Monday, May 18, 2009

Godawful gruel

I've read (and agreed with) so many negative reviews of Angels & Demons that I considered not exerting the effort to write my own. But I feel duty-bound to warn everyone that Ron Howard's follow-up to his 2006 film adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is, as another reviewer so eloquently put it, "indescribably crappy".

Indeed, there are only a handful of reasons I'm giving Angels & Demons 2 stars instead of 1 (out of 5):
  1. It's still a shade more tolerable than the load of dragon dung that was Eragon, the only Hollywood movie I've ever reviewed to which I awarded a solitary star.
  2. I didn't have to reread the book to understand the movie (reading Dan Brown is just too painful).
  3. The art direction is amazing, replicating the interiors of the Vatican, most notably the Sistine Chapel, with eye-popping detail, if not accuracy.
  4. The St. Peter's Square scenes were masterfully executed.
  5. Ewan MacGregor looks sinfully sexy in a soutane.
Tom Hanks, who can usually act his way out of even the lamest movies (The Ladykillers, anyone?), delivers a disappointingly lackluster performance in Angels & Demons (not to mention the sight of him in a Speedo was just... WRONG on so many levels). I didn't get a sense of urgency from the character of Robert Langdon at all-- tasked by the Vatican to help them foil an ancient secret society's nefarious plan of retribution, the professor came off as more Henry Higgins than Indiana Jones: more poised than macho, more scholarly than brilliant, more helpless than heroic. It was as if he knew things would work out fine in the end, so even though he was supposed to be racing against the clock to save the kidnapped cardinals, there was still enough time to regale beauteous scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) with nuggets of historical trivia. Not once did I feel an iota of suspense, and it wasn't just because I knew how it would all end. The pacing was inexplicably slow, so much so that whenever someone mentioned how much time they had left before another cardinal would be executed, my ironic reaction was, "Thank God, just kill him and move on to the next please."

Many who have read the book prior to seeing this film adaptation took issue that the screenwriters didn't incorporate many of the more controversial elements of the plot. Perhaps that was the key ingredient missing from this watery soup of a movie, and that was what made it more potboiler than blockbuster. Let's face it, without his far-fetched but fascinating conspiracy theories, Dan Brown is nothing but a bad writer. And it's hard enough to make a good movie out of a good book, much more a (very, very) bad one.


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