Saturday, December 19, 2009

Looking for clues

Angels & Demons (2009)

Ace symbologist Robert Langdon and his magnifying glass are back! There’s anti-matter loose in Vatican City and it’s up to Langdon and his sidekick, ace CERN physicist and science hottie Vittoria Vetra, to find and diffuse it before there’s a very, very big crater in the Pope’s living room. Oh, and btw, it looks like the Illuminati, centuries old foes of the Catholic Church and thought long vanquished, are responsabile.

Based on the titular novel that was published before The DaVinci Code, but in the movie apparently taking place after Code’s events, the Pope has died (or was he...murdered) and a successor has yet to be chosen. It is during this tense time for the world’s one billion Catholics that the Illuminati strike, stealing the anti-matter from CERN (note to scientific installations studying ridiculously dangerous substances: hire someone other than Paul Blart: Mall Cop to keep an eye on things). Langdon (Big Tom Hanks, collecting a HUGE paycheck again) is asked by the Vatican for his assistance in figuring out, well, stuff - words that are written so they can be read the same backwards and forward, secret codes and watermarks, that kinda thing.

The big bads also have kidnapped the preferiti, the four Cardinals most likely to be elected to the Papacy. Busy little beavers, ain’t they? They’re going to kill one preferiti every hour starting at 8pm. When they’re done with whacking old dudes in robes, they will blow up the anti-matter, and that's the kind of thing that always caused Star Trek’s Scotty to crap his pants.

Langdon has to drag the Swiss Guard all over Vatican City as he deciphers the clues and they try to stop the killings. (Note to the Swiss Guard: the “traditional dress” that some of you wear makes you look like Renaissance Fair rejects. Really--stripes and puffy sleeves are out. Just FYI.)

I don’t know how the novel reads but the movie plays like a sweeps episode of 24 mixed with a Catechism class, with that Freemason-type Illuminati bullstuff thrown in for spice. I enjoyed it as a sort of brainy thrill ride (it’s a good thing the action takes place over several hours one night and not over many days, which adds to the tension). Hanks is always good and he brings real humanity to Langdon. A major plus for the movie is the mixture of familiar faces such as Ewan MacGregor (the Camerlengo) and Stellan Skarsgaard (Cmdr. Richter) with little knowns (at least to U.S. auds) such as Ayelet Zurer (Vittoria) and Thure Lindhardt as Chartrand, the Swiss Guard who keeps a weary eye on Langdon as he peers through the sacred Vatican archives.

Unlike The DaVinci Code, which made the Catholic Church out to be the bad guys and attracted the ire - and simultaneous fascination - of Catholics worldwide, Angels & Demons makes the Catholic Church hierarchy the victims, so there were no calls for protests and boycotts this time around. And Hanks' Langdon is more of an agnostic with a reverence for at least the cultural, if not spiritual, history behind the Church.

This is a fun movie to watch once, but it pretty much vaporizes (like a secret message) from your consciousness once you shut off the DVD player.

No comments:

Post a Comment