Jul 27, 2009

[Movies] Angels & Demons (2009)

Angels & DemonsI never got into Dan Brown's books since by the time I realized he existed, he had reached that level of fame / notoriety because of the supposed "controversy" around his book The Da Vinci Code. It always annoys me when people pick up a book just because it's popular or because they think it will make them appear smarter than they really are as opposed to deliberately looking for a book of that nature since they are already interested in the subject or premise.

To some extent, that helped me appreciate the movie independently from the book, which is always my goal when I write my reviews, although the first film didn't manage to win me over to want to read the book behind it. It was entertaining, to say the least, but nothing much beyond that.

So naturally Hollywood decide to capitalize of the success of the "brand" by creating a sequel and out of curiosity I went to see it with my partner. At least we survived.

Angels & Demons as a book was a prequel to The Da Vinci Code while as film, it was tweaked to become a sequel. In the movie, the current pope has died and the Cardinals are convening to elect a successor. At the same time, terrorists manage to break into the Large Hadron Collector (LHC), steal a small yet significant amount of antimatter and threaten to kill one of the four most-likely successors to the pope every hour and then ultimately destroy Vatican City at midnight. The group behind it claim to be The Illuminati, a secret underground society that has fought for the world of science in the face of willful religious ignorance.

Now I have a nasty habit as a viewer to let my mind race ahead and try to predict the ending of things. It can be as simple as trying to predict how a particular fight or scene will end or it can be solving the main case driving an entire TV series episode or movie. In this case, Angels & Demons had many highly predictable moments that had me groaning as soon as I projected the inevitable end result. It was sadly predictable to the point of being painful, and mind you this is all without having ever read the books.

On a technical side, there were painful flaws that hurt the scientist in me. This was best manifested by the gross misrepresentation of the Large Hadron Collector and just how much antimatter they could possibly create. More so, the true effects of antimatter and how it might explode was another aspect that just bothered me to no end. The list goes on and on, but that may be a flaw more of the original novel and not solely the movie, so let's forgive that.

ROME - JUNE 05:Actors Stellan Skarsgard (L) an...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

When one focused on the film on its own, it also felt sorely lacking. While it still had many of the familiar elements that made The Da Vinci Code pretty decent as a film, this "sequel" lost sight of a lot of that and ended up feeling very rushed, like an elaborate scavenger hunt where the players actually had all the steps and needed to follow each one deliberately. There was no true taking stock of various scenes and avenues of investigation, no creative ways of interpreting how Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) was deciphering the puzzles and ciphers in his head. It was just one scene after another, a continuing rushed series of events that made it feel more like The Amazing Race or perhaps National Treasure. It failed to maintain the same level of intelligence as the first film.

I guess part of it could be the premise itself - the fact that each puzzle followed the next in quick succession and the protagonists had less than 60 minutes to solve it, get there too late and fail, mull about the failure with the authorities then resume the hunt. Thus maybe the story is to blame and not just the director, although Ron Howard isn't completely off the hook just yet.

The whole thing just didn't grip me and by the end I think my cheeks were read from me face-palming myself all throughout the film. There were so many "reveals" that had been apparent much earlier on and even the main "villain" was obvious to me the very first time he appeared. And just don't get me started on the big finish when they have to deal with the bomb. Argh.

Angels & Demons gets 3 scientifically-impossible antimatter bombs out of 5.

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