Starring:Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director: Ron Howard
Writer(s):David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman
Original Score:Hans Zimmer
Runnign Time:138 Mins.
The Da Vinci Code opened back in 2006 to a critical drubbing, opening at Cannes to boos rather than cheers it went on to make over $700 at the worldwide box office. So with a prequel already having been written which fool wasn’t going to commission it for the screen, so back for the ‘ride’ are star and Hanks and director Howard, presumably at the lure of cold hard cash for Angels & Demons.
Whilst I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code a lot, I did accept it had some gaping flaws, most notably a rather dull performance from Hanks and a lack of tension as a result of mistaking talky scenes of exposition for thrilling scenes of action, and I’m sad to report that once again Angels & Demons has inherited much the same flaws.
Opening on the night of the Pope’s death we are whisked through a brief exposition by The Da Vinci Code’s ‘villain’ Alfred Molina (significant, I’m not too sure!) as to what happens upon a Pope’s demise, there is then a scene in a giant Labratory introducing us to the theory of anti-matter and it’s creation, and re-creator working on creating it Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer, best known from Munich) with a final stop off at Harvard to reintroduce ourselves to Robert Langdon, symbologist extraordinaire, in a pair of speedos no less! Once again Langdon is summoned for the favourite’s to become pope have all been kidnapped by those claiming to be the Illuminati.
So far so Da Vinci Code,but upon arrival in The Vatican City where Langdon, it seems, is not the favourite person due to his revelations in the previous film. You see rather than set Angels & Demons before The Da Vinci Code it is now a sequel incorporating elements of the past film’s events and weaving them into Langdon’s character in an attempt to make him more interesting, sadly it fails. Tom Hnaks may well be one of the greater actors of our time but he really seems to be in these films for the money with little else invested in the role. The only quirk that carries through from the novel is a Mickey Mouse watch, how’s that for characterisation, and while some things about last time are remembered seemingly Langdon’s fear of enclosed spaces has miraculously passed.
Though the dreariness of the main character may seem a major issue it becomes almost forgettable because as with its forebear you will be swept up by the story, this time given much more urgency and helped in a brutality that really belies the film’s 12A certificate, bodies burn alive, cardinal’s are branded, and lung’s punctured! These are all cause of the Illuminati’s hitman, stripped of any characterisation he had in the source material here he is a faceless assassin, much like Paul Bettany’s Silas was, but minus the back-story and pasty complexion. Fortunately the tasks he carries out make for almost gripping viewing.
The main strength lies in Howard’s direction, he still lacks the urgency required of a plot this a to b but shoots its such an elegaic way throughout you could simply watch the film to admire its beauty, even more a wonder considering it had to be reproduced due to embargo’s made denying any shooting to take place in Vatican City itself. The lead up to each race against the clock is handled efficiently and due to the nature of the ultimatum Langdon is tasked with it is much more pacey than The Da Vinci Code but still feels somewhat lacking, ending up feeling like National Treasurewith much better direction and a lack of light heartedness.
Thankfully the support cast are entertaining though not always in the right way, Ewan McGregor impresses with the underplayed performance of the novels most changed character but his all over the place Oirish accent really needs work. Stellan Skarsgard is eminently watchable as always but really is here to serve as red herring and scowl a lot, were he and Hank’s given a meatier scene together it would have been a prospect to look forward to. Zurer is shockingly even more dull than Hank’s making you glad they share very little screen time, and any other side character is relegated to listening while Hanks explains something.
But in the finale Angels & Demonsbegins to demonstrate the urgent element of the race against time thriller it needed earlier on, and in the closing half hour we approach a fantasic high brow thriller, something that will keep you on the edge of your seat as the plot twists and turns, and while a helicopter stunt is hugely enjoyable the fallout with a parachuting priest may leave you sniggering, I can’t say that I wouldn’t like to see another Robert Langdon ‘adventure’ I just hope he is given some more interesting material to get his teeth stuck into.
Far from the mess it’s likely to be branded as, Angels & Demonsis a gorgeously directed ‘thriller’ that doesn’t thrill as often as it should, yet in the final third we see what should have come before much more consistantly, a solid race against time which will keep you on the edge of your seat.