Angels and Demons
Directed by Ron Howard
There’s a nebulous threat looming on the horizon in director Ron Howard’s latest Dan Brown adaptation, and it’s not the antimatter that powers the film’s obnoxiously rigid ticking-clock device. Rather, it’s the needless exposition and mannered overplotting (much of it courtesy of frequently awful screenwriter Akiva Goldsman) that successfully neutralizes the slim chance that this Da Vinci Code sequel had at generating any real thrills. There’s a telling exchange between supposedly brilliant physicist Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) and the head of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard (Stellan Skarsgard) that goes something like this (I’m paraphrasing here):
“We’ve been working with the particles that make up the origins of the universe. We may even find what some people call the ‘God particle!'”
“Dear Lord! The ‘God particle?'”
“Well, what you call it isn’t important.”
Matters of unimportance, in fact, seem to make up well over half the dialogue – one loses track of how many haranguing speeches given out between our esteemed protagonist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), Skarsgard, and Ewan MacGregor’s priest over the film’s interminable running time. True, there are no ridiculously leaden centerpieces as in the first film’s 20-minute lecture on alternate biblical history (which was at least driven by a heroically hammy Ian MacKellen), but in its place we are meant to feel compelled by a series of in credibly transparent plot devices. In this adventure, Professor Langdon must track down the aforementioned incendiary device (stolen from Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider; more on that later) in order to prevent the Vatican from being wiped off the face of the planet. Predictably, the ‘path’ to the device is drawn by a series of ludicrous clues remeniscent of an average episode of The Amazing Race, albeit with more Bernini namechecks.
Even more irritating than the clues, however, are a plot device involving four cardinals who have been kidnapped and placed in four different churches, each one to be murdered in a public fashion based on an earthly element. That means there are four seperate races-against-the-clock that work the exact same way, with little to no deviation. Howard and company worked hard to make this film’s pace less ponderous than the frst, and instead replaced dull faux-history lectures with dull repetition. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the fledgling series is the way its plots seem like a threadbare excuse to throw together niche concepts that appeal to conspiracy junkies and self-absorbed paranoiacs. Want the Illuminati? They’re in there. Mysterious Papal ceremonies? Got ’em. Hell, they even threw in the Large Hadron Collider, the innocuous scientific device that Might Kill Us All. It’s a perfect storm of inanity, now in a slightly swifter – if considerably dumber – package. No wonder Tom Hanks looks like the smartest man in the room.