Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Angels and Demons

Lowdown: A mysterious organization has a go at a Vatican busy selecting a new pope.
It feels strange saying so, but there are some books I regret reading. As in, I regret wasting my time on them. Angels and Demons is such an example: The sequel to The Da Vinci Code proved to be an exact replica of the same [now old] formula, with a new round of crap and completely fabricated myths to support its plot and overall very poor values when it comes to a piece of literature. Sure, it is thrilling to read and you want to know what is going to happen, but there is more to a good book than a cheap thrill.
Enter the film version of Angels and Demons, and just like its book it offers the same basic ingredients: It’s directed by the ever uninspiring Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks. Given what the pair achieved with the film version of The Da Vinci Code I wasn’t expecting much, but reviews claiming Angels and Demons has an edge because it doesn’t take itself too seriously pumped me up: If that was to be the case then Angels and Demons could prove to be an entertaining film indeed. But is that really the case?
Angels and Demons has a mysterious organization of “scientists against the church”, The Illuminati, conspire against the Catholic Church. They steal some anti-matter from CERN; by “some” I mean more than has ever been manufactured in any lab anywhere in the world, enough to create a mini Hiroshima like explosion. That is to say, Angels and Demons is firmly into the fictitious side of reality.
Anyway, our Illuminati plant their futuristic bomb in the Vatican and threaten to detonate it just as the Vatican is busy electing a new pope to replace a recently deceased one. But the Illuminati doesn’t stop there; they hijack the four leading contenders to the pope’s throne, and threaten to kill them one by one, by the hour. They won’t do so in a simple manner, though; they will, for some elusive reason that is never explained by the film (nor the book), stick to some elaborate scheme of locations and killing methods corresponding to ancient riddles left by Illuminati members from the time of Galileo.
And who in this world has the best potential of deciphering the Illuminati’s riddles and stopping their evil plot? Well, no one else but a Tom Hanks portraying a Harvard professor of the occult. This time around, Hanks’ female sidekick is not Jesus’ grand grand daughter but rather an Italian scientist from CERN (portrayed by the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer), the only one who knows how to dismantle a ticking anti-matter bomb. That is, how to replace its container’s battery. Together our couple will go through heaven and earth to reveal many a conspiracy as they stop the baddies and save the goodies in a "riddle me this, riddle me that" action thriller set around Rome.
For those that read the book I will state the film is fairly loyal to its origins, but that there are notable exceptions. For example, no one falls of a helicopter into the Tiber River. I have to add I was looking forward to this particular scene as it should have been the peak of silliness, and was therefore disappointed with its absence.
If one was to ignore the thrill of the chase for a brief while then one will recognize Angels and Demons to be a film about how science and religion can (and should) live together, happily ever after. Yours truly, however, thinks this to be a very silly notion: religion, especially Catholicism, is in direct contradiction with science, and living with both is nothing more than one side of your personality convincing the other to ignore certain annoying facts. After all, if it wasn't for this itchy scratch, films like Angels and Demons would not have been made in the first place. Sure, science and religion can co-exist; they do so today, and the last I've heard the earth is still circling the sun. But to celebrate this co-existence and to pretend this is the optimal state of being is not much more than aiming at the lowest common denominator, and in particular at the American movie viewing public that seems to be the direct target of Angels and Demons’ flattery. In my opinion at least, Angels and Demons delivers its flattery in a very serious manner; I was unable to find any winks that could have told us it was half joking.
In short, what we have on our hands with Angels and Demons is a film that is out there to appeal to the biggest source of potential revenues out there, and the movie does not hesitate to turn on all possible attractions with this market segment. Objective truth will not stand in the way of a good earning!
Worst scenes: Angels and Demons keeps on referring to the Higgs boson particle, the one that may be identified by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, as “the god particle” that could potentially prove the existence of god. Why would any particular particle prove the existence of god? What is so unique about this particle in particular? Why is it closer to "god" than, say, an electron? This is exactly the type of bullshit that Angels and Demons is so full of.
Technical assessment:
Just as the film is a good sample for the efficiencies of formulistic, production line like movie making, so is this Blu-ray. It is good but it fails to stand out as anything special. If anything, I was surprised at the low quality of recorded dialog in some scenes (e.g., Hanks and Zurer climbing up an old building’s stairway).
For the record, the Blu-ray is equipped with both the theatrical version as well as an extended version. We’ve watched the extended one, which spans around two and a half hours.
Overall: Can you get away with murder by providing some light entertainment? I’m still debating the issue, but for now I’ll be [very] generous and give Angels and Demons 2.5 out of 5 stars.


Uri said...

I think A&D was written before the DVC, so you shouldn't really call it a sequel.

And they didn't invent the 'god particle' stuff - it's a popular name for this particle (according to wiki), and probably disliked by most scientists.

Moshe Reuveni said...

1. The story of Angels and Demons takes place before Da Vinci, at least according to the book (the film is ambiguous on that point).
2. The fact other people utter bullshit does not give one justification to do the same, especially under the pretense of authenticity Dan Brown is so passionately trying to establish.