Cinema Thoughts

Angels & Dullness

Angels and Demons is yet another dull adaptation of a Dan Brown bestseller.

Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons

Although this sequel to The Da Vinci Code isn’t quite as as bad as that 2006 turkey, it is still a plodding big budget disappointment.

Angels & Demons will still make an enormous amount of money, but given the A-list talent involved you could be forgiven for wondering why such a high profile blockbuster is so criminally boring.

For those not familiar with the best selling books by Dan Brown, they involve a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks).

In The Da Vinci Code (2006) he had to investigate a conspiracy involving the Catholic church and here he is called in to solve a plot by the Illuminati, who are threatening to destroy Vatican City with stolen antimatter during a papal conclave.

On the surface these movies actually sound like hokey fun, but the reality is that they involve a lot of walking and talking in dark places, clunky expository dialogue and a lack of any genuine suspense.

The premise of this film is slightly more appealing in that it is essentially a ticking time bomb scenario.

Almost from the beginning Langdon has to solve the mystery of where four kidnapped priests are before stopping anti-matter from blowing up the Vatican.

But none of this potential excitement really comes off on the big screen.

Given that pulpy novels like Jaws and The Godfather have been made into highly entertaining movies, why has Dan Brown’s bestseller not made a similar transition.

My theory is that it was written from the start to be clunky and obvious – literary anti-matter if you will – and even the skills of David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman (two of Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriters) could not translate it into something even remotely engaging.

Despite having a narrative crammed with riddles and mysteries, they are sacrificed quickly in order to get to the next chase upon where more is revealed and so on and so on.

This leads to a film that is the equivalent of a dog chasing it’s own tail whilst stuck on an out of control carousel – lots of energy and excitement that ultimately leads to a rather pointless spectacle.

Like most big Hollywood productions it does have some impressive technical aspects, most notably the recreation of the Vatican on studio sound stages that is mixed almost seamlessly with nocturnal Rome.

The cast play their one-dimensional roles fairly straight: Hanks is slightly more agreeable here than in the last film; Ayelet Zurer makes a plausible CERN physicist; Ewan McGregor is just OK as the Camerlengo in charge before the new pontiff is elected (although he does have a coup,e of bad lines); whilst veterans like Stellan Skarsgård and Armin Mueller-Stahl add a bit of spice whilst the story plods along.

When you consider the enormous popular appeal of The Da Vinci Code novel and film, it is worth asking what audiences actually see in them.

Part of it could be that a large chunk of religious believers (especially Catholics) get a guilty kick out of seeing a conspiracy about the Catholic church (an organisation ripe for intrigue) and toying with the idea that it all could be true. Even when – or maybe because? – Brown’s material is clearly nonsensical.

Then there are the audiences who just love the film equivalent of an airport novel, where plot rules everything and characters, theme and craft are mere pawns to serve it.

It will no doubt mean that this will be one of the highest grossing films of the year, but in years to come people will be perplexed about why such a dull film could be so popular.