Sunday, December 20, 2009

Angels & Demons

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve never read any of Dan Brown’s books, and it’s entirely possible I never will. (“Sour grapes, anyone?” asked the writer whose books have sold a tiny, tiny fraction of what Brown’s have.) And I didn’t like the movie version of THE DA VINCI CODE. So why did I watch the movie version of Brown’s novel ANGELS & DEMONS?

Well, you gotta have something to do on a Saturday night.

However, movies will often surprise you, and I found quite a bit to like about ANGELS & DEMONS. To get my major complaint out of the way first, in the end the entire plot of this movie hinges on something so far-fetched that it seriously stretched my willing suspension of disbelief. It almost snapped, in fact. But I finally decided to just say, “Okay, whatever, sure that could happen,” and went along with it.

Tom Hanks is back as Professor Robert Langdon, who is actually sort of an appealing hero, obviously in over his head where the action stuff is concerned but still willing to try. That everyman quality may be one of the keys to the popularity of Brown’s work. He’s called in by the Vatican to help follow a trail of historical clues centered around various statues in Rome. The Pope is dead, four cardinals have been kidnapped and are scheduled to be executed by their captors every hour for four hours, and then, oh, yeah, there’s an antimatter bomb hidden somewhere around the Vatican that will destroy most of Rome when it goes off. Unless, of course, Langdon can follow the clues and save the day.

I think the fact that the action takes place in a short period of time, only a few hours, and is confined to Rome really helps the pace and sense of urgency in this film. I don’t remember much about THE DA VINCI CODE, but I do recall that it really plodded along. Not so with this one, which never slows down for very long. The action scenes are well-done, and the acting is okay all around. I have no idea if all the art history and Church history spouted by various characters is accurate, but hey, ignorance is bliss, or in this case, a fairly entertaining couple of hours. As mentioned above, it does have that “Oh, come on!” moment late in the game, but other than that the plot seems to make sense.

So, somewhat surprisingly, I have no trouble recommending this one, and I’m not trying to damn it with faint praise, either. I enjoyed it and think it’s worth watching.


Randy Johnson said...

You haven't missed anything in not reading Brown. I have and quickly discovered you read one, you've read them all. I haven't read the latest and don't intend to. Yet, I suspect I could lay the plot out for you and predict the villain. it was the same layout four previous times.

Brian Drake said...

I suppose one would have to read at least the few pages of the Da Vinci novel to get the full effect of this parody, but somebody rewrote the opening in the style Richard Stark might have used, and it's brilliant. Mr. Brown himself could do with paying attention, as the "Stark" version has an economy to it that Brown's writing will never have. Ever. And ever. Never, never, never. My God, that guy has a lot of words going through his head, and, yes, he must write down every single one. I do note, however, that his newest hasn't set the world on fire and likely he never will again. Anyway, the parody is available here:

Brian Drake said...

Pardon me, I was mistaken. When you read the parody, you can scroll down further and read the original Brown version. No need to open the actual book.

Laurie said...

I was never able to get past the first chapter of the DaVinci Code and only went to the movie because my companion wanted to and it was his turn to pick.
Sometimes sequels are much better than the original, and it sounds like this is the case. Maybe they learned some lessons from the first movie. Encouraging review - thanks.