CHRIS ON RAILS

a personal weblog of everything nice

Angels and Demons is terribly good May 26, 2009

Welcome to the first GUEST post by a friend of mine…you can call him sunpar.  However, I added all the images with my own captions.


Angels and Demons – Movie Review

angels_and_demons

When The Da Vinci Code debuted at Cannes nearly 3 years ago, we knew about it.  The Catholic Church spoke out against it, the film gained worldwide notoriety, and the circus was soon in full effect. Bishops railed against its inaccuracies, protesters camped out in front of movie theaters, and one 61-year-old Catholic nun protested outside Lincoln Cathedral by praying on her knees for 12 hours.  In Manila the film was rated ‘R18’, while India, always sensitive to religious controversy, banned the film outright in certain areas.  Believers were asked to boycott the film, the actors, and Sony itself (stop buying their ridiculously overpriced and impractical gadgets, surely that will teach those heathens!).  And at every step, the Media hounded us with updates, beating the story to death and force-feeding the carcass to the public on a daily basis.

In comparison to the event and the faux cultural significance that accompanied The Da Vinci Code, the release of the sequel, Angels and Demons, barely registered.  Sure, there is the requisite Today Show segment and the odd Times Square billboard as well as a few half-assed reviews in various publications; but the heart just doesn’t seem to be in it.  I even remarked to Chris on my way down to the appropriate theater that I’d just passed five other movies that I’d rather see.

There's no national treasure in this movie, only conveniently placed statues that point the right way.

There's no national treasure in this movie, only conveniently placed statues that point the right way.

angels_and_demons_1

Ewan McGregor is in this movie too.

The reason for the relatively quiet opening of Angels and Demons is that the upshot of the entire hullabaloo over The Da Vinci Code was a movie that grossed over three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide in 2006, including (at the time) the third largest opening weekend in US history.  The Academy’s nominations for best film, which included the exquisite Babel and the endearing Little Miss Sunshine, were virtually invisible next to such widespread interest.  Code obliterated even the summer blockbusters, making nearly as much money as the third X-Men movie and the third Mission Impossible combined.  Clearly if the Catholic Church had planned to deter its flock from straying, they failed miserably.

Or did it?  For once, proper perspective was delivered from Hollywood itself as the film actors’ fought to maintain a semblance of rationality in the midst of the furor.  Tom Hanks, himself a believer, said the story “is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense…  [If critics] are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, [they’d] be making a very big mistake.”  And indeed that was the case: people watched the movie, noted the usual over-the-top Hollywood extravaganza, and went on to their lives.  Evidently, it takes more than a second-rate author and Tom Hanks’ preening charm to fundamentally challenge one’s faith.  Even Hollywood, those Godless mongers of sin, had no such pretensions.  The only lasting impact of the movie for the Catholic Church has been an overwhelmingly positive one.  Tourism to Rome and Vatican City has increased since 2005, when Dan Brown’s book first hit the mainstream.  The movie helped turn viewers onto the rich history and exquisite art of Christianity and if anything has brought some Christians closer to their faith.  The Catholic Church had no reason to be anxious over Brown’s works.  And why should it be; why should the Catholic Church pay mind to this farce of a production?  Is the Smithsonian Institute threatened by National Treasure?

Ewan McGregor is one hood short of a Jedi.

Ewan McGregor is one hood short of a Jedi.

If you think about it, this brilliant line also works in Star Wars.

If you think about it, Ewan McGregor's memorable line in Angels & Demons works in Star Wars.

The greatest flaw of The Da Vinci Code was that it was too respectful of Dan Brown’s work.  It should have treated the novel as National Treasure with arguably even more fantastical theories and conspiracies.  And to that point, credit should go to director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer for eschewing any pretensions of transferring (nonexistent) literary value into the sequel.  The point of the movie is no longer to submit Brown’s convoluted conspiratorial yarns to the viewer through long tedious dialogue, but to produce a watchable action movie.

Compared to its predecessor, Angels is refreshingly brisk and active.  Characters die and disappear from the story arc while the main protagonist (Tom Hanks reprising his role as Professor Robert Langdon) wastes nary a moment on sentimental hogwash.  Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer plays the requisite cardboard-cut-out female protagonist counterpart, Vittoria Vetra, who helps “solve” the clues and fit the puzzle together.  The clues themselves are comical and even make the viewer laugh out loud at the absurdity at points.  They are not sufficiently intricate to offer any hint of realism, but then that is probably an endeavor better suited for prose than motion picture.

Stellan Skarsgård is constantly in the wrong in Angels & Demons.

Stellan Skarsgård is constantly in the wrong in Angels & Demons.

Other formulaic devices abound throughout the movie, though perhaps not to its detriment.  Stellan Skarsgård, one of the more recognizable “oh, that guy is in cinema”, plays the always ridiculous role of the constantly wrong authority figure.  His function within the plot is that of the constant nay-sayer and doubter to make the protagonist’s revelations more poignant and significant.  He is Abigail Chase to Hanks’ Ben Gates, Scully to  Hanks’ Mulder.  Ewan McGregor appears as the Carmelengo Patrick McKenna, the rare role for him that does not involve full frontal nudity or sexual deviance.  His character instead serves to progress the plot and add character ambiguity in an otherwise one-dimensional cast.

Stellan Skarsgård in Pirates of The Carribean:  The World's End.

Stellan Skarsgård in Pirates of The Carribean: The World's End.

I went into Angels and Demons expecting crap and hoping it would be over soon.  I came out having witnessed mediocrity and pleasantly surprised it was over so soon.  As a movie judged on its merits alone, The Da Vinci Code was ill-conceived.  It was a movie that did not know if it was a true motion picture or a running dialogue summarizing Dan Brown’s conspiratorial vision.  And with that basis, Angels must regrettably be deemed a success.  This is a movie that unlike its predessor knows what it is: pure summer blockbuster action movie drivel.  Despite the many hundreds of millions Code earned in the box office, there are few who can say it provided a pleasant movie experience.  And although I cannot in good conscience recommend that people spend their money on this National Treasure-esque farce, if that’s the type of movie you seek, Angles and Demons will satisfy you.

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One Response to “Angels and Demons is terribly good”

  1. Vivi Rosslin Says:

    You haven’t even read Angels & Demons, have you?
    On that note, you probably haven’t read The Da Vinci Code either. They aren’t Dan Brown’s theories. They are widely known theories that he was inspired by.

    Criticism by definition does not need to be mean spirited.

    I found your Obi-Wan Kenobi reference funny!


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