, and it ends up being less enjoyable on a whole, as the first film. It makes it tough to score, because for most of the film I enjoyed it. But Charlie Kauffman said it best. “Wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.” And this one just left such a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t see much good in it now.
- Bearable performance from Hanks
- The first two hours aren’t that bad
- No time to get to know the characters
- Too much going on at all times
- Horrible twists kill the entire movie experience
- The Da Vinci Code
Score: 4.75/10 (Pretty Bad)
Acting: 4.5/10 (Not even Hanks can vanquish some truly sub-par acting)
Script: 4/10 (It’s paced well, but almost too cookie-cutter)
Story: 6/10 (It’s engaging and entertaining, but it’s ruined at the end)