angels-and-demons_web.jpgWe all remember The Da Vinci Code and all of the hype surrounding it.  Before the film was even banned by the Catholic Church and everyone was talking about Tom Hanks’ bad hair cut, The Da Vinci Code made waves for being a top secret operation on its studio lot. 

It had a different title, then.  Something funky that was easily forgettable.  But, when the premise of the film was finally unveiled, many people quickly took notice of it.  In true form, the Catholic Church forbade its followers from going to see the flick and called Hanks anti-Catholic, because he had the nerve to suggest that Jesus Christ made it with Mary Magdalene and had a child.

After weeks and weeks of hype and big box office numbers, I went to see The Da Vinci Code just to see what all of the hype was about.  I was sorely disappointed to find out that the meat of the entire film rested outside of the theater. If the Catholics and the media had not made such a big fuss about the film, I, along with countless other moviegoers, would not have bothered to see it. That film runs too slow and the climax hits a thud, rather than striking a cord.

Not so for Angels & Demons, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code; yet another prequel in the pre-summer season of prequels.  This time, Hanks, as Professor Robert Langdon, gets a better hairdo and a better physique.  Langdon is called to Vatican City, Italy, by the Vatican itself to investigate why four of their cardinals, who are in line to become the next pope, have disappeared and are in danger of being executed.  He uses his thorough knowledge of Catholic history and a sidekick named Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) to solve the case, before all of the cardinals are murdered.

Screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman managed to create a plot that is engaging and suspenseful.  I was hesitant to even take notes during the film.  Every time I put my head down to write, something interesting would happen.  Apparently, they took the advice of the media, critics, and audience members and made the film a lot more viewer friendly.  Not that the plot is Oscar winning, but it is pretty great compared to Code.  Then again, before the film was even set to shoot, I kept hearing about how – between both Dan Brown books set for the silver screen – Angels is much better. 

Ron Howard, an A-List director in his own right, directed a superb film.  I learned so much about Catholic history and saw so many different locales.  I love it when a movie is entertaining and informative.  Learning is fundamental.

Moving on to Hanks’ acting: He’s more comfortable with his Langdon than he was the last go around.  Then again, he’s had practice from the last time to go on.  Zurer is OK as Vittoria.  Howard made sure she is in something eye catching (a tight blouse, tight skirt, and knee-high boots, all in black), and understated at the same time.  I guess the outfit was to make up for the fact that her acting isn’t all that great.  Don’t get me wrong.  She’s good, but not that good.

Ewan McGregor as Carmelango Patrick McKenna is good.  It’s been a while since he was convincing as the dopey-eyed idealist.  Stellan Skarsgard as Commander Richter is type cast as the villain.  I would love to see him do something as a protagonist; I so loved him in Mamma Mia.  Props should be given to Nikolaj Lie Kaas as the assassin in the film.  He’s two parts scary and one part crazy; the perfect villain. 

Other actors of note are Armin Mueller-Stahl who plays Cardinal Strauss.  He seems bad in the beginning, but redeems himself in a great way.  Thure Lindhardt as Bertrand, as the guard to the Vatican Archives, is the perfect male sidekick.  He helps with the investigation and provides the muscle all at once.

All in all, I loved this film.  It’s a classic “Whodunit,” with a good spiritual message.  My favorite line in the movie is when Cardinal Strauss says to Carmelango McKenna: “God always gives us an answer.  And, sometimes, the answer is ‘no’.”

It’s so true, yet most people gloss over the fact.  Not to mention, Catholics aren’t represented too badly in this film.  The only thing I didn’t like about this film is the handful of gory parts where people are killed in dastardly ways.  Not only did I find myself on the edge of my seat, but I also covered my eyes through sheer fear of what I might see on the screen: You will, too.

I hope you go out to see this film; if for nothing else than to see a really good mystery.