There is an old adage that asks how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is essentially a metaphor for wasting time debating (usually religious) topics of no practical value. It could also be a metaphor for â€œAngels & Demons,â€ Ron Howardâ€™s directorial follow up to â€œThe Da Vinci Code.â€
Entertaining and mildly diverting, but not much more, â€œAngelsâ€ is far better than its predecessor, though that may be damning with faint praise. Like â€œDa Vinci Code,â€ the film is based upon the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals.
Actually a prequel to â€œThe Da Vinci Code,â€ â€œAngelsâ€ is set in the Vatican City, where a terrifying discovery causes the Vatican to turn to the symbologist for help. When Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati “the most powerful underground organization in history,” he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization’s most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. Realizing that the clock is ticking on an Illuminati time bomb, Langdon joins forces with beautiful Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra, (Ayelet Zurera â€œMunich.) Embarking on an action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra follow the 400-year-old Path of Illumination that marks the Vatican’s only hope for survival.
Howard uses the exterior sites in Rome to his best advantage, and the result is sumptuous. For obvious reason, the Vatican would not allow the filmmakers access, but the Southern California version of St. Peterâ€™s Square, recreated in the Hollywood Park racetrack parking lot, and the soundstage recreation of the Sistine chapel is Hollywood magic at its finest. But no one wants to leave a movie theater thinking about the location and sets.
Dan Brownâ€™s books are fast paced page turners, and should translate well as films.Â Perhaps Ron Howard is trying too hard to make a literal film translation of the book, but the end result is plodding, and strictly paint-by-numbers. Admittedly, itâ€™s a paint-by-numbers of the Sistine chapel, but it pales in comparison to the real thing.Â Ron Howard is a fine director, and Hanks is a fine actor. It stands to reason that the duo wonâ€™t make a bad film, and that holds true here. â€œAngels and Demonsâ€ isnâ€™t bad, but it is predictable, and at nearly two and a half hours itâ€™s at least 30 minutes too long. The bottom line is this: the combination of Hanks and Howard should equal greatness, and â€œAngels and Demonsâ€ is merely good. (Running time: 2 hrs. 20 min.Â MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.)
Big Fat Rating: â˜…â˜…1/2