As a novel, The Da Vinci Code was a page-turner so fast and fun, I was willing to overlook how silly it was. Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel, on the other hand, was dull and lifeless, with Tom Hanks strangely cast as Robert Langdon, a brainy adventurer described in the book as “Harrison Ford in tweed.” Controversy and curiosity made that film a blockbuster, despite few actually admitting to liking it.
The sequel, Angels & Demons, once again stars Hanks as Langdon, who is recruited by the Vatican to solve a multi-layered mystery involving kidnapped priests, a stolen bomb and the Illuminati.
Hanks is still miscast but at least looks awake this time (he does more running in this movie than in Forrest Gump). Demons is livelier and bloodier than its predecessor, but just as ridiculous and about as exciting as eating a stale Communion wafer.
There is one tense set piece where Langdon is trapped in a Vatican library and finds a novel way of escaping—it’s as good as the movie gets. The other action scenes involve explosions and shootings that become more and more laughable.
Ewan Mcgregor gives a charismatic performance as the film’s most interesting character, an earnest priest, but he doesn’t energize the film the way Ian Mckellan did in Da Vinci. The characters only discuss the plot and none of them grab you emotionally or have much life, including Langdon. Ayelet Zurer plays an attractive Italian scientist who joins Langdon on his quest and is his intellectual match. Hanks and Zurer have no chemistry and, strangely enough, Langdon doesn’t even show any interest in her. Zimmer’s score is overly bombastic and Howard stages a lot of fires and mayhem but none of it is anywhere near as exciting as any two minutes of his Backdraft.
The Dan Brown novels don’t seem to be a good fit for the big screen, especially when details like a bomb with an apocalyptic blast having low batteries are meant to be taken seriously.
The controversy for this entry has been more subdued than the pre-release outrage fired at the first movie. Even though the emphasis is supposed to be on how faith and science need to co-exist, the film’s main accomplishment is making the Catholic priests inside the Vatican appear strange and creepy. There’s no passion or joy either in their lives or in anyone else’s depicted in this movie. How odd that Howard, who has made so many entertaining, pulse-raising pictures, blew it once he got his hands on a franchise with James Bond-like possibilities. MTW