The new Tom Hanks film, ANGELS & DEMONS opens this week.
Based on a Don Brown book of the same name, ANGEL & DEMONS is a mystery involving the election of a new Pope, a great tour of churches in Rome, a secret society of scientists/terrorists and a mad chase through Italy. The film stars Tom Hanks and Ewan MacGregor and is directed by Ron Howard. ANGELS AND DEMONS is the second film based on Dan Brown’s novel about a symbologist played by Hanks who can decipher the signs of a mystery using an encyclopedic knowledge of arcana.
To many, the first round, THE DA VINCI CODE, was a disappointment. So the question many are asking, “Is it better?” The answer is yes. The film should remind the literate of a Stephen Daedalus observation. Daedalus, the subject of Joyce’s A PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, noted that the Catholic Church is a logical absurdity. So is ANGELS & DEMONS. It may not make a lot of sense, but watching, you feel a sense of logic.
In our crass secularism, knowing a logical absurdity exists attracts us. We are attracted to the traditions, the power of mystical ritual, the meaning within meanings and the certainty of belief.Â Dan Brown’s books have tapped into that fear, the attraction, and most importantly, the voyeurism. Our pop culture is simply fascinated with the inner working of something that is not crassly secular or as seen on TMZ. The Catholic Church has these in spades. It is cloistered and purposely shrouded in rituals. Think about it for a second. How many thrillers or horror films have you seen about Episcopalians, or for that matter Zen Buddhists? None. Catholicism is the perfect vehicle for thrillers. There is good and evil.Â There is plenty of contradictions and most importantly there is the tension between religion and secularism. Watching ANGELS & DEMONS the expectations are also multifold.Â How does it compare to THE DA VINCI CODE? Is it a good movie? Will the Catholic Church react badly to it? The answers are better, yes, probably.
ANGELS & DEMONS pacing is fine, the mystery is appropriately obscure while the special effects are state of the art. Hanks is stalwart. MacGregor is piously unctuous and the female lead is old enough. This is an enjoyable piece of popcorn, but what I loved more than anything else, was the tour of Rome. The movie took me to all of the churches I had visited the last time I was there. I could smell the century old dust emanating off the screen.
I had forgotten I had read the book. It was pretty forgettable, a pop culture version of fast food. I’ll probably forget the film in a few months, it is a pop culture version of a concession snack. Yet I am reminded how much I loved Rome. As Mr. Daedulus said about the Catholic Church is how I feel about Italy, it is a logical absurdity, but one I enjoyed much more than this movie.
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NEXT: PIXAR’S UP
Garen has been in the dark for years. As a film exhibitor, programmer and reviewer, he has seen thousands of films.Â Regularly seen on NE Cable News & NH Public Radio, he produces the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. Besides film, he has a passion for being a Frugal Yankee.