Angels & Demons

Film review: Ron Howard's Da Vinci Code sequel with Tom Hanks

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 13.05.2009 17:04 (updated on 13.05.2009)

Angels & Demons
Rating:
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Thure Lindhardt, David Pasquesi, Cosimo Fusco, Victor Alfieri, Franklin Amobi, Curt Lowens, Bob Yerkes, Marc Fiorini, Carmen Argenziano, Howard Mungo, Rance Howard, Steve Franken, Gino Conforti, Elya Baskin. Written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, from the novel by Dan Brown.
Showtimes
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Dan Brown´s Robert Langdon books (at least the two I´ve read, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) were incredibly poor pieces of pop literature that nevertheless read like can´t-miss Hollywood blockbusters. Inexplicably, Ron Howard´s The Da Vinci Code was an even worse film that took the condescending and unbelievable source far too seriously, providing a dark, sluggish ride almost completely devoid of fun.

Howard still doesn´t have the right feel for the material, but Angels & Demons is a considerably better film. It´s still incredibly dark – shot mostly at night, with a plot device that turns off all the lights out in most scenes – and we´re still just watching Tom Hanks´ Langdon solve the mysteries instead of solving them alongside him. But the pacing is completely fixed, and despite a runtime of almost two-and-a-half hours the film flies by.

Brown´s book was actually written before The Da Vinci Code, but Howard´s Angels & Demons seems to have been conceived as a sequel, rather than a prequel, with vague references to the previous film. A mullet-less Hanks returns as Professor Robert Langdon, recruited to help Vatican police search for the Illuminati, a centuries-old secret society and enemy of the Catholic Church who have apparently resurfaced. Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer stars as Vittoria Vetri, an Italian particle physicist for CERN, who have just created volatile antimatter – and promptly had it stolen.

Backstory: the Catholic pope has died, leaving the camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) temporarily in charge of the Vatican while cardinals gather to elect a new pope and a massive crowd builds outside, waiting for the white smoke that signals a new Catholic leader. But the four prominent cardinals considered to be possible successors have each been kidnapped, with an apparent Illuminati threat declaring that each of them will be killed on the hour leading up to midnight, when a bomb (the antimatter) will detonate and destroy Vatican City.

With the discovery of an Illuminati ambigram, symbologist Langdon is flown in from Cambridge to assist, despite some “bad blood” between him and the Church and opposition from Swiss Guard Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgård). Given access to the Vatican archives, he discovers clues in an ancient Galileo text that outline a trail to Illuminati headquarters. With Vetri in tow, we follow him in a connect-the-dots quest across Rome that unlocks ages-old mysteries.

Unfortunately, we´re not so involved in the quest; like Da Vinci Code, we´re just watching Langdon follow the clues, never given enough information to solve them ourselves. And if you are in possession of the relevant info about Vatican City and Rome, Galileo and Raphael and Bernini, particle physics and ambigrams, you´ll laugh this junk off the screen.

But you´ll still have fun doing so, as we breeze through the proceedings without stopping for breath; unlike Da Vinci, we rarely have the time to consider all these improbable events.

Howard has a tighter control of his ship this time around, but Hans Zimmer´s electric, pulsating Italian giallo score seals the deal. The music, which sometimes recalls Goblin and their work for director Dario Argento (Suspiria in particular), is an absolutely perfect match for Howard´s dark and misguided material, and turns the film into something entirely different from the improbable novel.

The cast, with minimal time for characterization, makes little impact. But that´s a good thing, as I recall disliking the characters played by Hanks and Audrey Tautou in the previous film; not at all here. McGregor hams it up appropriately as the camerlengo.

We´re in a tourist-beset Rome for most of the movie, and the city looks absolutely gorgeous. Despite Howard´s dark-darker-darkest color scheme, cinematography by Salvatore Totino makes wonderful use of the locations. Costumes and set design are impeccable.

This is far better treatment than the source material deserves; Brown´s books read as something akin to the National Treasure movies, and the condescending tone leaves them unsuccessful even on that level. The more fantastic elements of Brown´s novel, like Langdon´s daring helicopter escape and artificial insemination involving the pope, would have played out just fine in a campy version of the film closer in spirit to the source. But they´ve been excised completely here.

