By Jenna Pitman
In Angels and Demons, the much anticipated sequel to the Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has been called to Vatican City after the death of the Pope and subsequent kidnapping of the four Cardinals nominated to take his place. This was the work of the evil and mysterious “Illuminati,” who have returned after hundreds of years and wish nothing more than the destruction of the Catholic Church from the inside out. Their plan is to symbolically kill each of the Cardinals, one an hour, in four churches around the city apparently created as a giant maze leading to the fabled Church of Illumination where Illuminati once gathered in centuries past to discuss science. At midnight, a bomb of antimatter, stolen from the Large Hardon Collider, will be set off destroying much of the Eternal City. The only way to stop it is to find the Cardinals and the Illuminati’s chapel.
This is not exactly the thrill ride it claims to be. In fact, about sixty percent of the film was spent with the characters telling me useless and often silly facts in such a way that made me feel as though I was sitting in on a particularly bad history or theology lesson and another thirty was wasted as those same characters restated some point or another that they already told me twenty minutes before. True, there were a couple of action-packed scenes but these were so far between that I felt I could have been watching a special on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel rather than a big budget summer hit. Of course, both the channels in question tend to offer programs far more lively than Angels and Demons.
Despite the urgency of his task Langdon would rather lecture the audience and his fellow characters in long-winded speeches than actually get to work on the rescue. In fact, it seemed as though every character in this script felt the need to stop and explain what they’re about to do with a lengthy diatribe before actually doing anything. This gets old in about 15 minutes and never lets up. Unlike the sporadic scenes of action which last for less than ten minutes, using tired, predictable tropes most of us have seen before, only to fade away and be replaced once more with long strings of exposition.
Of course I had gone in without all that much hope for the story (though not expecting a dull course on fictional history) but what truly disappointed me were the shoddy performances of actors, the bad directing, the cheap-looking sets, and the sub-par special effects. At no point, unless they were obviously shooting in Rome, did I feel as though the figures on screen were actually standing in a place as spectacular as Vatican City or numerous famous churches. In fact, with the exception of the assassin (Nikolaj Lei Kaas) and Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) I didn’t believe anything the actors on screen were pretending to portray. Given the names involved I feel cheated. I know that any one of them could have done a better job with the right encouragement. You would think that with Ron Howard as the director, encouragement would not be too terribly difficult to find.
The sets and CGI seemed like something out of a high-budget television show; it felt more like I was watching a TNT original series than something from Hollywood with a group of A-list actors. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a good original series it’s just that I expect more from my movies than I do from my TV. When you’re watching two people in a chapel and suddenly realize that the background is all computer animation you feel ripped off. If the movie is going to stand in my top 5 Most Boring Movies of All Time category I would at least like something pretty to look at.
I sincerely wish I could tell you that this was at least a fun movie but I can’t. It’s not pretty, it’s not engaging and it’s not interesting. Unless you were a huge fan of the original and of the book (and by this I mean that it is the best book you’ve ever read and nothing will ever compare) I simply wouldn’t bother with it until some one starts playing it on TV. It’s probably where this movie should have premièred in the first place.