Angels and Demons
Directed by Ron Howard
While it was easy to groan at the bizarre accusations that the hollow-headed The Da Vinci Code was a controversial and blasphemous statement, it's even easier to smirk at the Catholic Church's passive acceptance of Angels & Demons. Director Ron Howard, and his crew of bankers and marketers (not to be mistaken as filmmakers), have constructed a simplistic movie so truly innocuous that it's impossible to offend, or please, any sensibility; it's too thoroughly dumb to be casual entertainment, too asinine to be of any historical value, and not frivolous enough to be self-aware camp.
Tom Hanks returns, his bad haircut moderately cropped, as know-it-all Harvard professor Robert Langdon, ready to check out some symbols. This time he mugs for the camera, throwing off smart-alecky one-liners worthy of primetime TV, alongside a new foreign beauty (Ayelet Zurer) — essentially the Israeli-cum-Italian version of previous sidekick Audrey Tautou. This time, the tiresome structure of a plot is dominated by publicly slaughtered cardinals, a dead pope and the recently revived Vatican City-hating bastards known as the Illuminati. The religious order is once again exposed as impervious to modernity, just as the cast and crew are oblivious to the audience's intelligence. Instead of developing the surface-level, minute-long chitchat interludes on the dichotomy of science vs. religion, there's more time devoted to inquires such as "Will he break the glass in the oxygen-less tank?" or "Is the creepy atheist scientist waiting behind the wall the sculpture was pointing at?" The film concludes with the message that religion and science are not in opposition, but serve as symbiotic forces — this, of course, is a pandering cop-out that contradicts any shred of a theme apparent in the first two hours.
The mystery at the core is made up of little more than lazy, risible nonsequiturs. A sample of Langdon's powers of brilliant deduction, logic, and coincidence: "We need to look for a piece of art with air. How is it possible for someone to create a statue about air?" He looks around for a moment, SUSPICIOUSLY, then glances down and checks his watch. As he removes the Mickey Mouse watch from his view, he sees a floor mosaic depicting air. "Oh, there it is! Of course, I should have known: the Roman tile that Dan Brown found on Wikipedia to use as a clever plot point." Repeat this every thirty minutes — cut with fast, fancy cars bouncing on cobble-stoned Italian streets.
The destructive force at the center of Angels & Demons, set to combust once its battery expires (at midnight, natch), is called "antimatter" — an apt name for the crucial object in a film that revolves around insubstantial sequences of explosions. There is more intrigue and spirituality involved in a Sunday morning Easter egg hunt than in Angels & Demons. It's nothing more than an ostentatious scavenger hunt, using adult terms for child's play.
Opens May 15