Sequels (or prequels) are hard. On the one hand, your goal is to make a film that is successful and as interesting to watch as the original. On the other, if the first film was successful you can rest a bit easier knowing that you already have an audience waiting to see your next film.
Sequels (or prequels) are hard.
On the one hand, your goal is to make a film that is successful and as interesting to watch as the original. On the other, if the first film was successful you can rest a bit easier knowing that you already have an audience waiting to see your next film. This can be a double-edged sword though. If your sequel sucks, you’ll not only lose money but your audience won’t trust you in the future.
Such is Ron Howard’s dilemma in making Angels & Demons. I admit to being one of the millions of fans that loved The Da Vinci Code. I enjoyed that Dan Brown was not intimidated by the power of the Catholic Church and that Howard tried to be true to that irreverence.
I also liked the choice of actors. Tom Hanks is great and even though he’s getting older and thicker he makes a wonderful protagonist. It was kind of revolting when, after the film was released, blog posts started appearing saying that Tom Cruise should have been chosen for the role. Yuck.
There is also an intelligence behind the story that makes a refreshing change. Even though there is plenty of action, The Da Vinci Code is about a very intelligent man solving a very intricate puzzle. The time in between the chases is filled with thoughtful mysteries. Intelligence is very sexy and is not something we see a lot of in films today.
Howard took a lower road with Angels & Demons. I had been prepared for this being a prequel, as was the case in the book. Howard says that he chose to make it a sequel rather than a prequel because most people read the book after seeing The Da Vinci Code.
Howard also decided that this should be a full-on action film. No thoughtful pauses, no time to catch your breath. Everything that Robert Langdon figures out about this newest mystery is done on the run, so it takes the intellectual factor out of the film and makes it a sidebar.
The basic plot is this: The Pope has died and the cardinals are in Vatican City preparing to vote on his successor. The four candidates, the preferiti, have been kidnapped along with a container of antimatter. The cardinals will be killed one an hour—at 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.—and the antimatter becomes a bomb at midnight. It is strategically placed so that it will take out Vatican City and half of Rome.
Enter Langdon. The kidnapper claims to be Illuminati, and Langdon is the only person on earth who can help the Swiss Guard find the doomed cardinals. Using clues in the ransom message, Langdon and scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) race through the city. However, the film becomes tedious at this point, always having the rescuers arrive two minutes before each deadline.
The most disappointing thing about the film is the fact that Howard trips over the finish line and kisses up to the church at the end. The flack that he and Brown received after the first film had the desired effect. The church is seen in a much more positive light and the denunciation of the excesses of the Vatican is absent.
Since the Catholic Church was offended by Da Vinci Code and forbade Howard from shooting in any of its churches, the film crew was required to build stages at Sony for this purpose. Caserta Palace stands in for the inside of the Vatican this time around, while the Biblioteca Angelica doubled for the Vatican library.
This is not a great film, but it’s not a bad one either. The camera work is fast and frenetic. If you see this at a theater, sit in the back. Otherwise, it’s headache inducing and you might miss some of the action. In his appearance as the Cameralengo, Ewan McGregor is almost unrecognizable until he speaks. But the fact that the end is not the end and the actors are pretty good gives this film an overall thumbs up.