(1.5 out of 5)
You know how distracting and annoying it is when you’re at a movie and people just won’t stop talking? In the case of Angels & Demons, it’s the actors who seem incapable of keeping their mouths shut for more than half a beat. While nobody has accused author Dan Brown yet of crafting a piece of efficient (or even acceptable) literature, at least when you’re reading the books these adaptations are based on, you can skim through the boring bits or re-read the confusing ones.
In director Ron Howard’s cinematic interpretation of Angels & Demons – the sequel to The Da Vinci Code that, oddly, was written and takes place before The Da Vinci Code – there are no such literary luxuries. Instead, Howard and screenwriters David Koepp (Spider-Man) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) jam every bit of exposition they can into the mouths of Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and the other stars of the film. And oh, what expositional dialogue it is. From metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and superficial “secret” histories of the Catholic Church to the scurrilous motivations of the Illuminati and ridiculous explanations of matter/antimatter – yes, Angels & Demons is the only movie you’ll see this summer that takes place both at the Vatican and at the Large Hadron Collider – the script leaves absolutely nothing to the viewer’s imagination.
The result is a movie that amounts to little more than an exceptionally goofy and incredibly long episode of Numb3rs. Hanks again plays Robert Langdon, the faithless Harvard symbologist whose life’s work involves cracking the codes of the Church’s cult-like origins. Langdon is beckoned to the Vatican after four cardinals are abducted and a bomb threat is received as part of an Illuminati plot to wipe the church (and the Church) off the face of the earth. Only Langdon, it seems, has the requisite knowledge of the Church’s history to get to the bottom of things and, in tandem with an antimatter scientist played by Ayelet Zurer – did I not mention that the bomb is an antimatter-powered bomb? – he sets about doing just that.
Thankfully, the bad guys have provided an exact description of where the kidnapped cardinals and the bomb are located, and Langdon parses the clues so quickly that, really, he only needs an iPhone with Google Earth to put an end to the chase. But that would have resulted in a half-hour movie. Instead, Howard draws out Angels & Demons to an interminable two and a half hours of talking, talking, talking, with occasional bits of will-he-make-it-in-time action interspersed to give the film something resembling a pulse.
Unfortunately, that pulse resides in ultra-thin, utterly forgettable characters. Despite the occasional (and obvious) good-guy/bad-guy switch-up, most of them are used primarily as archetypal vehicles. It’s almost impressive how many empty words flow from the characters’ mouths, and by the time Angels & Demons finally winds down, it will have had the same effect on your consciousness as an antimatter bomb.