There’s a few hours left in the day, but I’m gonna risk it: Happy 14th B’ak’tun, everybody!
I saw Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons yesterday.
It’s like when your friend, who’s been dating some douchebag for years and years, and you’ve had to watch her slowly self destruct from it, watch her announce time and again that she’s found the strength to get out, but then slowly turn around and delude herself with reasons why she should stay with the prick. And then they finally do break up. And things are great. And then one day she’s all like, “Oh yeah, by the way, I fucked Matt again yesterday.” And you’re all like, “What? Ugh. Jesus.”
Well, perhaps it’s not that harsh, but it kind of is.
A simple plot summary if you somehow don’t know before a very simplistic review: Based on the novel by Dan Brown (of The Da Vinci Code fame, though this book came first but is now the film sequel) and starring Tom Hanks as Harvard professor Robert Langdon, well known symbologist, is called in when the Vatican needs a little help. You see, the pope just died and they’re in the process of electing a new old white man to rule the world’s enslaved spirituality, but it’s quite possible that the church’s enemies, the Illiuminati (gasp!), have returned with a vengeance. Ewan McGregor slums it up as the carmerlengo, essentially the pope’s secretary who is temporarily in charge until a new old white man is installed in the robes of the Holy See. Ayelet Zurer, the gorgeous Israeli actress who played Eric Bana’s wife in Munich, is around for some excitement as a scientist from CERN because – Holy Shit! – those naughty Illuminatus have stolen some antimatter to set up as a time bomb that’s going to blow the Vatican to hell at midnight!
Wow, that sounds exciting, right? No, not so much. Like I said, I give you here a simple review in simple statements…
Much like The Da Vinci Code, while watching this movie, I wanted to watch a documentary about some of the realistic parts of this film rather than the film itself. Well, that’s only half true here because, as interesting as Galileo and Bernini and their contributions to Rome are, I don’t usually care so much for the anti-Catholic brand of Illuminatus lore. I guess I prefer the more Bavarian Illuminati? With Adam Weishaupt (or is it George Washington?) and those types.
Tom Hanks. You know what, Tom? I still dig you. At your worst, you’re absolutely harmless, posing a threat to no one. But your best, you’re usually working with Steven Spielberg.
The lovely Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra, the scientist from CERN, is pretty much just there to be the female lead, to give Tom Hanks someone to lecture to, and possibly diffuse the antimatter bomb if she can. I’m sad that they gave her pretty much nothing to do within those confines and they keep her character pretty passionless.
This whole film feels like one of those 90s CD-ROM games where you do something retarded, stop to solve a puzzle, and one of the characters gives you a two minute history less that is somehow important to whatever buttons you have to mash on the keyboard. I want to throw my keyboard at the screen here.
I blame anything that’s wrong with this movie solely on the direction. Ron Howard, you are the biggest director with no real sense of style or filmmaking craft out there. I’m amazed how you constantly are able to make these action-less action movies. You’re like a TV director given big screen projects to fuck around with. You are the poorest of poor man’s Spielberg (and Spielberg really knew how to balance action and adventure with a reverence for religion and history and also, you know, REAL FILMMAKING SKILLS!). That said, make a Arrested Development movie finally, but just produce it, okay?
Ewan McGregor with his good friend, Jude Law.
I think the truest statement you can say here is that the biggest sin of this movie is ours. Why have we neglected Ewan McGregor so badly that he’d have to resort to this film? I mean, he was in Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary and The Pillow Book and like a thousand other brilliant films that he was wonderful in. He’s Obi-Wan Kenobi for fuck’s sake! Also, did you see Young Adam? That shit was hot and wild.
Also, if you have any idea how movies work or have even looked at the casting of this movie then – SUPER SPOILER AHEAD OH NOES! – you can tell that Ewan McGregor is the bad guy here. Sure, you’ve got Armin Mueller-Stahl and Stellan Skarsgard as super eurotrash red herrings, which makes sense to have a former Stasi and a guy with a face like a Nazi, but still, it was always going to be Ewan McGregor. Plus, you should’ve guessed after an hour passed in the movie and he hadn’t shown you his cock yet.
