For those that have read Dan Browns first two Robert Langdon adventures know that Angels and Demons was written prior to The De Vinci Code. However, in order to capitalize on the second books massive sales and controversy, director Ron Howard made Angels and Demons the second installation in the saga.
The chronological order really makes no difference and takes nothing away from either movie. If you are a fan of the first films adaptation of the novel, you might be a bit disappointed in Angels and Demons. The trailers are boasting this as bigger and better than The D.V.C., but in reality it’s not even close. The plot deviates drastically from the novel which would be fine if the changes made any sense, but they don’t and subsequently ruin the film.
If you enjoyed the National Treasure movies, you might have a good time at Angels and Demons.
*Read on for a breakdown, the good, the bad and the ugly…spoilers await.
Some people prefer the Angels and Demons novel to the De Vinci Code, despite the fact that it wasn’t as well written, engaging, suspenseful, factual, descriptive, or controversial; hence it only became popular as a consequence of the latter book; the movie unfortunately follows suit. With the cumulative intelligence of the U.S. populous, it’s no wonder Hollywood panders to the non-thinkers. It’s practically the American dream, "create something worthy of merit that will be praised by the movers and shakers, the critics and thinkers, then pump out whatever ("sell out"), for the other side of the IQ line, the side that gravity deludes from the dream of reaching the sky.
The Good (what’s the antimatter with this movie?)
The movie is entertaining, it just isn’t very logical. Despite some of the major and minor problems, there are some highlights and upgrades from both the book and the first film. For example, Tom Hanks hair, this little upgrade made the movie about 50% more watchable. The acting is also terrific!
A book upgrade that I practically liked was the team of people at CERN that created the antimatter… THANK YOU! For God’s sake Dan, if two people were able to create antimatter, they would never be able to run a 4 mile long particle accelerator by themselves, especially with no one else knowing, nor is it realistic that they also invented and fabricated the magnetic field chamber (penning trap) to hold their discovery/invention; not to mention they were a father daughter team- yeah right.
Even though the movie got the CERN team thing fixed, I could have done without the ridiculous scientific references constructed for the layperson. That shit drives me crazy. Never would there be a crude computer graphic showing particles colliding while a monotonous female computer voice calls out "reaching 99% the speed of light". Let the non scientific people live in their own world where stuff is amazing for the sheer fact that they don’t understand how it works… that’s what it comes down to anyway.
The overall flow of the film was very fast paced; a countdown until disaster. To avoid any impediment on that theme, dirctor Ron Howard did away with a great deal of the novels subplots and minor mysteries, which didn’t matter much anyhow. For example: the assassin’s lust for woman, the famed Illuminati Diamond, Vittoria’s revenge and Leonardo Vetra’s religious beliefs.
The idea of Science and Religion pursuing the same answers, working together and not against one another was very direct in the movie, there was no need for Leonardo Vetra to be both a priest and one of the most gifted scientific minds on the planet, his omission (especially as Vittoria’s foster father) was a much more reasonable direction for the story line. On a side note, the this subtlety severed the parallel between both Vetra and the Pontiff’s murder as a result of mixing religion and science. Vetra’s death as a result of his daughters push to advance in the name of science and the Popes death at the hand of his son for the opposite. Dan Brown was definitely making a point, that too far in any direction can be devastating, but there is also a clear message in his writing that the Catholic Church (weather ultimately good or bad) is extremely dubious at best.
Is the title Angles and Demons a reference to the Catholic Church and the Illuminati? And if so, the Illuminati (the enlightened ones) use Angels to guide their path, what does that say about the Catholic Church?
In an effort to maintain the flow of the movie and prevent down time, lines from the book were shifted between characters in the film. For example: the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor who is perfect for this role by the way) asks Langdon bout his belief in God and Langdon gives the answer that Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) gives Langdon in the book when he asks the very same question. Changes like these help to maintain some of Dan Brown’s original work, while simultaneously moving along the plot with a more logical and character accurate presentation; though sometimes the lines seem to be injected into the dialog.
Other small yet logical adaptations were made for the movie: Langdon being accompanied to the Vatican achieves, not falling out of the helicopter without a parachute and having Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgård) and not Maximilian Kohler provide the final evidence against the Camerlengo.
