Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Review - Angels & Demons (movie)

To prep for the movie, I read Angels & Demons a few weeks ago. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment since, in many/most cases, the book is generally better than the movie. Still, I went into the movie hopeful that it would be a better attempt than The DaVinci Code (mainly because I found Angels to be a more engaging story than DaVinci).

Differences were immediately apparent in just the first few opening minutes. The primary difference early on was the status of CERN (the research facility) in the story and the relationship between Vittoria and the scientist killed at CERN. The changes weren't awful and helped with the believability to some degree (when reading, I was curious how an isolated pair of two scientists without any backup team could have done what they were supposed to have done...so the addition of a team, was a good touch). I was a little disappointed that the Kohler character was notably absent and was curious who would take his place later in the story. His replacement was adequate, and probably more realistic in terms of Vatican security, but I think I still would have rather had Kohler be in the film. I also preferred the assassin character from the book much more than from the movie. He felt much more watered down in the film.

Taking away the differences between book and film and looking at the movie on its own merits, it was an entertaining ride. There were a few more in-depth items that got glossed over in the film and may have been slightly confusing to those who hadn't just read the book, but I still felt that the coherence was there and the action played out nicely.

The setting and general environment were gorgeous. I have no idea how accurate some of the elements were (such as the archives and some of the portions of the buildings that were likely sets rather than 'on location' shots). The visual imagery was beautiful and makes me want to get to Italy sooner rather than later.

The casting was adequate. I really like Ewan McGregor. He felt a little youthful for the role he was portraying, but at the same time that helped add to the tension between him and the church leaders. His character fell a little flat for me at the end of the movie, but generally, he did well. The Richter and Olivetti characters were pretty strong and believable. Richter felt a little stereotypical at times, but his intensity and presence was good.

I sadly wasn't terribly impressed with the Vittoria character. Her desire for vengeance didn't seem real. Her curiosity with the hunt felt a little muted. Her intensity with regards to the canister she was there to recover/repair also felt a little subdued considering the severity of the situation. Instead of feeling like an asset who had a real purpose to be running around the city, she felt like a bit of tacked on eye candy without any good purpose other than swapping the battery at the path.

But my biggest character complaint was with Mr. Tom Hanks. For some reason, Hanks always seemed to have this arrogant air of superiority that felt out of place. In the novel, it was evident that Langdon was bright...but he never struck me as being quite as patronizing and uppity.

The plot and pacing of the film were fun. I really enjoyed the action and intrigue of the chase around the city. It didn't really feel like the intensity grew over the course of the film. Rather, it seemed to peak near the beginning of the film and maintain a plateau until the final resolution. Unfortunately, this made the final confrontation feel less climactic and delightful.

Still, it was a fun movie and I would recommend it over DaVinci Code any day. It's not necessarily something I'd watch again and again and wouldn't recommend it over other thrillers, but it's not something you need to avoid.

2.5 stars

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