Wednesday, May 20, 2009

REVIEW: Angels and Demons

For the two dozen people who never read/watched The Da Vinci Code, why do you think it was so popular? Well, the formula for success was to take a subject everyone thought they knew (the Holy Grail), inject a mindblowing conspiracy (Jesus was married with kids!) and wrap it in a suspenseful murder mystery plot. After you leave the theater/finish the book, you don't really care about the murder mystery because you're still puzzling over the well-developed and well-reasoned Jesus twist. Seriously, when the Magdalene bomb was dropped on me, I had to put the book down for a few minutes to think about the blindside. It was like every LOST twist molded into one.

Angels and Demons has a lot of the same pieces as Da Vinci (secret societies, a murder mystery, Robert Langdon, a brunette sidekick, the Catholic Church), but it does not have the OH MY GOD REVELATION moment (then again, it's a tough act to follow). A&D is set after the events of Da Vinci (it's safe to say that Jesus' heir didn't go public), and centered on the election of the new Pope. The old Pope just died and the frontrunners to succeed him are kidnapped. Hanks is brought in to solve puzzles and track down the Cardinals and the killers, with help from Stellan Skarsgaard (a shady Vatican cop) and Ewan McGregor (a shady Vatican priest). Along the way we get to see beautiful Roman art and architecture and some disturbing dead bodies. Until the end, everything is pretty much a paint-by-numbers "find the bomb before it explodes" thriller.
Yep, there's a twist before the baddie is revealed, but it's not unexpected. It's a satisfying story, but there is one thing that sticks out for me after watching it.


Okay, so Obi-Wan utilizes his military training to fly a helicopter above Rome to prevent the bomb from leveling Vatican City and everyone who's waiting for the new Pope to be named. He takes the chopper up high in the sky and then jumps out with a parachute. The bomb blows (some of the best and coolest special effects I've ever seen), and a battered McGregor floats down to the crowd, his white parachute shining brightly in the night. The metaphor could only be more obvious if he had sprouted wings. The crowd loves him, and so do the Cardinals, but we find out that the whole murder plot was his design to rally the Catholics and land the throne. Eventually he is discovered and lights himself on fire (A DEMON, TOO!!! METAPHOR!!!!!). My problem is that if Hanks missteps at any point throughout the movie, if he is accidentally gunned down, if Obi Wan dies in the blast, if the brunette scientist doesn't notice the bomb battery, if any number of critical plot points don't happen, the plan fails. I hate that kind of stuff. In the end, A&D gets points for a thought-provoking who-done-it mystery, but it provides nothing memorable except for some nifty camera tricks courtesy of Ron Howard. It certainly is NOT better than the Da Vinci Code.


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