When reading Brown´s books, you have that feeling of ‘this may be an awful novel, but damn, I can picture the movie already.’ Not a good movie, mind you, but a movie anyway. Howard has not attempted to make that movie; instead, he´s twice attempted to make good movie out of these impossible sources. One was an unquestioned failure. But I think he´s just about succeeded here.

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16.2.12:The Artist ★★★★ | Shame ★★★★ | Safe House ★★½
9.2.12:The Phantom Menace 3D ★★★ | Man on a Ledge ★★½ | The Ides of March ★★★½ | Jack and Jill ★
2.2.12:Hugo ★★★★ | Chronicle ★★★ | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ★★½ | Perfect Sense ★★½
26.1.12:Contraband ★★½ | A Dangerous Method ★★★ | Carnage ★★★ | The Help ★★★
19.1.12:The Descendants ★★★½ | Underworld: Awakening ★★
12.1.12:The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ★★★½ | Machine Gun Preacher ★★½
8.1.12:A Separation ★★★★
5.1.12:Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ★★★½
29.12.11:The Darkest Hour ★★
22.12.11:The Inbetweeners Movie ★★ | Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ★½
15.12.11:Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ★★★
8.12.11:New Year’s Eve ★½ | The Rum Diary ★★★½ | The Thing ★★½
1.12.11:Moneyball ★★★★ | Puss in Boots ★★★
24.11.11:Immortals ★★★
17.11.11:The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 ★★★½ | I Don’t Know How She Does It ★
10.11.11:Real Steel ★★★ | Tower Heist ★★½ | Anonymous ★★½
3.11.11: In Time ★★½
27.10.11:Adventures of Tintin ★★★★ | The Debt ★★½ | Larry Crowne ★★½ | Cave of Forgotten Dreams ★★★½
20.10.11:Paranormal Activity 3 ★★★ | The Three Musketeers ★ | Contagion ★★★½
13.10.11:Johnny English Reborn ★★½
6.10.11:Killer Elite ★★★ | One Day ★★ | Dream House ★½
29.9.11:Friends with Benefits ★★½ | Abduction ★
27.9.11:The Skin I Live In ★★★½
22.9.11:Midnight in Paris ★★★½ | Colombiana ★★½ | Shark Night 3D ★½
15.9.11:Drive ★★★★ | Pina ★★★½ | Crazy, Stupid, Love. ★★½ | Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ★★½
8.9.11:Super 8 ★★★½ | Final Destination 5 ★★★
25.8.11:Cowboys & Aliens ★★
18.8.11:Conan the Barbarian ★★ | Green Lantern ★★½ | Win Win ★★★½ | Womb ★½
11.8.11:Rise of the Planet of the Apes ★★★ | The Lincoln Lawyer ★★★
4.8.11:Captain America: The First Avenger ★★★ | Horrible Bosses ★★★
28.7.11:Cars 2 ★★½ | Jane Eyre ★★★½ | Bad Teacher ★½ | The Resident ★★
21.7.11:The Tree of Life ★★★★ | The Mechanic ★★
14.7.11:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ★★★½ | Submarine ★★★½
7.7.11:Hanna ★★★½ | Bridesmaids ★★★½
30.6.11:Transformers: Dark of the Moon ★½
16.6.11:Your Highness ★½
9.6.11:The Hangover Part 2 ★★★ | Paul ★★½ | Skyline ★½
2.6.11:X-Men: First Class ★★★½
26.5.11:Melancholia ★★★★
19.5.11:Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ★★½
12.5.11:Priest 3D ★★ | Water for Elephants ★★★ | Something Borrowed ★★ | Tetro ★★★½
5.5.11: Fast Five
28.4.11: Thor
21.4.11: Source Code | The Eagle | Mr. Nice
14.4.11: Scream 4 | Just Go with It | Unknown | Somewhere
7.4.11: The Way Back | Love and Other Drugs | Jack Goes Boating | I Am Number Four
31.3.11: Sucker Punch | No Strings Attached | My Soul to Take
24.3.11: Limitless
17.3.11: The Dilemma | The Rite | Sanctum
10.3.11: Rango | The King’s Speech
3.3.11: The Adjustment Bureau | Drive Angry 3D
24.2.11: The Fighter | Morning Glory
17.2.11: True Grit | Burlesque
10.2.11: Black Swan | London Boulevard
3.2.11: 127 Hours
27.1.11: The Tourist | Tangled | Chain Letter
20.1.11: The Next Three Days | Gulliver’s Travels
13.1.11: The Green Hornet | Season of the Witch | Another Year
6.1.11: The Kids Are All Right | The Good Heart
16.12.10: TRON: Legacy | Paranormal Activity 2
9.12.10: Megamind
2.12.10: Due Date | The American
25.11.10: The Other Guys | The Switch
18.11.10: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
11.11.10: Howl | Devil
4.11.10: The Social Network | You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger | Saw 3D
28.10.10: Red | Animal Kingdom
21.10.10: Four Lions
14.10.10: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Eat Pray Love | Machete
7.10.10: DVD Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop
30.9.10: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
23.9.10: Resident Evil: Afterlife
16.9.10: The Karate Kid | Going the Distance
9.9.10: Největší z Čechů
