The Da Vinci Code was a massive global success. It was one of those books that comes along every so often and you couldn’t help but see people everywhere reading it. I read it myself, eager to see what the big deal was. It was entertaining enough, but ultimately throw-away pulp trash. The film version of the book, released in 2006 was set to be huge. But it was pretty much a mess of a film and while doing good box-office, was pretty much a critical flop. Angels & Demons, the prequel (although filmed as a sequel) is released this year, reteaming director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks as Indiana Jones with no balls, Robert Langdon. The book is seen by many as far better than The Da Vinci Code. Does the film follow suit?
No. It does not. It’s a fucking mess. It is a film so incredibly stupid and ridiculous that I actually felt like somewhere, Ron Howard was laughing at me for being duped into seeing it. In fact, he’s probably laughing at the world. As is Brian Grazer, his producer. Because they are making a shed load of cash from one of the dumbest, idiotic and insulting films I’ve ever seen. It takes place just after the death of the Pope, and while the new Pope is being decided by a bunch of cardinals during what is known within the church as Pope-Idol. Just before Pope-Idol, a particle of anti-matter is knicked from the Large Hadron Collider (I shit you not). This plot point, not in the book, is a blatant attempt to make things up-to-date. The Higgs boson particle has the ability to reduce Vatican City to a smouldering hole. The Illuminati, long thought to have been wiped out by the Church have kidnapped the four Pope-Idol finalists and are holding all and sundry to ransom. Only Robert Langdon, a personality vacuum in human form can stop the Illuminati and help the new Pope take his place as King of the Catholics.
To start off, the plot of the film ranges from snore-inducingly boring to laugh-out-loud hilarious. One of the major complaints that emerged after The Da Vinci Code was released was that everyone stood around explaining things to each other. It proved to be surprisingly boring. Ron Howard took these issues on board, and fair dues, he did ramp things up for this film. Instead of standing around explaining things, now everybody runs around explaining things. Oh yes, by making people both move and talk, the action has been ramped up a billion percent.
However, the first half of the film remains overwhelmingly dull. Robert Langdon, a man of non-action wanders from church to church staring at statues that, and I am not exaggerating here, point in the direction of the next clue. He is literally following a series of really nicely sculpted signposts. The dialogue ranges from boring exposition to dull history lessons, to incredibly clunky lines like ‘GET ME A MAP WITH ALL ROME’S CHURCHES ON IT!’ Tom Hanks, whom I like as an actor is essentially just a face to pull in the crowds. His Langdon is nothing more than a book with a stupid hair-cut. He has all the personality of a damp sock and the daring of a petrified field mouse. In one spectacularly action-free moment, Langdon watches while the main villain kills two policemen. Instead of doing something to save the second policeman, he stands and watches as the killer stalks the cop and very slowly kills him. I was half expecting Hanks to pull up a chair, grab some pasta and enjoy the proceedings.
Joining Langdon on his quest to kill suspense is Vittoria Vetra a sexy and unbelievable scientist who wants her particle back. She is absolutely inconsequential to the plot aside from the fact that her character is also incompetent. She needs to get the particle chamber back before the battery powering it fails, resulting in a matter-anti-matter explosion that will kill millions. Had she brought a spare battery, things would have been a lot easier on all.
But by far the highlight of the film is Ewan McGreggor as Oirish priest, Camerlengo Patrick McKenna. McGreggor provides the comic relief of the film as he stumbles over the script with an accent which is ludicrously bad. From what I’ve seen of McGreggor on The Long Way Round, he seems like a genuinely likeable and nice guy. He does good work for charity. But by Christ, the guy is a shockingly awful actor. Aside from a pretty decent performance in Trainspotting, where he was none-the-less overshadowed by a far stronger supporting cast, he really hasn’t delivered one outstanding role. And Angels & Demons ranks up there with his worst.
As with all action films, the second half of Angels & Demons is where things kick into overdrive. And it’s at this point where logic, believability and reality are ritually burned at the stake. At this point, proceedings become so incredibly stupid that I thought I’d passed out from boredom, hit my head and was seeing things that weren’t there. I’m strongly tempted to spoil the high-point of this carnival of the absurd, but I really wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. I am just sorry I can’t be there with you to hear the guffaws of laughter that will inevitably ensue. It was with no amount of surprise, that during the credits, I saw David Koepp’s name. From the guy who brought you Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. You should begin to know what to expect. And, like that film, the main character stands aside and watches everyone else do the work. It would be no surprise if it emerged that Koepp did little writing but took credit for a team of other writers’ work.
Angels & Demons is insultingly bad. Twists and turns are performed with all the ineptitude of a bad slight-of-hand artist. It attempts to distract you with one thing while setting up a twist. But if you take a second to actually think about things, you know exactly where proceedings are going. Apart from that bit I mentioned above. Nobody could see that coming. Set-ups are blatantly sign-posted and pay-offs are subsequently dull and predictable. Characters gleefully (if not literally) announce ‘listen, I have this ability. If it comes in handy at some point, you know where I am’ making plot points as subtle as a Fox News Anchor. It’s really lowest, lowest-common denominator stuff.
Many claim Angels & Demons is a better story and film than The Da Vinci Code. I disagree. While The Da Vinci Code was dull, silly and stupid, at least it wasn’t mind-bogglingly stupid. After watching Angels & Demons, you feel like someone has beaten you with a hammer of idiocy. It’s going to be hard to top this for the worst film of 2009. And it’s still only May.