Angels & Demons (2009)

*. I began my notes on The Da Vinci Code saying it was critic proof. So is Angels & Demons, and for the same reason. So is there any point repeating what I said about the earlier movie? Perhaps, if I do it quickly. Because all of it still applies.
*. First off, I thought The Da Vinci Code was very stupid. It made a total hash out of church history. Well, Angels & Demons makes a total hash out of church history and physics. The evil plot here has to do with the Illuminati stealing a piece of anti-matter and threatening to blow up Vatican City during a papal conclave, in revenge for their persecution at the hands of the church some centuries earlier. Or at least that’s the cover story. Meaning it’s the evil plot the villain wants you to believe. So, yeah. Mark Kermode called this “the stupidest film I can remember seeing.” He meant it. Take him at his word.
*. I wondered, watching The Da Vinci Code, if there’d ever been a movie with so much expository dialogue. Again, Angels & Demons seems to have raised the bar. In addition to the mini-lectures offered up by Robert Langdon we even get narrative provided by cutaways to news coverage about what’s going on. It seems like every time anyone opens their mouth they’re having to explain something or deliver a crash course on some bit of Art History 101. Then they hop in their cars and speed off to the next location.
*. But why? If the story makes no sense in the first place, why spend so much time getting bogged down trying to explain what’s going on? There’s something about this whole concept that doesn’t work, even before you start asking fundamental questions that Langdon might have asked himself like why the Illuminati would bother turning their revenge plot into such an elaborate puzzle just for him to solve.
*. By the way, we’re supposed to believe that Professor Langdon, the world’s foremost authority on these arcane matters of church history and someone who has been trying for ten years to get access to the Vatican library, cannot read either Latin or modern Italian? I’m not even going to bother.
*. Finally, I said that The Da Vinci Code might have worked if they’d tried to be funny, but instead it took itself seriously without ever becoming camp, so that it ended up stuffy and dull. Angels & Demons actually marks a slight improvement in this regard. It’s not quite as long (though more than long enough) and it’s so ridiculous that there are moments where you do get to laugh. I mean, if you’re not laughing at the end then it’s only because you’ve fallen asleep. I only missed Ian McKellen hamming things up, as Ewan McGregor is no substitute.
*. I think critics actually enjoy movies like Angels & Demons because in a review they can kick it around a bit by making jokes about how stupid it is. I have notes enough to do the same but I thought this was such a poor movie I don’t even want to bother. It’s not that I hate it, I just think it’s a spectacular waste. That so much production value and talent went in to a project this unimaginably stupid is one thing, but Angels & Demons is rotten all the way through. Despite all of its silly puzzles the basic plot is so obvious, so lazy and so leadenly developed, complete with solemn choruses chanting in the background, that I found this to be a chore just to sit through. And still there was another Robert Langdon film to come.

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