If there is one thing that Dan Brown should be familiar with it's criticism. It seems to come hand-in-hand with writing a best seller these days, as like it or love it, the Da Vinci Code was both adored and abhorred in the same breath. Angels and Demons comes very much from the same mold, but as a suffering sequel, never really delivered the same punch as the opening pages of its forebear.
Some credit has to be given to Dan Brown for running together the initial plot. Like the Da Vinci Code, the blending of historical fact and fiction leads to a compelling yarn if you are far enough removed from the subject to really care. Art historians and the Church have both taken shots at Brown, the rest of us probably don't care enough to bother.
Stolen anti-matter from CERN finds it's way into a plot to rock the Vatican as it's College of Cardinals sit down to elect the next Pope. Given the short timeframe of a few hours, plenty of action is packed in, as Langdon reveals the Illuminati's secret path through Rome and (more or less) saves the day, the church and settles an age-old feud.
Whilst Angels and Demons (the novel) is reasonably written, the movie doesn't really stand up to the same scrutiny. Conveying the depth of the ideas from Brown's originals doesn't really work in a mainstream blockbuster: too much dialogue has to be compressed to maintain an entertaining pace.
What you are left with is Angels and Demons pushed through a sieve. To get the full experience, you have to be prepared to listen carefully to the hasty scripting before enduring the best of the action that it can deliver. The film is constructed in this rather basic Duplo style, which has you leaning in for the script and then back out again for the action.
Ron Howard brings Tom Hanks into the role of Robert Langdon once again, a role that never seems to stretch Hanks. Langdon has a meek moment where he looks out of his depth, before emerging into the know-all hero who leads us through the tale. He is supported by Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra who contributes very little along the way, save as someone for Hanks to explain things to.
But the movie suffers, like the original novel, and like Da Vinci Code before it, in handling the interesting idea it sets up. The result is an ending that becomes farcical, hanging on a helicopter-flying parachute-packing Catholic Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor). A brief uttering whilst dashing into the Vatican crypt is all that is given to bring plausibility to this, as he was a pilot once too. Phew (or boo, as the case may be).
Angels and Demons battles out across the age-old divide of science and religion. The fact that science's anti-matter "moment of creation" might literally undermine Christianity's creation story, isn't overly laboured, but you may well step away with more questions than you have answers: what was the original plan before Langdon cracked the code? Would it have worked if he didn't?
Angels and Demons on Blu-ray also marks itself for the extras package. It is one of the first titles from Sony Pictures to bring a new Movie IQ feature, part of the BD-Live options. Movie IQ appears as a play option, bringing up linking information online (thanks to Gracenote) so you can find out a little more about who people are and so on, as the movie is playing.
That's not to say Angels and Demons won't entertain. For those who enjoyed the Da Vinci Code movie, they'll find Angels and Demons very much in the same vein.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer
Directed by: Ron Howard
Extras: “Path of Illumination” interactive map, Movie IQ, CineChat. Featurettes: Angels & Demons: The full story, Rome was not built in day, CERN: Pushing the frontiers of knowledge