“Angels & Demons”

Holy conspiracy theory! The Illuminati have hatched a plot to destroy the Vatican in this "Da Vinci Code" follow-up, and only Tom Hanks can save the faithful.

Topics: Dan Brown, Religion, Catholicism, Thrillers, Movies,

"Angels & Demons"

“Angels & Demons,” Ron Howard’s follow-up to the stiff, stately 2006 “The Da Vinci Code,” might have been classy, entertaining junk — if only it were entertaining. The picture is based on the Dan Brown bestseller of the same name, which was published in 2000, three years before Brown really hit big with “Da Vinci.” As in “The Da Vinci Code,” our hero is once again Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon (once again played by Tom Hanks, this time with a strange, matted coif that looks as if it should be topped by Ruth Buzzi’s hairnet). Because he knows so much about symbols and stuff, Langdon is summoned to Rome to investigate a mysterious threat: Apparently, an ancient secret brotherhood of eggheads known as the Illuminati have hatched a plot to annihilate — or should that be annihilati? — the Vatican with a giant ball of light. Langdon is persona non grata at Vatican City — the officials have repeatedly refused to let him riffle through their archives for his research, much as, in real life, the Vatican refused to let Ron Howard film there — but now the guys in the lace dresses really need his help. When he shows up, he’s met by Stellan Skarsgard, as the commander of the Swiss Guard, with a glare of disdain. “What a relief, the symbolist is here,” he deadpans. Little does he know that Langdon’s brilliant ability to say, “Hey! That ecclesiastical emblem is upside-down!” could possibly save his skin.

In between shots of somber religious statuary and fake Vatican backdrops — shut out of the Vatican, Howard and his crew instead decamped to the racetrack at Hollywood Park, where they re-created St. Peter’s Square and Piazza Navona with a reasonable amount of verisimilitude — there’s lots and lots of talking as Langdon follows clue after clue after clue, hot on the Illuminati’s trail. Luckily, he has a beautiful Italian scientist, Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer), around to assist him. This is important, because much of the plot of  “Angels & Demons” unfolds in the dialog. For instance, Langdon will hold up an ancient book whose cover might be emblazoned with a title like “Libri of Scientia” in fancy letters, and Vittoria will exclaim helpfully, “My God — that’s the Book of Knowledge!” Howard may be hoping that if every narrative detail is repeated for the hard of hearing, the plot will actually end up making sense.



Fat chance. The script, by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, wanders around listlessly — no one seems to know where the story is ultimately headed, least of all the writers. They certainly have packed a lot of stuff into “Angels & Demons,” and the whole crazy tapestry might come off as rich and complex if you didn’t think too hard about it. There are plenty of possible bad guys floating around to keep us guessing: Armin Mueller-Stael shows up, scowling, in full-on cardinal garb — you know he’s just got to be up to no good. And Ewan McGregor plays the Camerlengo, a priest who’s entrusted with very important duties at the Vatican, like flying a helicopter — you never know when that’s going to come in handy.

The action unfolds against constant narration: When a character indicates, in a parched whisper, that Langdon should get over to Castel Sant’Angelo fast, he hippity-hops on his way, but not before exclaiming, “The Castle of the Angel!” Every revelation in “Angels & Demons” has a “Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick” vibe. Whenever something bad is about to happen, Hans Zimmer’s score flares up like a bad case of stigmata. On the plus side, cinematographer Salvatore Totino does give the movie an aura of ominous pageantry, which is probably pretty hard to pull off at Hollywood Park.

There are a number of grisly details in “Angels & Demons”: As the movie opens, the pope has just died, and the cardinals have gathered to vote on his replacement. The most promising candidates, the top pope hopefuls, are known as the Preferati, and the Illuminati baddies have kidnapped them with the intention of sending each one to a gruesome end. If William Castle had made “Angels & Demons,” he might have opened the movie with the disclaimer, “No one will be admitted during the terrifying Pope on a Rope scene!” Except there is no pope on a rope in “Angels & Demons” — I made that up, with the help of Father Guido Sarducci, aka comedian Don Novello. Come to think of it, why wasn’t he enlisted to adapt this hunk of hokum? That would be hunkus of hokumus in the original Latin.

Stephanie Zacharek is a senior writer for Salon Arts & Entertainment.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>