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Monday, August 23, 2010

Angels and Demons is a Superior Sequel, But Still Not Very Good

Angels and Demons: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Richter: You said they'd be killed publicly. 
Robert Langdon: Yes, revenge. For La Purga. 
Richter: La Purga? 
Robert Langdon: Oh geez, you guys don't even read your own history do you?
In 2006 Tom Hanks, Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer, Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and Composer Hans Zimmer all combined their talents to make one of the most boring thrillers I have ever seen in theaters. I never fall asleep in the theater, but that movie put me damn close. A few years later, this new film combines all of those same talents, and despite its many problems, it succeeded in not boring me. It is still very much about lecturing; zany plot development and twists, and a bland Hanks character at the center of it all, but I enjoyed this movie much more than The Da Vinci Code.
Hanks stars once again as master symbologist Robert Langdon. He is recruited by the Vatican police to help them with a predicament. It is the day of a new pope being elected, but the four candidates have all been kidnapped, with the only clues being those pointing to the work of the secret society known as the Illuminati.
Robert Langdon: I need access to the Vatican Archives.
Richter: Access to the Archives is only by written decree by the Holy Father.
Robert Langdon: Fellas, you called me.
There is also the problem of a little thing known as antimatter, which has been stolen from some crazy laboratory and put somewhere in Vatican City. This antimatter is being held together by some crazy device that I think may have been in Chev Chelios heart earlier in the month, but if it powers down, the whole city will be wiped out. The Illuminati has planned to kill a pope candidate every hour starting at 8 pm, until the bomb goes off at midnight, unless some demand is met.
Langdon has been brought in to help, along with the antimatter hot scientist chick, played by Ayelet Zurer, and the Swiss police headed by Stellan Skarsgard, who acts like an asshole for only two possible reasons. You also have Ewan McGregor as the Pope's sub until a new one is elected, preaching to the elders and cutting Langdon slack as he tries to help.
If you think about this plot, it is going to fall apart quickly, especially by the end. With all the lecturing the characters do about why this stuff is happening, it is a simple story at the core, with so many other elements thrown in to make it seem trickier, which unfortunately can make it come apart if logic is applied.
What does help is that Ron Howard seems to be more confident this time around. He keeps this film moving during the middle portion, with the film seeming much like an episode of 24, as Langdon has to race against time in order to find each priest before he is killed, and eventually recover the bomb. The many twists and secrets further reflect this comparison.
Unfortunately, Hanks is still a weak link as well here. Anyone could play this person it seems, as Hanks makes Langdon such a bland personality. Sure, he has a little Hanks charm here and there, but it still just seems like he is slumming it for the most part (although he does dial back the hair).
Another thing that was noticeable was the film's use of location. Obviously, Howard could not get this movie made in Vatican City, with all the controversy surrounding these Dan Brown books, and with that in mind, it seemed very apparent that these characters were in front of green screens every time they were in front of the various points in this city.
However, I still found myself interested in the bulk of this film's story. It has lectures in the beginning and over-the-top stuff towards the end, but the action going on in the middle made this film enjoyable for the most part and at the very least watchable, which is more than I can say for Da Vinci.
 [Langdon is wearing a priest’s shirt and coat]
Camerlengo Patrick McKenna: Robert, what would you say if I told you you looked good in that outfit?
            Robert Langdon: I would say it scares the hell out of me.

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