By Sandra Kraisirideja
There’s a lot that can be written about “Angels & Demons” and unfortunately not much of it is good.
Directed by Ron Howard, “Angels & Demons” is a disappointing follow-up to the more entertaining “The Da Vinci Code.” Both movies were based on novels by Dan Brown and many argue that “The Da Vinci Code,” which came after “Angels & Demons,” was a better book as well.
To begin, the movie has a weak antagonist and the threat to the protagonist is marginal. At one point in the movie one of the villains actually admits that he has had several chances to kill the main characters, but did not because he wasn’t paid to do so!
Howard tends to direct long and at 2 hours and 38 minutes “Angels & Demons” is no exception. Given the compressed time frame in the story—Langdon has roughly five hours before a massive explosion annihilates Vatican City, and a murder occurring every hour to contend with—Howard could have tightened the pace.
This is one of several problems in the script by David Koepp (“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) and Akiva Goldsman (“The Da Vinci Code”). Goldsman has penned two other movies directed by Howard: “A Beautiful Mind,” for which he won an Oscar, and “Cinderella Man.”
Even with all the complaints about the complexity of “The Da Vinci Code” plot, it was still more compelling than what happens in “Angels & Demons.” Whereas the former revolved around the mystery of Mary Magdalene and the possibility that her direct descendants are alive today, the latter revolves around the death of a Pope and the subsequent protocol that must be followed to elect his successor. Sure there’s murder, intrigue and tidbits of history regarding the Illuminati—a society of scientists who were driven underground by the Catholic Church—but the Illuminati is not the movie’s focus.
“The Da Vinci Code” had more elements of an elaborate scavenger hunt, with Robert Langdon relying on his knowledge of symbology to break codes and find the next clue, but in “Angels & Demons” he just has to locate some statues that seem to be pointing the way to the next location. The concept falls flat.
Koepp and Goldsman also do not give any time for character development in their story. The only character the audience has any familiarity with is Langdon, but even he seems different. The three other central characters are played by Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer and Stellan Skarsgard.
Skarsgard and McGregor are competent in their roles, but the audience isn’t given enough information to form an attachment one way or another. Perhaps the screenwriters were hampered by the fact that “Angels & Demons” was written before “The Da Vinci Code” and marks the first appearance of Robert Langdon.
In “Angels & Demons” there is no obvious reference to any of the characters or situations from “The Da Vinci Code” which is unusual in a movie where the central character remains the same. There is usually some allusion to events that took place previously. In this case the screenwriters may have felt they couldn’t do that since the events in “The Da Vinci Code” have not happened.
“Angels & Demons” is a movie that really wants to be liked, but in the end falls short in the areas where it neeed to succeed in order to deserve admiration.