2.9.10: Step Up 3D | Ondine
26.8.10: Grown Ups
19.8.10: The Expendables | The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | A Serious Man | When You’re Strange
12.8.10: Salt
5.8.10: Get Him to the Greek
29.7.10: Knight and Day | Bunny and the Bull
22.7.10: Inception | Agora
15.7.10: Shrek Forever After | A Single Man | The Rebound | Mr. Nobody
8.7.10: Predators | Letters to Juliet
1.7.10: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
24.6.10: Killers | Solomon Kane
17.6.10: Toy Story 3 | The A-Team | From Paris with Love | The Back-up Plan
10.6.10: The Ghost Writer
3.6.10: Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone
27.5.10: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time | Brooklyn’s Finest | Precious
20.5.10: Hot Tub Time Machine
13.5.10: Robin Hood | Whatever Works
6.5.10: Kick-Ass
29.4.10: Iron Man 2 | The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | The Road
22.4.10: The Bounty Hunter | The Crazies
15.4.10: Clash of the Titans | An Education
1.4.10: Moon | The Men Who Stare at Goats | Everybody’s Fine
25.3.10: Remember Me | Leap Year | Babylon A.D.
18.3.10: The Lovely Bones | Legion
11.3.10: Daybreakers | Dear John | Mammoth
4.3.10: Alice in Wonderland | Nine
25.2.10: Shutter Island | The Hurt Locker
18.2.10: The Wolfman | Valentine’s Day | Edge of Darkness
11.2.10: The Book of Eli | In Search of a Midnight Kiss
4.2.10: Capitalism: A Love Story | Brothers | The Box | Did You Hear About the Morgans?
28.1.10: Up in the Air | The Fourth Kind | New York, I Love You
21.1.10: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus | It’s Complicated | Black Dynamite
14.1.10: Sherlock Holmes
7.1.10: Fame
17.12.09: Avatar | Whip It
10.12.09: Spread
3.12.09: Zombieland | A Perfect Getaway
26.11.09: The Twilight Saga: New Moon | Antichrist
19.11.09: Paranormal Activity | Law Abiding Citizen | The Time Traveller’s Wife
12.11.09: 2012
5.11.09: My Life in Ruins
29.10.09: This Is It, Love Happens, Halloween II
22.10.09: Fifty Dead Men Walking, Saw VI
15.10.09: The Brothers Bloom, The Ugly Truth, The Final Destination
8.10.09: Surrogates
1.10.09: Julie & Julia, Hunger
24.9.09: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Gamer, Night of the Living Dead 3D
17.9.09: District 9
3.9.09: The Taking of Pelham 123, Man on Wire
27.8.09: Inglourious Basterds, Taking Woodstock, The Proposal
20.8.09: Up, Two Lovers
13.8.09: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
6.8.09: Brüno
30.7.09: The Boat That Rocked, Away We Go, Knowing
23.7.09: Crank: High Voltage, Bronson, The Accidental Husband
16.7.09: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Limits of Control
9.7.09: Public Enemies, The Wrestler
2.7.09: Fighting
25.6.09: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
18.6.09: The Hangover, Drag Me to Hell, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
11.6.09: Coraline, The Secret of Moonacre
4.6.09: Terminator Salvation, I Love You, Man
28.5.09: State of Play, Bottle Shock, New in Town
21.5.09: The Last House on the Left
14.5.09: Angels & Demons
7.5.09: Star Trek, Duplicity, 17 Again
30.4.09: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, My Bloody Valentine
23.4.09: Synecdoche, New York, The Reader, Friday the 13th
16.4.09: Gran Torino, Defiance, Hotel for Dogs, Confessions of a Shopaholic
9.4.09: The Visitor, Happy-Go-Lucky
2.4.09: Fast & Furious, Bride Wars
19.3.09: He’s Just Not That Into You, Battle in Seattle, Sex Drive, The Unborn
12.3.09: Seven Pounds, Marley & Me
5.3.09: Watchmen, Doubt
26.2.09: Slumdog Millionaire, The Duchess, The Pink Panther 2
19.2.09: Frost/Nixon, The Spirit, Transporter 3, City of Ember, Bolt
12.2.09: Valkyrie, Milk
5.2.09: The Tale of Despereaux, Bedtime Stories
29.1.09: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road
22.1.09: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Traitor
15.1.09: Burn After Reading, Yes Man, Che: Part One, My Best Friend’s Girl
8.1.09: Changeling
2.1.09: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
25.12.08: Australia
11.12.08: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Four Christmases, Paranoid Park, Make It Happen
4.12.08: Bangkok Dangerous, High School Musical 3: Senior Year
27.11.08: Twilight, Body of Lies
20.11.08: Death Race, Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Strangers
