I passed up reading both of Dan Brown’s bestsellers, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, when they first came out because I’m not a big fan of the genre, but when I heard that Tom Hanks was starring in the film version of Da Vinci, I gave in and read them both. I was terribly disappointed by that movie, but, being a huge fan of Tom Hanks, I was willing to see if Angels & Demons on the big screen would do a better job of living up to my expectations. Two words…oh yeah!
I read one review that likened Angels & Demons to National Treasure, and I think it’s a good comparison– darker, but still a good comparison. This is not in any way a factual story. There are, in fact, many factual errors, but it is fiction so let’s enjoy it as such.
The story hits the ground running and never slows down. After the death of a most beloved pope, it seems that an old enemy of the Catholic Church, the Illuminati, has surfaced and is ready to repay eye for eye and tooth for tooth. The Illuminati, a secret society of scientists whom Dan Brown says began with Galileo (factual problem here), plan to extract their revenge with kidnapped cardinals on the one hand and a vial of antimatter ready to blow up Vatican City on the other unless Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) can figure out the clues that will thwart their plans and save they day. Does it seem a little far-fetched yet? It is, and at times it’s just plain silly, but seeing it as National Treasure-esque helps to make it a lot of fun.
If you are someone who hates to see significant changes from the book in a film, you may be unhappy with this one. There are some characters that are missing and some relationships that are left out, and that disappointed me at first, but there is so much happening that I can see leaving those out helped clean up the story and kept things moving. (There is also a slight twist to the ending that I personally liked better than the book’s.) I did feel within the first fifteen minutes that if I hadn’t read the book I would have had trouble keeping people and situations straight. I saw the film with a friend who had not read it, and some of the terms… preferiti, carmelengo, conclave, etc.…had her confused. The meanings were skimmed over quickly, but without the knowledge gained from the book I probably would have missed them altogether…and these are important to the story. They also failed to establish the who, what and why of the Swiss Guard, and again, without prior knowledge, it was hard for my friend to understand their significance. Not that she didn’t enjoy the movie…she just didn’t catch everything and was sometimes left wondering what she had missed.
As far as the technical aspect of the movie, I felt it was well done. Like I said, I’m a huge fan of Tom Hanks, and he is excellent as Professor Robert Langdon, and Ewan McGregor is quite good as the carmelengo. It is my understanding that the Vatican refused to let them film inside any church-owned property because of issues with both Da Vinci and A & D. Not being Catholic, I don’t want to make any judgments on these issues, but I will say that if most of the interior church scenes were indeed sets and not the real locations…wow!…great set design. There were some, I believe, who worried about how the church would be portrayed in this story that, on the surface, vets science against religion. Would it be seen as obstructionist or backward thinking or worse, vindictive? My friend and I both felt, however, that director Ron Howard’s portrayal of the church as a whole was very respectful.
Parents be warned: the content of this film makes it inappropriate for children. There is no sex, no nudity, very little profanity and surprisingly little blood, but it is intense, and there is significant violence. Teens, maybe…younger kids, definitely not.
All in all, this is one of those rare cases where I enjoyed the movie more than the book, but without the book it would have been difficult to follow the movie…so which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you are one of those who was terribly disappointed with The Da Vinci Code, I encourage you to give Angels & Demons a try. It is a much better movie with a much better story. You can read my full review of Dan Brown’s book on my blog here.
Kipi Ward is a single mom of three girls who all love to read. A former elementary reading teacher, she currently is substituting while she finishes her master’s degree in mediation. She blogs her random thoughts about life at In My Own Little Corner.
From the editor: Are you looking forward to any summer blockbusters? Or perhaps there’s a DVD release that you loved (or hated) after reading the book. We are always looking for guest contributors to the Books on Screen column. I haven’t been able to run it each week for lack of content, but people enjoy it, so I’d like to see it run at least every other week.
Submit your ideas to me at 5minutesforbooksATgmail(dot)com.