Random thoughts



The Substream's Film Lab

Home » Reviews

Angels & Demons review – more interesting than The Da Vinci code but not by much

Submitted by on May 17, 2009 – 1:56 amOne Comment

angels-and-demons-posterLet’s get straight: I enjoy Dan Brown novels. They focus on the solving of certain problems and conundrums without excluding the audience. Robert Langdon is a character (in the book) that is suave, intelligent and very pleasing to read. Sadly the film incarnation of The was lacking a certain charm that others do better at. I am speaking of the tales of Indiana Jones and the National Treasure series that I’m sure, would be as dull as dishwater to read.

On then to the sequel of the Da Vinci (changed from the being a prequel) and some questions need answering: Will Tom Hanks have a better hairstyle? Will he manage to have more chemistry with his new female cohort? Will Ron Howard insist on ignoring the good bits of the story (mystery solving) to focus on a smarmy character that is able to read one page in a book and know more about it than anyone who has ever seen it before? These questions and more will be answered in the words that follow.


Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.


I am not foolish enough to believe that everything in Dan Brown books is historical. However it is how he writes about history and fabricates (and elaborates) certain findings that make them interesting.

The Robert Langdon films (Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) ignore these interesting elaborations on history, in an attempt to make a fast paced thriller where a professor of something that doesn’t exist, goes around solving puzzles. I’d love to have him helping me on those annoying Logic Problems. I’d imagine that he could spot the answers within seconds (if this film is to be believed).

Robert Langdon (Hanks) is accompanied this time by a less interesting character named Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) who manages to make me yawn every time she is on screen. This is not a criticism of Zurer, but rather a mention to Howard’s ability to ignore lesser characters. The chemistry between Langdon and Vittoria is as interesting as mixing water with er…..water!

This ignorance (and one dimensionality) of sub-characters lends itself to newcomers being able to discover the ending almost 100 minutes before Langdon’s character does! For example, if I told you that this film (along with Hanks and Zurer) stars Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård it would take the genius’s amongst you to figure out what happens. In a two hour film there is plenty of time to concentrate on different characters to confuse the viewer. Cinema goers are certainly more prepared for figuring out the villain amongst the piece as they know that everything that is shown on screen, is relevant. If that is the case, then in only a short time the average viewer is able to spot a scene that seems irrelevant and immediately highlight the importance of it.  Movie lovers are not stupid and should not be treated as such.

This criticism of course, comes from someone who has read the novel of which it is based on. However I had forgotten the details of the story and so watching Angels and Demons was almost as if I had never heard of the tale. I understand that Ron Howard didn’t want to go off on too much of a tangent from the novel but sometimes novels don’t adapt too well. That is not a bad thing as many films would be inadequate books. Sometimes you should just leave the medium as it is.

Performances of Hanks and McGregor are almost adequate. Langdon (Hanks) runs around Rome in an explicably short time solving problems with an inhuman speed (I have never found a statue that points to anything interesting – my nearest one, points directly at a supermarket). McGregor’s character is unchallenging of his talents and as for Stellan Skarsgård he is so completely underused in this tale, you wonder why he was cast at all!

If anything, Angels & Demons tells us an important lesson in that some books should not be made into films. Perhaps it is wrong casting (although I it). Perhaps it is the insanity of timing throughout. Perhaps it is because when you are able to visualise Dan Brown’s novel the rough edges become exceedingly obvious.

For those who have not read the story, then the film tells it (in a haphazard way). If you really couldn’t be bothered to pick up the book then I suppose this film is your only option. You won’t learn anything from it. You’ll forget it three minutes after leaving the cinema. You won’t even know the why Zurer’s character (Vittoria) was along for the ride. However as opposed to sitting inside suffering another episode of Britain’s Got Talent or American Idol, then I would suggest it.

Being better than your average talent show, is far from being a recommendation. Angels and Demons is less disappointing than The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately it is still a disappointment. Any rating that this film receives is for the plot and that is mostly due to Dan Brown.


If you are one of those people who inexplicably couldn’t figure out why lovers of The Da Vinci Code hated the film, then Angels and Demons is for you. Be happy in your ignorance of a novel that tells a better story with more interesting characters. I realise that the book may take you 12 hours to read and the film will only take 2 hours to watch, but the novel will be remembered fondly and the film will be remembered with disdain (or even forgotten).

The character of Robert Langdon is better left on the page. Ron Howard stayed (in many ways) true to the book but has managed to make a mediocre film once again that fans of Dan Brown are likely to despise.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Comments are closed.