Angels & Demons

Beautiful to see in re-creation

"And the Vatican didn't like that. So the church began to, how did you say it? Oh, hunt them down and kill them." Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks)

For a fallen down Catholic boy like me, any time the Church is depicted as manipulative now and downright bloody then (a few centuries ago) confirms my suspicions that it is a business and a brand just like any other multinational corporation. Angels & Demons shows a troubled contemporary Vatican reaching out to its Da Vinci Code antagonist, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), to solve the mystery and murders associated with an ancient and violent antagonist of the church, The Illuminati, which appears to be revived after ages of obscurity.

Given that director Ron Howard was barred from filming in the Vatican, including St. Peter's Square, the production is stunning, an evocation of its baroque grandeur beautiful to see in re-creation. While the serpentine story speeds from church to church to track murders before they happen, Langdon acquires an attractive scientist partner, Dr. Ayelet Zuhrer (Vittoria Vetra), with whom he is intimately involved in solving the crime but not in salving the audience's wound of disappointment for lack of romantic adventure.

I applaud the director for allowing the order of the day, stopping murders, to trump the audience's romantic expectations, a distracting Hollywood tradition that needs to die in the face of contemporary sophistication about sexuality and liberation.

Although Angels and Demons touches on such religious chestnuts as the struggle between good and evil, it does a credible job tackling the longstanding feud between science and faith, with science and its antimatter discovery threatening half of Rome. But the film doesn't go too far with the debate because it is first of all entertainment with just enough intellectual stimulation to satisfy any stimulus bill around.