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‘Angels and Demons’ Film Review: From suspense novel to audio-visual flair

This “Angels and Demons” film adaptation is a less contemplative and a more motion-driven version of Dan Brown’s novel.

“Angels and Demons” mounts the visuals the way I imagined them while reading the Dan Brown novel. That part is impressive. However, the suspense part that hooked me to the book gets lost in the film adaptation. For a movie based entirely around a beat-the-clock goal, the momentum gets significantly lost and the far-fetched plot surfaces more without the packed intensity and make-believe aspect that the novel offered its readers.

“Angels and Demons” is relatively faithful to the book. It is a given that the story is hard to completely translate into a film. Everything in the book is in tact and with a full, solid grasp. If the suspense and emotional engagement were built up much more in this adaptation, the plotting and suspense-filled moments could have been more effective. Quite understandably, it is quite a challenge to keep up with such a tale to be mounted from a book into a moving picture. With the kind of plotting and the pretty good utilization of the medium for the novel, translating it into a two-hour audio-visual flair is a really tough path to take.

For those who have probably read the book, the film becomes quite a let down in terms of general execution; but what gets the audience interested enough is its technical selling point. The combined footage shot in film and in HD are slick and breathtaking. The technical merits are pretty solid.

This film’s strong points as a commercial cinematic offer is that it combines religious, scientific, political, art, historical, and academic issues in one package; thus, making it an entertaining blend capturing many types of moviegoers. The grounding in the debate about science versus religion gets laid down in a good line.

There are admittedly handsome production values in the film. The recreation of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel is a production achievement that sure keeps the viewers’ attention to what is on screen. Director Ron Howard puts a wonderful piece of seamlessly mixed real locations and beautifully detailed sets throughout. However, he doesn’t go much beyond Robert Langdon running, talking, thinking, and running. The characters don’t progress as much as the plotting. The screenplay from David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman becomes a too talky affair where most things are explained through dialogues instead of letting the other aspects of the film such as characterization, acting, and visuals do the work.

Tom Hanks plays a considerably better Professor Langdon here than in “Da Vinci.” However, he consistently needs to run fast here and he is left stranded and unable to utilize his acting skills well enough to turn the one-dimensional Langdon into a better character on screen. Ayelet Zurer makes a convincing Vittoria Vetra — showing how it doesn’t always have to be an A-lister to make a character work (the original cast for Vetra was Naomi Watts). Ewan McGregor makes a decent Camerlengo Patrick McKenna. Nikolaj Lie Kaas as the assassin and Pierfrancesco Favino as Inspector Olivetti work pretty well for their roles.

“Angels and Demons” can pass time reasonably well as an in-flight entertainment or as a DVD or Blu-ray offer. Like the “Da Vinci Code,” it is filled with such a far-fetched narrative that can either get the audience instantly drawn to it or let them completely dismiss it as another convoluted adaptation. But overall, as a long ordeal about scientific and religious conspiracies and double crosses, it is still an improved material compared to the “Da Vinci Code.”

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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