A movie! In the Theatre! That alone is worth two enthusiastic thumbs up. At this point it really doesn’t even matter what is up on the screen, it is just such a feat that I’m actually out at the theatre. But you guys didn’t come here for just that. You want to know what I think about the movie. Okay…
Angels & Demons. It certainly has quite the pedigree. The book is the best-selling prequel to Dan Brown’s mega-sensation The Da Vinci Code. We now get the prequel (in sequel form on the big screen) in theatres brought to us by the same people who brought us The Da Vinci Code. Director Ron Howard. Star Tom Hanks. And a stellar cast of character actors (Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl).
I really wanted to love it. I just didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, I just never felt that it quite delivered in the mystery & thrills department. I was never on the edge of my seat. I don’t bite my nails, but if I am on the edge of my seat in a movie at least a few of my fingernails are gone by the end. Let’s just say all of my nails are intact. I think what it comes down to is book-to-movie translation let down (I really need a better term for that). You know what I mean. You read a book & picture it in your mind. Invariably what comes out on the movie screen cannot live up to your imagination. There are very few that I can think of that go against this trend (eg. Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Princess Bride, Silence of The Lambs). So for those of you out there who are looking for this to live up to the book, well, it just won’t. I think the problem is that Dan Brown’s writing/storytelling is very cerebral, & that doesn’t seem to translate well to the screen. And I’m not buying that it is Ron Howard’s fault either. That man had me on the edge of my seat (nails bitten to the quick) with Apollo 13. And we all knew that it had a “happy” ending. It is just hard to put the inner workings of someone’s brain on film without it getting really weird (see Being John Malkovich) or really expositional (the main complaint about The Da Vinci Code movie).
So, what didn’t work for me with this movie?
The main character, Robert Langdon (Hanks), didn’t seem to use his “expertise” all that much. It just sort of felt like he was following pointing statues & arrows, not that he was an expert in hidden messages of symbols. Also, they majorly underutilized the fabulous actress Ayelet Zurer (playing scientist Vittoria Vetra). She ended up just being the one on the receiving end of a lot of info. Her role is massively reduced, but I’m fairly certain that is because they changed this from a prequel to a sequel.
But there was plenty that did work. The setting. Rome. I pretty much want to get on a plane right now. Howard uses what he can (or what he was allowed to use as the Roman Catholic Church would not let him use any of their churches in filming) to paint a beautiful picture of the bustling city. What is also amazing is how seamless the on-site & the soundstage scenes were. The set designers deserve major props for their work. The movie is also much more fast paced than The Da Vinci Code & much of the exposition is integrated more seamlessly into the movie via the use of television reporters. My least favorite part of the book (a literal “leap” of faith) has been dispatched in the movie, which made me enjoy the ending much more.
Two of us seeing the movie had read the book, & the other two had not. My hubby & friend (who had not read the book) both enjoyed the movie immensely, whereas my friend’s hubby & I were a little less enthusiastic. So, if you haven’t read the book, go & enjoy the ride. If you have read the book, lower your expectations just a little bit & the ride will certainly be almost as enjoyable.
So, have you seen Angels & Demons? What did you think of the movie? Are you hesitant to see movies that you have loved as books? What is your favorite movie based on a book? Let us know about your thoughts in the comments section below.