I also liked how Galileo’s Diagramma (a fictional work) was not destroyed, but rather given to Robert for his literary work. This was a much better gift than the Illuminati Diamond which didn’t make as much of an impact in the book as it should have.
The overall path of Illumination was put together well, both by Dan Brown in the Novel and the footage and visuals in the movie. The incorporation of the four elements together with the sculptures and ways in which the cardinals were killed really made the movie.
It didn’t make a lot of sense that Robert and Vittoria were the only two people the assassin refrained from trying to kill. Although, the elimination of the kidnapp
ing scene was a good move; the movie didn’t need any more drama. This alteration also cut the first major traumatic bonding experience between Robert and Vittoria (the second being Roberts assumed death in the helicopter).
In itself, this was a bit of a welcomed changed from the good guy hero always landing the girl. Of course not getting the girl isn’t as happy of an ending and subsequently caused one of my favorite lines from the book to be cut:
Vittoria: "I plan to prove neutrinos have mass."
Robert: "Neutrinos have mass?… I didn’t even know they were Catholic!"
The Bad: (what’s the matter with this movie?)
As refreshing as it was to not follow the same Hollywood theme where the girl and guy fall in love in 2 hours, the void between Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra left a void in the antagonist/hero persona. Langdon no longer fit the brainiac/historian/ladies-man image that Hollywood needed to fill the aging Indiana Jones.
It was disappointing that Langdon and Vetra seemed educated on just about every subject; it’s exhausting and unrealistic. If they both new so much and were so quick to pick everything up, why didn’t Langdon think of the Castle of Angels or even the bridge of angels, an obvious masterpiece of Bernini’s that wouldn’t have been forgotten until the very end. At least in the book the pair were more ignorant to the churches and sculptures of Rome, they had a good amount of help on the path of Illumination: The devils hole was already opened in the book, a miscellaneous guard revealed information concerning the sculpture for Air, the docent at the Pantheon informed them both about Bernini’s chapel, the earthly tomb (the movie made an attempt to show this, but Langdon knew exactly what to inquire about, reasoning it out within seconds), and the Swiss Guard recommended looking at the Vatican assets for Bernini’s various works.
The path of Illumination didn’t seem as difficult as it should have, there was a blaring obelisk at each church. Could it have been any more obvious especially four hundred years ago when the city wasn’t as large?
The movie mentioned how the Camerlengo found the designs for the brands in the Vatican Achieves. If so, it would be extremely unrealistic that he then found the path of Illumination, set up a complex plot involving the theft of antimatter from a top level security center and then had each brand pattern fabricated into steel branding wands without drawing any suspicions. The book however, did explain that the brands along with the path of illumination and deception of Bernini were all in the Papal Vault (vault that only the Pope can view).
It was a bit disappointing that the assassin wasn’t Arabic, he may have been Muslim, but there was no way of knowing. Obviously, this was done to quell any complaints regarding racial profiling but the fact is that revenge for the slaughter of Muslims during the crusades worked well in the story line, it didn’t need to be replaced by some dorky looking wimp assassin.
Unlike the book, the movie didn’t portray the church as a dying fad. It would have been nice to hear some talk of what the annihilation of St. Peters Basilica and Vatican City would mean for the Catholic Religion; The only reference in the movie was the complete opposite to that in the book. Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl- an excellent actor who’s cognate in the book was Cardinal Mortati) made reference to the church being more than brick but the book goes on to debunk that claim by declaring that the Catholic Church holds most all its equity inside the walls of the Vatican (about 48.5 billion dollars) and if bankrupt the priests could not afford to work. It talks about the church’s attendance at an all time low, down 46% in the past decade and how the Catholic Church spent $183 million in one year to support struggling dioceses. The conclusion was how these factors would surely mark the end of Catholic Days.
In the novel, the Illuminati influence seemed more powerful, everything was laid out perfectly. Everything was more calculated and impressive. The antimatter for example was stolen at just the correct time (not twenty seconds after they created it); the preferiti seemed to be kidnapped from plain site and the assassin’s knowledge and workings of the Vatican seemed impossible. The lesser presence of the Illuminati in the movie was a double edge sword, though it made more logical sense, it was far less captivating.
