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ISBS Movie Review: Angels and Demons

By Brian | June 9, 2009 | Share on Facebook

With Angels and Demons, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks take on another Dan Brown novel that deals with high drama in, around, and about the Catholic Church. Like The DaVinci Code before it, Howard and Hanks turn out an excellent movie – gripping in its drama, engaging in its many action sequences, and satisfying in its ability to wrap up all the loose ends with a satisfying “reveal” at the end. This is one of those movies that seems to end soon after it started, until you look at your watch and find out that more than two hours have flown by. It’s the kind of movie where you walk out of theater talking to your date/spouse/friend about the intricacies and implications of the plot.

Especially if you’ve read the book.

Seeing this movie after reading the book is like reading the Fodor’s book about England cover-to-cover and then getting off the British Airways flight in Rome. It’s like being hit in the face with a bucket of cold water, drying off, and then having it happen again. Like walking into your favorite Chinese restaurant and finding out that the special of the day is Chicken Parmigiana. Like whiplash, only with popcorn.

Some books make great movies, but require tweaking to work on the big screen. I remember watching an interview with Sydney Pollack, who directed the movie version of John Grisham’s The Firm. In the book, the bad guys get taken down on tax evasion charges, precipitated by the main character secretly photocopying all of their records and passing them along to the FBI. In the movie, Pollack was explaining, no one wants to watch twenty minutes of photocopying, so they had to change the ending to make it more exciting.

The DaVinci Code strayed a bit from the book as well, particularly at the end. Unlike The Firm, though, I remember walking away wondering why they made the choice – the ending on the screen didn’t seem to play any better than the ending in the book would have, and since Dan Brown was involved in the movie, why didn’t he insist on his original plot?

But this was nothing compared to what they did to Angels and Demons. I won’t fill this review with spoilers (I promise…), but for those who read the book: the Director of CERN, who plays an integral role in the book, isn’t even in the movie. Also, Professor Langdon doesn’t get in the helicopter near the end of the story. And finally, a different person is selected as the Pope in the movie than in the book.

If you read the book and haven’t yet seen the movie, you’re probably wondering how they could possibly have gotten to the end of the story with these kind of large, gaping holes in the book’s plot. If you want to know, it’s going to cost you the price of a movie ticket (or, if you’re really desperate, e-mail me and I’ll tell you).

There were subtler differences as well. As with The DaVinci Code, Professor Langdon (Hanks) is quite suddenly paired with an attractive woman who he has never met, and they are forced to share horrific, death-defying situations together. In both books, a romantic subtext develops throughout the story, which the characters (and the reader) must put aside until the action subsides, at which point it is finally resolved (somewhat subtly in The DaVinci Code, more explicitly in Angels and Demons). In the movies, Hanks plays his character completely aloof. If it were a lesser actor, I’d criticize him for missing the boat entirely, but knowing what Hanks can do, I can only assume that he (or Ron Howard) has intentionally removed any kind of chemistry between Langdon and the two female leads.

If I wanted to be even more picky, I’d mention the absence of any meaning behind Langdon’s Mickey Mouse watch (which is displayed in both movies, but never referenced), or the fact that Angels and Demons was written before the The DaVinci Code, and yet the movie refers to the events of the latter has having occurred prior to the former.

These differences don’t matter much, especially seeing as how the story only has the two books, so we don’t need to know more about these characters for future stories (unless Dan Brown writes a third?). Unlike that Harry Potter series – man, I don’t know how they’re going to get out of some of the corners they painted themselves into there… But, I digress.

Bottom line: if you’re coming into Angels and Demons cold, you’re going to love it. If you’ve read the book, be prepared to be jolted by what you see, but enjoy it nonetheless.

Topics: Movie Talk | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “ISBS Movie Review: Angels and Demons”

  1. Ilya says at June 11th, 2009 at 6:11 am :
    Hmm, I’m concerned. I liked A&D the book considerably more than DVC the book, and I did not enjoy DVC the movie much precisely because it felt too much like Cliff’s Notes with some liberties taken… I’ll probably be disappointed by A&D movie… At least, the scenery is probably gorgeous, no?

  2. Brian says at June 11th, 2009 at 9:42 am :
    I think you’ve probably hit the nail right on the head, Ilya. That said, having recently returned from Italy, I think you’ll recognize just about every outdoor location in the movie. So I’d still recommend you see it…


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