13.11.08: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6.11.08: Quantum of Solace, The Women
30.10.08: Max Payne, Nights in Rodanthe, The Other Boleyn Girl
23.10.08: Vicki Christina Barcelona, The Forbidden Kingdom
16.10.08: Nightwatching, Taken, Juno
9.10.08: Elegy, Mirrors
2.10.08: Eagle Eye, Disaster Movie
25.9.08: 2 Days in Paris
18.9.08: Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
04.9.08: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Journey to the Center of the Earth
28.8.08: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
21.8.08: Funny Games U.S.
14.8.08: WALL•E, Meet Dave, Then She Found Me, The Orphanage
7.8.08: The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!
31.7.08: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
24.7.08: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
17.7.08: The Incredible Hulk, Shine a Light, Be Kind Rewind, Nim’s Island, Made of Honor
10.7.08: Get Smart
3.7.08: Kung Fu Panda, Hancock
26.6.08: Wanted
19.6.08: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
12.6.08: The Happening, My Blueberry Nights
5.6.08: Sex and the City, Penelope
29.5.08: 21, Untraceable
22.5.08: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
15.5.08: What Happens in Vegas
8.5.08: In Bruges, Speed Racer
1.5.08: Iron Man, Paris, je t’aime
24.4.08: Into the Wild, Fools Gold, Wedding Daze, Superhero Movie
17.4.08: Breath, Frontier(s)
10.4.08: Horton Hears a Who, Doomsday, Vantage Point, Sleuth
3.4.08: In the Valley of Elah, The Bucket List
27.3.08: There Will Be Blood, 27 Dresses
20.3.08: Resurrecting the Champ, Reservation Road
13.3.08: Control, 10,000 BC
6.3.08: 3:10 to Yuma, Jumper
28.2.08: No Country for Old Men, Step Up 2 the Streets
21.2.08: Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead, Rambo, The Eye
14.2.08: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Charlie Wilsons War, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
7.2.08: Sweeney Todd, We Own the Night, The Kite Runner
31.1.08: Atonement
24.1.08: The Darjeeling Limited, Cloverfield
17.1.08: Michael Clayton, Lust, Caution, Love in the Time of Cholera
10.1.08: Eastern Promises, I Am Legend
3.1.08: American Gangster
20.12.07: P.S. I Love You
13.12.07: The Golden Compass, Hitman
29.11.07: Across the Universe, Beowolf, Balls of Fury, Halloween
22.11.07: Shoot Em Up, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
15.11.07: The Heartbreak Kid, Resident Evil: Extinction
8.11.07: Lions for Lambs, The Last Legion
1.11.07: 30 Days of Night, The Invasion, Sicko, The Good Shepherd
25.10.07: Once, Superbad, Feast of Love, The Seeker
18.10.07: The Brave One, A Mighty Heart
11.10.07: The Kingdom, 1408, Becoming Jane, Snow Cake
4.10.07: Knocked Up
27.9.07: Stardust, Grindhouse, Gympl
20.9.07: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Evening, Disturbia
13.9.07: Ratatouille, The Hoax, No Reservations
6.9.07: Rush Hour 3, Day Watch, Medvidek
30.8.07: The Bourne Ultimatum, Irina Palm
23.8.07: Hairspray, Planet Terror, Evan Almighty, Interview
16.8.07: Transformers
9.8.07: Mr. Brooks, Pans Labyrinth, Surfs Up
2.8.07: Fracture, Venus, Next
26.7.07: The Simpsons Movie, Angel
19.7.07: Harry Potter 5, The Good Night
12.7.07: Inland Empire, Factory Girl, The Messengers, Hostel 2
5.7.07: Death Proof, Oceans 13, Miss Potter, Fantastic Four 2
28.6.07: Live Free or Die Hard
21.6.07: Pathfinder, Curse of the Golden Flower
14.6.07: Shrek the Third
7.6.07: Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Because I Said So
31.5.07: Premonition, Black Book
24.5.07: Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
17.5.07: The Number 23
10.5.07: Renaissance, The Painted Veil, Wild Hogs, Epic Movie
3.5.07: Spider-Man 3, Copying Beethoven, Sherrybaby
26.4.07: Shooter, The Reaping
19.4.07: Sunshine, Alpha Dog, TMNT, Perfect Stranger
12.4.07: The Hill Have Eyes II, Norbit
5.4.07: Stranger Than Fiction, Notes on a Scandal, Meet the Robinsons, Red Road, Blood & Chocolate
29.3.07: Flags of our Fathers
22.3.07: 300, Sketches of Frank Gehry, Black Christmas
15.3.07: Ghost Rider, Music and Lyrics, Feast, Employee of the Month 
8.3.07: The Fountain
1.3.07: Rocky Balboa, School for Scoundrels
22.2.07: Little Children, Babel, Dreamgirls, Hannibal Rising, The Darwin Awards
15.2.07: Smokin Aces, The Queen
8.2.07: The Last King of Scotland, Pursuit of Happyness, and Crank

