Friday, December 4, 2009

Angels & Demons - DVD Review


Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Pierfrancesco Favino and Nikolaj Lie Kaas.
Directed by Ron Howard.

Having recently read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol put me in a more cynical mood to watch a movie on Robert Langdon. Of the three Langdon books, I think Symbol's the weakest and Angels is the strongest, but seeing Brown dramatized really underscores some of his narrative flimsiness.

Tom Hanks is back as Prof. Robert Langdon, symbologist-adventurer. He has a better hair-cut this time around, and while the Da Vinci Code danced around the edges of a Catholic conspiracy, this one puts him right in the heart of Rome. The Pope has died, and before the new Pope has been selected, four cardinals have been kidnapped, allegedly by the Illuminati, a secret ancient organization.

Naturally, Langdon hooks up with an age-appropriate female expert at something (in this case, anti-matter) to help him race the clock, but Ayelet Zurer is no Audrey Tautou. There is decent supporting work from Ewan McGregor as the earnest papal assistant, Stellan Skarsgard as the devout police detective, and Armin Muller-Stahl as one of the hand-wringing cardinals. Muller-Stahl in particular is one of those actors who makes whatever scene he's in just a little more interesting.

Once the race is on, I got swept up by the action, and I credit the set design and cinematography for a lot of that. I also noticed toward the end they rearranged some plot devices from the book, for the betterment of the filmed story, though it's still pretty humorless.

Overall it was fine. But Ron Howard & Co. will have to change a lot more than a couple devices to make a good movie out of The Lost Symbol.

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