Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons

2009, PG-13, 138 min. Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Thure Lindhardt, David Pasquesi.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 15, 2009

When last we saw symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks), in 2006's The Da Vinci Code, he had outwitted Opus Dei and uncovered Mary Magdalene's mortal remains, both under the handicap of a modified bob. Langdon returns in Angels & Demons, another Roman Catholic Church conspiracy piece from bestseller Dan Brown, as do many of the same calling cards of the first: oogly boogly men in vestments, foreign-speaking lady sidekicks, and elaborate puzzles teased in dead languages. What doesn't carry over? Hanks' haircut from the first, and that omission – work with me here – says a lot, none of it promising, about A&D's diminishing returns. The unholy union of Anna Wintour and Timothy Hutton, Hanks' Da Vinci locks seemed to shape-shift at different angles from bowl cut to mullet to Prince Valiant. It was comically bad, a giggling affront to good taste, not unlike the film at large: so ludicrous and overpuffed as to be, well, kinda fun. But Angels & Demons will have none of that. Okay, a little of that: When we are first reunited with Langdon, he's snugged into a sporty little Speedo, but that may very well be the first and only crack in the filmmakers' obsessively straight face. (I, on the other hand, had a hard time not snickering at composer Hans Zimmer’s opening salvo: Nothing intimates doom like the Carl Orff-like combo platter of timpani and a men's chorus.) This time around, the church itself calls in the agitator Langdon for help when the Preferiti – the four favorites to replace the newly dead pope – are kidnapped. All signs point to the Illuminati; to prove science's superiority over religion, the secret sect intends to kill one cardinal an hour and then – the big finish – demolish Vatican City with a stolen canister of antimatter (the so-called "God Particle"), which will set off a Hiroshima-like house-cleaning at the stroke of midnight (when, um, the canister's battery dies). Langdon attempts to decode various clues leading to the captive cardinals before the clock runs out; the bulk of Angels & Demons takes place in chase mode. Two sequences stand out as suspenseful and smartly rendered – we know what's at stake (death by suffocation or drowning), and we know what needs to be done (a breath of fresh air, in both cases) – but something's surely amiss, especially in a production of this scale, with this kind of talent at the helm, when these are exceptional instances and not the norm. Screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman don't require, or even particularly encourage, the audience to use its own little gray cells in unraveling the plot (which mostly consists of Hanks pointing at an ancient text or crumbling cathedral and muttering something explanatory), so the only thrill here comes from the adrenaline kick of the chase. Alas, it's an empty, Pavlovian kick at best.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Ron Howard
Opie on Top
Opie on Top
AFF to honor Ron Howard's extraordinary contribution to filmmaking

Kimberley Jones, July 14, 2009

More Ron Howard Films
Ron Howard's documentary shows the great tenor in all his humanity

Steve Davis, June 21, 2019

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Should you have a bad feeling about this stand-alone Star Wars?

Richard Whittaker, May 25, 2018

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Meet the Interns
We Have an Issue: Meet the Interns
COVID may have robbed our summer interns of the hands-on experience of putting out a paper, but they’re making the most out of their virtual internship

July 10, 2020

First Cow
Kelly Reichardt's latest historical amble finds literal sweetness in the mire

July 10, 2020


Angels & Demons, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Thure Lindhardt, David Pasquesi

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle