Sunday, May 31, 2009

Faster Angels Still Cannot Shake Old Demons.

Pricing for ticket packages to this years Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF.) are now available. For more information click here.

Angels and Demons

After the death of the current Pope, the Vatican begins to process of conclave to choose his successor from the top four cardinal prospects. Before the conclave commences the four candidates are kidnapped and the clues lead back to the Illuminati, an infamous group thought to be extinct. The Illuminati threatens to kill the candidates as revenge for persecutions they experienced in the past. They also plan on annihilating Vatican City by setting off the recently stolen, and high unstable, canister of antimatter. Despite their turbulent relationship, the Vatican reaches out to Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) for help in finding where the cardinals and antimatter are hiding. Langdon, accompanied by beautiful physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), race to decipher hidden symbols within Rome that will ultimately lead them to a harrowing discovery.

While Angels and Demons is an improvement over The Da Vinci Code movie it is still burdened by a lot of the same problems. Director Ron Howard still has not been able to bring the right levels of suspense and tension to this franchise. If you really think about it, the last time Howard made a film that was remotely suspenseful was 1995’s Ransom. Sure Howard has made some great films the past, but I do not think he is the right choice for this series. The Da Vinci Code novel, regardless of whether or not you liked the book, was a fast pace entertaining read. The film on the other hand was painfully dull, as Howard could not serve up one thrill in the entire film. I have seen turtles at the Zoo offer up more exciting chase scenes than the one feature in that film…but I digress.

Angel and Demons is a vastly faster paced film than its predecessor, yet it still does not incite anything more than a “ho-hum” reaction throughout. This is due to the fact that you never really get to know anything about the supporting characters besides the obvious (i.e. priest, cop, scientist, etc.). So when certain characters do things not normally associated with their profession, such as fly a helicopter, you cannot help but scratch your head. I am sure the characters are richly detailed in the novel but, as I have not got around to reading the text yet, I can only go by what is displayed in Howard’s movie. Also, early on you get the sense that Langdon is attracted to Vetra, but the film seems to avoid developing this at every juncture. In fact, I would argue that Vittoria Vetra serves no real significance to the film. Sure she is an expert on antimatter but that is not a huge asset once you see how Angels and Demons ultimately unfolds.

Overall this film seems to take a less is more approach to most things (i.e. character development, etc). The Vatican is at the center of the film, but the religious aspect of the film is barely touched on. There are a few nice scenes where Langdon is questioned about his faith, or lack thereof, but they are quickly glossed over. I can understand that Ron Howard and crew wanted to avoid alienating religious minded audience members; yet there are ways to provoke intellectual discussion and still keep the pacing brisk. It would have been fascinating to see Langdon struggle more with working for a group whose customs and practices he inadvertently has been trying to bring down. Instead we are left with a watered down thriller that neither has the tension nor the character development it needs. I guess I will just have to break down and read the book instead.

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