Saturday, December 12, 2009

(So Not) Under 250: Angels & Demons


First things first: I hate Dan Brown. I read The Da Vinci Code at its peak to see what all the fuss was about, and walked away feeling that the state of literature was a sad one. Needless to say, while i heard it was the better story, i had no interest in Angels & Demons, and resigned Dan Brown to a category inhabited by pop authors like Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham. Yes, goddammit, i am indeed a literary snob, and Brown makes me want to do my best Capote impression and rant about how Brown is more of a typist than a writer. But wait, there's more...after reading Da Vinci, i was convinced that while it was a book of little consequence, it would make a solid film. Why not? It's rapid and loaded with small intrigues and twists. So...i watched Ron Howard's first adaptation. I shouldn't have to tell you: it was worse, far worse, than the book. Boring. Dull. And starring a very miscast Tom Hanks. But it made a lot of the $$$, and thus, Angels & Demons went into production. I scoffed, i was all like, no, that's going to be dreadful schlock. And it is schlock, but really, i have to admit it's not that dreadful. Admittedly, as i'm one of the only people on the planet that hasn't read the book, i'm completely unconcerned with the faithfulness of the adaptation. I wouldn't know if things were changed, but if they were, the exclusions made for a better movie. Howard corrects several of the mistakes of the first go: he cuts off Robert Langdon's (Hanks) ridiculous hair, ups the suspense to violence ratio, fills it with the creepy rituals of Catholicism, and throws in some Ewan McGregor for good measure. The plot, of course, is ludicrous. Scientists make antimatter. Some crooked folks steal said antimatter and use it to hold the Vatican hostage as the cardinals are scheduled to assemble in papal conclave. They start killing off red tops under the guise of the Illuminati. I know, right? Antimatter. WTF? Antimatter and the Illuminati. In a book, that shit is ridiculous. In a Hollywood action movie, it's expected. Angels & Demons is an innocuous (and forced) little thrill ride, a sort of contrived and convoluted adult scavenger hunt that's more National Treasure than Indiana Jones, but that manages to be sleek, shiny, and relatively enjoyable in spite of its slips into blatant absurdity, its bland leading man and its over-constructed (fairly anticlimactic) reveal. Just as with the last one, everything comes too easily, and the stakes never really seem that high. I don't get why Langdon would be the emergency contact of the Vatican, and Hanks meanders in and out of scenes muttering nonsense about Raphael and finding the needle in the haystack so quickly you'd think he had supernatural windbag powers. Just as with my one Dan Brown experience, i found the movie does as the writer, delivering non-stop exposition without ever convincingly rounding out a character or emotion. The dialogue, which ain't so hot, is there for no other reason than to keep the plot running. Characters are always explaining, always asking questions, and always either too aware or too ignorant of history to be believable. All that aside, however, Angels & Demons is actually a significant improvement. I didn't yawn or roll my eyes even half as much as i did watching that last bit of Howard/Hanks nonsense, and i'll own up to enjoying it far more than i could have guessed.

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