Lots of people had told me that Angels & Demons is a big step up compared to The Da Vinci Code, the previous film version of a Dan Brown book. Lots of other people, whether they liked the books or not, said Brown is a methodical writer. After a while you can guess how his book will evolve. I may not have read his books and I was fortunate enough to skip The Da Vinci Code, but I can believe these people. It didn’t take me long to find out who the culprit of Angels & Demons was.
However… ages ago, I decided that – if I’d ever read a Brown book – it would be Angels & Demons, mainly because I found the use of the ambigram in the book’s title excellent. The ambigram gets a cameo of about two seconds in the film.
You see, Brown is the sort of chap who puts as much knowledge and facts in his thrillers in an attempt to look really clever. I don’t know how intelligent the man is, so it’s not a cheap shot at the man’s brain, but my view of the subgenre I think the book belongs to: the fact-soaked thriller.
CERN got a lot of attention in the book and it wouldn’t be until they started their Large Hadron Collider they would get as much attention. In the book and film CERN produce antimatter, so much that a villain has plans to destroy the world (or at least the Vatican) with it. This is where your suspension of disbelief has to start working overtime: antimatter couldn’t be produced in such big quantities and you can’t make an antimatter bomb…
Facts that make the entire series of events in the book/film look rather senseless.
If you strip those notions from the film, you just get an excess of chasing scenes, albeit in lovely Rome, so at least you can stare at the architecture. Or Ayelet Zurer (playing Vittoria Vetra), whose main function in the film is to be stared at. I don’t dislike Tom Hanks at all, but this role didn’t do anything for me: it left me neither warm nor cold. Not that I blame Hanks or Ron Howard, the blandest of Hollywood’s directors, it’s just an uninteresting character made up by Dan Brown: a professor who knows some facts. Now, ain’t that fascinating? No, it’s rather like a talking encyclopedia or in this case, given Brown’s rate of wrong facts, a walking Wikipedia.
Oh, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Ewan McGregor are also in the film. Mueller-Stahl is by far the best of the entire cast and the only one who managed to make me feel anything else but apathic. The film is overlong, several scenes are unconvincing and then there’s the climax of the film, which is quite pompous and utterly silly. The biggest credit to the cast and director is that they manage to complete the film looking less idiotic than the plot actually is. If that’s an achievement, let’s crack open a bottle of champagne.
So, rather than boring you about a film that never deserved the attention it got, let me refer you to the ambigrams. Much more exciting.