Angels and Demons is a sequel to The Da Vinci Code, a theology themed action film revisiting the exploits of Robert Langdon, a college professor who studies symbols and solves thousand-year old theological mysteries in his spare time.
We start off this time with the death of the pope followed by a secret cardinal agent visiting Langdon, inviting him to fly to Vatican City to help find four kidnapped pontiffs who were all front-runners to become the new pope. They also have to race against the clock to find a destructive ball of ‘anti-matter’ which will blow up Vatican city.
Angels and Demons closely follows the template of the first film. There are short bursts of action interspersed with clunky dialogue explaining the story to the audience. While they never quite break the fourth wall and look directly at the camera, the dialogue is never character driven. Instead, the actors stand around describing the plot to the audience in case they can’t follow. It also has some deeply subtle fore-shadowing too. Ewan McGregor, playing a priest, just happens to tell Tom Hanks that he has a pilot’s license for no real reason at all. Not long after, the plot dictates that McGregor needs to get away from the Vatican by flying a helicopter. Amazing.
The unseen villains in the film plan to execute a priest every hour at a different church located around Vatican City but fortunately, their plan is modelled on the old Adam West Batman shows where The Riddler is the villain of the week and leaves convenient clues to the next location. In this case, they’re holding their captives inside churches that have giant statues outside with a finger or arrow pointing inside to mark where they are. I swear I’m not making this up.
Given that Tom Hanks has chopped off his mullet for Angels and Demons, I’m guessing the film is set in present day. Only its populated by characters who have no concept of any technological developments in the past twenty years. Tom Hanks is recruited for his knowledge of theological history and yet he literally has to run from one church to the next, racing against the clock to stop the next murder. Why doesn’t he set up base at a centralised location with a mobile phone and an internet connection, instructing groups of people spread around the city where to go? Better still, what is his motivation to even help at all? His life is endangered several times, he is frequently impeded by the very people who hired him and he admits that his motivation for going was access to the Vatican library which he gets early in the film. So often in this film, the only real reason anyone seems to do anything is ‘because its a movie and everything would stop if they didn’t’.
I can appreciate the fun of a shlocky who-dunnit as much as the next guy but I think its clear that Angels and Demons has loftier aspirations. It is also needlessly violent for such a goofy film and is about half an hour longer than it should be. There’s really not a whole lot to recommend here. You get to see Tom Hanks in speedos at the start of the film and it goes down from there.