Saturday, May 16, 2009

134) Angels & Demons (2009)

134) Angels & Demons (2009) Dir: Ron Howard Date Released: May 2009 Date Seen: May 16th, 2009 Rating: 2/5

I'm disappointed by Angels and Demons, the second of director Ron Howard's adaptations of Dan "prosemaster" Brown's dull as paste historioglogical adventure stories. I wanted less, enough tasteless and/or senseless action to rubber-neck to but got more . In other words, Angels and Demons is bland but not so hilariously bad that I wanted to laugh very often. There are a few such scenes but they're few and far between. 

Howard's Angels and Demons is superior to his The Da Vinci Code (2006) because the clues are a bit more crude--much of them revolve around the direction statues are pointing in rather than obscure data--and unfold in a slightly more rigorous way. Here Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has a deadline, forced to try to save one cardinal per hour until an (get ready) anti-matter bomb goes off, obliterating the Vatican. Still, Howard struggles with the same problem he had in The Da Vinci Code, namely trying to make Langdon's ceaseless monologues, which gracelessly relate through "info dumps" the intricacies of the plot and what's at stake, dynamic. It's not impossible but it sure looks that way when the filmmakers involved are clearly unwilling to pare down any of the film's long-winded wiki-speak.

But then again I'm also forced to ask the same question I had for The Da Vinci Code: what's the point? Angels and Demons merely reinforces Brown's simplistic message of needling Catholic dogmatic intolerance with viable but, as it's represented in the film, underdeveloped alternative theories. Science is this film's methodology of choice, coupled with a pronounced kind of multiculturalism. None of the international cast of actors hide their accents, not Ewan McGregor, not Stellan Skarsgard and certainly not Armin "show-stopper" Mueller-Stahl, as if their vocal differences could effectively contest the singular authority that the Pope propounds. 

Cute as it may be to have a doctor become the new pope, it's hard to swallow considering that we're living under the ultra-conservative reign of Pope Benedict XVI, a man who was once a Hitler Youth (I'm not joking; look it up). I would even be willing to accept this as an act of harmless fantastic rebellion were it not for the way that Mueller-Stahl apologizes for any and all wrong-headed, hypocritical actions undertaken by men of the clothe by saying "Religion is flawed because man is." Here screenwriters David Koepp and Akkiva Golsdman fumblingly try to  defuse the infantile defiance of Brown's novel but to no avail.

That's probably because there's no controversy to defuse here. One of his three tenets to writing a blockbuster hit may be to "piss people off," but if this is the best he's got, he's not really saying anything substantially defiant by rewriting Catholic history except: "Be open to possibility." I was--I believe that most people that go to see a film expecting it to be bad is always secretly hoping they'll be pleasantly surprised--but all I got was this lousy bit of blah.

Note: Can one argue that the disappearance of Hanks' mullet is also an ineffectual attempt to make his "controversial" hero more, well, nice-looking? I may be in the minority here but I kinda miss it. Business in the front, party in the back suited Forrest.

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