The Night Out: Angels And Demons (2009), or Isn’t It Easier NOT To Leave Clues Behind?

25 05 2009

Guys, I have a confession to make. I know I’ve hid it well this entire time, writing reviews under the guise of a man of intense faith, but I am an atheist. GASP! STARTLED CHATTER! FEARFUL GLANCES DARTING ACROSS THE ROOM! And not only that, but I despise religion with every single fiber of my being, and I see absolutely no use for it in our time. I have heard all the arguments, I have read all the research, and if I come across an argument for faith that could not be toppled soundly, I will be all ears, but the time for religious waffling has passed in my life, and I no longer see a use for holding out hope for an invisible sky fairy who likes to watch people die (including his own son). It’s time for the world to grow up; the evidence has been around us the entire time, yet we’ve failed to confirm the truth in our own hearts that we are alone on this planet. It’s not a sad thing, not a cold thing, to lose faith in a higher power; it’s merely an inevitable freedom gained by studying the world around us long enough without having to make room in our studies for magic and fantasy. We no longer need these silly chains to achieve our happiness, and we would be better, by all accounts, without them.

Or at least that’s what I think. Dan Brown, mega-author of The DaVinci Code and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (I think), believes differently. He feels that science and religion can co-exist, which, while ludicrous and borderline insane in and of itself, makes for a popcorn movie that is good in smaller doses than they give you. It all revolves around Robert Langdon, super-symbologist and sexy action star. This time he’s in a fight against the Illuminati, a secret organization who wants revenge against the Catholic Church for the crimes they committed against them in the 17th century. They plan on blowing up the Vatican with anti-matter (!!!!!!) during the Conclave to choose the next Pope. Conveniently, though, they are going to kill 4 kidnapped cardinals every hour before midnight that night, leaving Robert Langdon, contracted by the Vatican to stop this crazy thing, only a scant few hours to find the location of the *giggle* anti-matter *giggle*. Can he save the city from the ridiculously complicated bomb, as well as the Vatican police, who may have been infiltrated by Illuminati agents?

Normally, a job like this would have been taken care of by a police officer or a special agent, but fortunately for the world of bon-vivant playboy college professors, the Illuminati like to leave copious amounts of historical and symbological evidence at the scenes of their crimes, so only one amazingly learned guy can save the day. Ron Howard’s franchise lives in an incredibly convenient world where crimes are committed for a reason, plotted out so meticulously that the real-world ramifications of planning such an attack on the Vatican start to bleed through the edges of your thoughts during some of the slower first half of the film.

Yes, the first half is slow. Like the previous film before it, Angels and Demons assumes that everybody has the patience to let Hank’s Robert Langdon spew out whatever he wants for as long as he wants without losing the steam of the scene. Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to finish up with his historical exposition, considering that a great deal of it is either common knowledge or made-up conspiracy theorist conjecture. It sounds cool, but anyone who is aware of the history of the Catholic Church and the Illuminati will affirm that all this stuff is sketchy at best, and there is an AWFUL LOT of it.

But by the second half of the film, it shakes off its old DaVinci Code trappings and starts being a bona-fide thriller. I found myself caught up a little bit with all the intrigue and the explosions, all done with the verve that Howard embues with all his films. The ending is ridiculous but in a zestfully cheery way, as if to say, “Sorry, folks; what’d you expect?”. The actors are in full suspence-mode. I think Tom Hanks surgically removed his funny bone for the role, and it works for all but one or two moments. Ayalet Zurer plays his sexy scientist sidekick here, and she falls incredibly flat, but at the very least she is a strong independent woman who does not become a damsel in distress. Ewan MacGregor makes an enthusiastic entry as the Pope’s Camerlengo, and he probably saves the latter half of the movie for me, as his character goes through quite a few transformations throughout the film. It all makes for a fun finale that should have reflected the whole movie’s worth of entertainment, but instead only exists almost as a seperate entity amongst its own prologue.

So while Angels and Demons is better than The DaVinci Code, the Robert Langdon franchise needs to realize that just because it sounds cool, that doesn’t mean that we are as enthralled with conspiracy theories and wishy-washy dimestore philosophy as they are. And, for the record, I didn’t think Tom Hanks’s hair was a big deal. That’s right, I said it, internet nitpickers! Do something about it! Anyway, go see it if you want to see the Vatican in all its glory (the shots of the artwork is divine), or if you like copious amounts of find-the-clues mumbo-jumbo. It’s more entertaining than the persecution of scientists by the Catholic Church for hundreds of years! And that’s saying something! I give Angels and Demons 7 extracted funny bones out of 10.

Tomorrow we examine the phenomenon that is Grease! Until then!!!