Angels & Demons

Release Date: May 15, 2009

Movie of the Day for Monday, March 16, 2009
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Behold the worst hair in cinema history.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
35/82 Kelly Metz Better than The Davinci Code, but that's not saying much.
74/169 Max Braden The cinematography makes for a beautiful tour of the Vatican's art, but the plot is more like a basic Tom Clancy (Sum of All Fears, for instance) race to beat the clock than symbolophile mystery.

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When is a sequel more like a prequel? Herein lies your answer. The world’s only famous symbologist, Robert Langdon, made his first appearance in Angels & Demons, a 2000 novel by soon-to-be-famous author Dan Brown. His follow-up release came in 2003. It’s called The Da Vinci Code. Maybe you’ve heard of it. When that novel started selling as if it was the latest Harry Potter book, Sony showed the forethought to secure the rights to both Brown titles. The only question was whether an Angels & Demons movie would ever be made. Such a production’s eventual creation depended upon the success of the first adaptation, The Da Vinci Code. $750 million in worldwide revenues later, that matter has been resolved.

The instant Ron Howard agreed to direct and Tom Hanks agreed to star in the movie, The Da Vinci Code’s financial well-being was secured. Audiences were all too willing to overlook Hanks’ unfortunate hair decisions, making the movie the fifteenth production ever to open north of $75 million domestically. Given the critical bile directed at the adaptation, the blockbuster opening as well as the $217.5 million in domestic box office is impressive. The worldwide totals are simply stunning. With Sony making three quarters of a billion dollars on that project while owning the rights to its prequel, a follow-up is inevitable. The trick is in the implementation.

Angels & Demons treads remarkably similar territory to The Da Vinci Code. While lacking the controversial religious angle that led to massive sales for the first movie, the story is otherwise identical. Langdon is chosen to investigate a secret society, and it’s the Illuminati this time. Apparently, they are ready to settle their grudge with The Vatican once and for all, and they have acquired just the doomsday weapon to make it happen. The Illuminati have come into possession of a doomsday weapon, enough anti-matter to blow up an entire community. Langdon’s search begins in a familiar way. The corpse of a respected scientist is discovered and yes, his flesh has been mutilated. This time, it’s with an ambigram, a word written in a matter such that it appears identical when viewed in a mirror. From the moment of this discovery, Langdon begins yet another desperate search for the truth before time runs out.

The writing ability of Dan Brown has been criticized more than enough, but the above does demonstrate that he’s not exactly flush with new ideas. Three books in, he was already repeating himself. That makes the movie adaptation of Angels & Demons difficulty. Whereas that novel came first and it was The Da Vinci Code that cribbed its storyline, mainstream movie-goers are not going to realize this. Ron Howard and Tom Hanks face a difficult task in the second Langdon outing. They have to make an idea re-tread into something new and exciting when the widespread public opinion is that their first Dan Brown effort was largely lacking. This should be interesting. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Angels & Demons
Main Cast Tom Hanks
Supporting Cast Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director Ron Howard
Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
Distributor Sony/Columbia
Screen Count 3,527
Also see How Well Do You Know: The Da Vinci Code
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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