Film review: Angels and Demons - Cert 12A

Angels and DemonsStarring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer. Directed by Ron Howard. In cinemas from 14 May.Thoughts BeforeThree years after Dan Brown's worldwide smash hit The Da Vinci Code erupted onto our cinema screens in a blaze of controversy and blinded

Angels and Demons

Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer. Directed by Ron Howard. In cinemas from 14 May.

Thoughts Before

Three years after Dan Brown's worldwide smash hit The Da Vinci Code erupted onto our cinema screens in a blaze of controversy and blinded conspiracy freaks comes the inevitable sequel (well technically prequel).

I half-heartedly joined the brief craze at its peak; reading the book and watching the disappointing adaptation. It was clear from the outset that the movie, even with its quite stellar cast, lacked any heart and was made purely for financial gain.

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The serene Audrey Tautou - who is not only one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen but also stars in one of my favourite movies this decade, Amelie - seemed completely downtrodden and out of the place in The Da Vinci Code. She shone throughout, of course, but the damp script lessened the sparkle she normally radiates on screen. Tom Hanks epitomised the hero Robert Langdon really well though but as ever seemed to have that emotionless aura around him.

But I'm hopeful that Angels & Demons, with less financial pressure and more time to put together, will be what The Da Vinci Code should have been - a tense thriller, an interesting mystery but most importantly inter-mingled with likeable characters and not 'completely' absurd.

The biggest mystery I found after seeing the original was how such an action packed, twist filled book that was perfect for cinematic treatment came onto the big screen as rather bland. I'm really hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Thoughts Afterwards

Have you ever gone onto Wikipedia and ended up spending hours following a factual trail that started at one entry and is led astray for hundreds of linked web pages? You'll start at 'Michael Jackson' and end up fifty pages later at 'Sahara Desert'.

Angels & Demons felt like a cinematic version of that.

I'm sure as a novel it works very well, as Dan Brown seemingly takes a Wikipedia run from 'Christianity' to a cacophony of related entries - down an exciting chain of facts and events that teach the reader about the Vatican and the artefacts and myths surrounding it.

But as a movie we get snapshots of facts that make our hero symbologist Robert Langdon (a once more stoney-faced Tom Hanks) seem like an annoying know-it-all. As the movie speeds along at an impressive pace, with time of the essence constantly, he'll always chip in with a little titbit of information that deducts what to do next but seems really out of placed.

In The Da Vinci Code that kind of worked because the action took a breather sometimes and it gave the viewer time to listen and take in these facts. In Angels & Demons everything is set to a really tight deadline that is supposed to leave the viewer on the edge of their seat... but that's marred when in the brink of excitement we get contrived assessment of one of the statues in the room. With apparently one minute before a crucial time limit closes the viewer is left screaming for Langdon to shut-up and get going.

For the first half an hour this was a real annoyance. The plot, for those who've not read the book, jets along at a blistering pace and revolves around a race against time to stop the Vatican being destroyed by some pro-science group who hundreds of years ago were tortured and murdered by the Vatican for their anti-Christian views. This revenge by the 'Illuminati' spans across a four-hour period and at times feels like an episode of '24'.

The two-hour runtime is just right, luckily, and there's no time to go to the toilet in all that time as by the time you return everyone will have sped to another part of the Vatican. Which is another nice thing; the whole movie showed off the gorgeous visuals of the historic parts of Rome and the Vatican cathedrals. As the splendid 2007 flick In Bruges convinced me I need to visit Belgium in my lifetime, though hopefully a more relaxed break that Colin Farrell's character was faced with, I now have a yearning to explore the religious landmarks that Hank's and co arrived at.

So it did look good, indeed, and each twist and turn was pulled off really well. The cast weren't particularly impressive but done the job well enough. No-one shone at all, especially Ewan McGregor who I expected to be a highlight but he wasn't. Ayelet Zurer took over Audrey Tautou's role as Robert Langdon's dainty sidekick but obviously didn't have half the charisma or charm.

As I stated about The Da Vinci Code I will repeat about Angels & Demons; it's based on a novel that is amazingly cinematic but somehow doesn't transcend onto the big screen very well. It is watchable and quite gripping at times but felt a lot like an extended television episode and not the big summer cinema hit it should have been. The final half hour dragged it from complete mediocrity, just about, with some very impressive effects and last minute twists that left me reeling with satisfaction and disbelief as I left the cinema.

If you love the book then you'll want to see this, though don't expect it to surpass the book. With a slew of brilliant adaptations this year, such as The Reader and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, it's a shame this doesn't reach anywhere near those heady heights. As the title suggests this is indeed a movie of 'angels' and 'demons' - some really great moments dragged down by the demons of a wonky script and bland acting.