The Ugly: (what the hell is so sinful about this movie?)
Probably one of the worst blunders with this film was that there was no media presence covering the ordeal. This defeated the entire purpose of the Illuminati façade. If the Camerlengo wasn’t going to use the media to show the world the power of God overcoming the forces of evil, why would he go through such trouble to implicate the Illuminate? Without the world watching, Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca would have no reason to blame science; in fact he could have just killed the Pope and left it at that.
Ventresca would also have no reason to publicly and brutally kill his innocent brothers of the cloth; he would have no reason to brand himself if he wasn’t going to show the world. The whole plan was to tie Science and Satan together, resurrect the ancient fear then crush it through the power of God; thus making people believe in miracles once again. If the only purpose was to prevent the Cardinals from electing a Pope that would follow in the former Pontiffs footsteps, Ron Howard choose a truly week motive. But either way, he made a gross mistake.
It really made absolutely no sense what-so-ever to go through the entire charade, putting Vatican City and his beloved church (for which he committed these heinous crimes in the first place) in dangerous peril on the brink of annihilation by the hands of Science’s antimatter, if the only people to witness the whole thing were a bunch of old cardinals and the Swiss Guard; all of which were dedicated to the church to begin with. This brings up another good question. Would someone that devote kill all those priests and the Pope to make his point about science? The book portrayed the Camerlengo as more mentally disturbed, a child raised by religion without a father who watched his mother get blown apart by a bomb. The movie failed to recogn
ize the Pope as Carlo Ventresca’s biological father. This was a much stronger impetuous for the Camerlengo to kill the Pope because all he knew in the book was that the Pope fathered a child, an enormous sin for a priest let alone the supreme pontiff, a sin the Camerlengo could not allow to go unpunished.
Obviously without the assassin contacting the media, the whole idea behind this story seemed wasted at best. If Ron Howard wanted to take the story in such a different direction, I think he should have actually made the Illuminati a real entity. At the end, Camerlengo Ventresca could have been one of the Illuminati members, he could have been appointed Pope before Langdon and Vetra could share the truth, thus making the Illuminati infiltration ultimately complete. Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory and this would have left the audience wondering.
The book reinvented the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, a clever interwoven idea that was almost completely lost to the movie. The subtle message was that: what looked like a miracle, like divine intervention, was actually a sham; and behind that sham was a group of men in the Vatican who share the secret.
The De Vinci Code had the same bold message, but that one wasn’t lost in translation.
One other big blunder that didn’t come together well, was that the Vatican supposedly requested the services of Robert Langdon. The book made much more sense, as it was CERN that requested Langdon’s services and had him quickly sent to the Vatican with Vittoria. The Vatican would have absolutely no reason to call in Langdon to decipher something they already knew much about (the Illuminati). They especially wouldn’t have him come so quickly, before they even knew the circumstances of the antimatter or the missing preferiti.
Further, in the movie, it was Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) that called in Langdon, whereas in the book, Olivetti wanted nothing to do with either Langdon or Vetra’s antimatter. The film didn’t show much of an argument about the power of the antimatter and the discussion seemed rushed, not natural…either it wasn’t well written in the movie script or more likely, it wasn’t edited very well.
A few other things that really bothered me were the shootings of both Father Simeon (Cosimo Fuso) and Commander Richter (Maximilian Kohler in the book) in the Popes private study. The Swiss Guard would never shoot a man in this room on impulse, let alone two men. And who killed the assassin? In the book it was Langdon, but in the movie he died in a car bomb…who rigged that? Did the Camerlengo do it himself or employee another assassin?
What the hell was that fifth brand all about? Obviously, they changed it because the Illuminati Diamond was stupid, and the fifth brand represented the Camerlengo’s own sacrifice or crucifixion (which like St. Peter’s wasn’t as worthy or as great as Jesus’ sacrifice). This did slightly represent the crucifixion and resurrection, but again with no media, the world didn’t’ really know what was going on.
Oh, and why did Cardinal Baggia live… what the F?