I had no plans to see Angels and Demons, director Ron Howard's sequel to his yawn-inducing The Da Vinci Code. But Stacey has a soft spot for Angels co-star Ewan McGregor, I have a soft spot for cineplex nachos, and we were on vacation with a couple of hours to kill. So I figured, "what the heck?"
In hindsight, we should have re-visited Star Trek. Actually, Monsters Vs. Aliens, which I bet is a hoot, was playing in 3-D, but I didn't want my first viewing of that flick to be a version dubbed in Czech (Angels was original language, subtitled for the locals).
Though not as bad as Code, Angels and Demons has the same problem--the underlying story just isn't that cinematic. The protagonist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) knows a bunch about history and religion and secret societies... Look, it's cool stuff, the kind of stuff I would spend hours reading about on Wikipedia, but I can do that on my own time. No need for some studio to spend millions of dollars to make Wikipedia: History, Religion, and Secret Societies: The Movie.
Here's the flick in a nutshell: there is a puzzle of some sort, Langdon spits out a bunch of obscure information, he uses that information to solve the puzzle, the solution leads to another puzzle. Repeat five or six times, roll end credits.
I guess that's not all. I mean there's something of a plot, involving a dead Pope and kidnappings and anti-matter, but it's less interesting than those three elements might lead you to believe.
Oh, Angels does have one thing going for it--it was filmed in Rome, and Rome is a beautiful city.
I think both of Howard's Langdon "adventures" are trying to be Raiders Of the Lost Ark movies in a contemporary setting. But Indiana Jones is a well-defined character who happens to know a bunch of cool stuff. Langdon happens to know a bunch of cool stuff, and that's where the character definition ends with him. Plus, Indy solves his share of puzzles, but he doesn't say much. He just solves that shit. Oftentimes with a gun or a bullwhip or some bare-knuckle fisticuffs... you know, actions that can be captured on film.
"Show, don't tell." Has Ron Howard somehow forgotten this most basic tenet of filmmaking after 30 or so years in the director's chair? Or are screenwriters David Koepp (who should know better) and Akiva Goldsman (who probably doesn't) to blame?
If you're still interested in Angels and Demons, let me save you a few bucks. Go to the library and borrow a book about Rome, one of those big coffee table books with lots of photos. Then get on Wikipedia and look up "Catholic Church," "Illuminati," and "Galileo." Don't be afraid to follow whatever hyperlinks those pages offer up. Your cost: nothing. If you're dead set on spending some money, go on a Roman holiday. Or maybe just invest in a bag of Tostados and a big can of Rico's nacho cheese sauce.