Angels & Demons
Or: Tom Hanks’ Haircut
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer
By Tom Bevis
The only thing worse than a mullet is a half-mullet. But let’s not hold Tom Hnaks’ silly haircut against the film. It’s just simple fashion, after all. And don’t let the sins of Angels and Demons’ predecessor, The Da Vinci Code, keep you away, either. Those who couldn’t get through the earlier film will be happy to hear that much of slowness and stiffness have been corrected. Fans of the first film will be pleased to know that the familiar mystique and hard-driving characters have successfully carried over.
Angels and Demons is the sequel to 2006’s The Da Vinci Code, based on the book of the same name by author Dan Brown which, curiously, took place and was published before the book upon which The Da Vinci Code was based. In the story, Robert Langdon, famed symbologist, author, and professor, returns to help solve the mystery of a newly resurfaced secret organization called The Illuminati and their plot to destroy Vatican City as revenge for an ancient act of brutality. The story is fueled by mystery, murder, and a few action sequences.
While reviewing the film’s cast line-up, I wasn’t exactly pleased. Most of the cast are unremarkable or unfamiliar. Even the bigger names didn’t seem particularly impressive: Tom Hanks has, for the most part, a hit-or-miss catalog, Ewan McGregor’s career has gone stagnant ever since the conclusion of the Star Wars resurrection, and Stellan Skarsgard… well, what can anyone say about him?
But everyone pulled off their roles quite nicely. McGregor is easily the most convincing performer, and each supporting character performed their roles to near perfection. The jury is still out on Hanks’ performance, though. The man couldn’t feign modesty if his life depended on it, and his role causes for him to spend too much time talking and explaining with little-to-no use of his supporting cast. The result is usually the stale grandstanding of Hanks while everyone else on screen merely stands around, awestricken, mouths agape, at Hanks’ apparent genius. I never thought he was particularly that interesting, but I’ve never been stirred up in a conspiracy to destroy Vatican City, either.
As with The Da Vinci Code, this film takes a while to catch on. The first half hour is almost excruciating in its slowness, but once the fuse is lit and there’s no turning back, the story really picks up. Do yourself a favor and try not to fall asleep early on, because if you miss one simple detail, chances are you’ll be lost for the duration of the film, struggling to stitch everything together before the next plot point. My biggest problem with the story is its use of fake endings, and Angels and Demons doesn’t have one, but two. On top of it, the second is almost inexplicable and nearly impossible. Still, unlike many other mysteries and pseudo-thrillers, Angels and Demons doesn’t take the low road and show a montage of clues to illustrate how everything is forced together, so I’m willing to overlook an extra fake ending. And if you read the book, you’ll better understand the other discrepancies in the endings (and if you haven’t read the book, why not pick it up? It never kills you to take in some literature from time to time).
An esteemed colleague of mine noted that the film consisted almost entirely of lengthy dialog by Hanks, which severely damages the film’s quality. While it’s true that Hanks does spend a lot of time talking, this isn’t the majority of the film, and all scenes of explanation are balanced almost perfectly by action and mystery sequences. The exposition isn’t nearly as long as it was in the film’s predecessor, so we have that much to be thankful for.
So, the proverbial bottom line is that Angels and Demons is a much better film than The Da Vinci Code and is easily worth your time. If you loved either of the books, the previous film, or Tom Hanks, it’s a must see. If you hate conspiracy theories, the Catholic Church, or Tom Hanks, then stay away. If you’re somewhere in between, you could do much worse (I’m talking about you, Next Day Air).