Remember how the first movie was just a constant chase sequence of an airport thriller storyline? Same here, only slightly more ridiculous, and in reverse. This time Tom Hanks is doing all the chasing and running. His hair is much less silly and all of his exposition is done walking or running. It’s like The West Wing but talking about religious meanderings rather than politics. And on something a little less exciting than speed or cocaine.
That said, if this franchise were to become a TV with Tom Hanks, or obviously some decent small screen version of him, going around solving crisis after crisis and going off on art history lectures, I’d actually be down for it.
Antimatter bomb? Seriously? Antimatter is so cool, in real life, and constantly thrown around in the same sentences with the God Particle, which is really the Higgs boson, and I wish you could make bombs out of it. Bombs the size of blowing up small cities too. But really, you just can’t. It would take longer than human history to accumulate that much material.
Berninin’s Habbakuk and the Angel, the first “altar of science.”
I love that terms like “altars of science” keep getting thrown around here. If you think about it, Altars Of Science would make a great name for either a metal band or a children’s TV show.
Also, I love that CERN actually has an FAQ up just to deal with misconceptions that could be out there just because of this film/book.
And Dan Brown has a bit up at his site dealing with the bizarre secrets from the book. By now you kids should know that Bizarre Secrets is actually my middle name. No joke. Just reading my birth certifcate is a wild dip into the surreal.
Thanks to one scene that felt like it was a good 15 minutes long, I know where the jurisdiction of the Swiss Guard (or schweizergarde, if you will) ends and the Vatican police force picks up. Thanks, Angels & Demons!
Back to Ewan McGregor for a moment: Yeah, sure, he’s the bad guy here. He’s dome some heinous shit, but he’s so charming at it. And he seemingly kept a mastery of The Force from the Star Wars prequels because at one point he saves the day by flying his helicopter up however many miles high to set off the antimatter bomb away from people and then parachutes away to safety like it ain’t no big thing. So I’m going to throw out this kind of kind of radical notion: He did all this to be the fucking Pope? Give it to him, guys. I mean, seriously. I think he’s earned it. So he killed the old Pope. Whatever. The guy was old and weak and probably stupid. Obi Wan is young and vital and and has science fiction powers. Don’t you want him leading to continuing brainwashing of the hearts and minds of a billion suckers out there?
And yes, he is remarkably Kenneth Branagh-esque in this story.
Is this film sacrilegious? No. Not at all. I mean, I don’t even care, and I can tell you that it’s just not.
Actually, you know what the movie reminds me of quite a bit? The Name Of The Rose, the film with Sean Connery and Christian Slater, based on the novel by Umberto Eco. Yeah. It reminds me a little of that. But less dirty and sexy.
Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa is actually one of my favorite pieces of art out there, and the story that goes with it. I’ll let you discover that for yourself if you so choose. Also, I have always loved the word “transverberation.”
Having read the synopsis of the novel version of this story, I have to say that the changes made to the story for the film adaptation actually work better. A lot better.
One of those changes is to the assassin character, called the Hassassin in the book, which seemed to play like a rape-happy Middle Eastern stereotype. Though it’s interesting that origins come from the the word Hashshashin, which ties into one of my favorite historical figures of all time, Hassan-i Sabbah, whom I’m sure you’ll hear me talk about here at some point…
Wait just one second here… In the book, Langdon is usually bedding his female leads? He’s like an intellectual Bond type? Interesting. I mean, kind of implausible, but still, it’s interesting.
Eh… anyway. Angels & Demons is not horrible, perhaps it’s better than The Da Vinci Code, I don’t know. Technically they fall under the category of escapism for smart people, or enlightened people, if you will, and that can’t be that bad. And what’s worse, I think they’ve guaranteed that I’ll read Brown’s third Robert Langdon book when it comes out this year. But my sins? They shall never be purged.