Czech Films

Green Horse Rustlers (18.09.16)
The Wolf of Royal Vineyard Street (14.09.16)
The Teacher (30.08.16)
We Are Never Alone (20.04.16)
Pat and Mat: The Movie (07.04.16)
Teorie tygra (05.04.16)
I, Olga Hepnarová (31.03.16)
Rudý kapitán (17.03.16)
Rodinný film (25.02.16)
Lída Baarová
(22.01.16)
Amerika (01.11.15)
Domácí péče (Home Care) (02.08.15)
Mallory (27.07.15)
Malý Pán (The Little Man) (08.05.15)
Fotograf
(20.03.15)
Kobry a užovky (The Snake Brothers) (10.03.15)
Pohádkář (Storyteller) (01.12.14)
Magický hlas rebelky (The Magic Voice of a Rebel) (05.08.14)
Parádně pokecal (Totally Talking) (05.08.14)
Díra u Hanušovic (Nowhere in Moravia) (25.07.14)
Všiváci (03.07.14)
Cesta ven (10.06.14)
Olga (22.05.14)
Hany (19.05.14)
Signál (20.11.12)
Spalovač mrtvol (16.10.12)
Lemonade Joe (17.9.12)
Svatá čtveřice (16.9.12) 
Poupata (23.8.12)
Lidice (27.6.12)
Tmář a jeho rod aneb Slzavé údolí pyramid (28.5.12)
Vendeta (26.5.12)
Alois Nebel
(2.5.12)
Rodina je základ státu
(3.4.12)
V peřině
(14.2.12)
Odcházení (Leaving)
(16.1.12)
Tajemství hradu v Karpatech
(26.10.11)
Katka (1.9.2011)
Rozmarné léto (Capricious Summer) (20.8.2011)
Kuky se vrací (25.7.2011)
Přežít svůj život (Surviving Life) (23.6.2011)
Občanský průkaz (23.5.2011)
Pouta (22.3.2011)
Kristián (07.02.11)
Kajínek (20.12.10)
Protektor (15.11.10)
Největší z Čechů (09.09.10)
Kinoautomat (22.06.09)
Na půdě aneb Kdo má dneska narozeniny? (07.04.09)
Bathory (12.07.08)
Domov (05.02.08)
Gympl (02.10.07)
Medvídek (10.09.07)
I Served the King of England (21.01.07)
Pravidla lži (19.12.06)
Grandhotel (05.12.06)
Hezké chvilky bez záruky (29.09.06)
Kráska v nesnázích (08.09.06)
Šílení (21.12.05)