- by Adrian Mack
Oh shit! The Pope is dead, the Papal conclave is in deadlock, the crowd in St Peter’s Square is getting restless if not downright noisy and - worst of all - the dreaded Illuminati is going to blow up Vatican City and most of Rome with an anti-matter bomb!
For the love of God, somebody get Tom Hanks!!!
In Angels & Demons, Ron Howard’s sequel to his equally stupid 2006 blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, based on another Dan Brown toilet reader, the Illuminati is heaven-bent on revenge for a violent Church purge that forced the enlightened order underground in the 17th Century. This gives Ritchie Cunningham the opportunity to explore the timely debate over faith vs. science.
Being a big dumbass Hollywood yarn spun from half-truths and whole poppycock, the debate couldn’t be any more simplistically presented if Sandra (Pajama Time) Boynton had penned the script, but that’s because Angels & Demons isn’t so much about thinking as it is about calming the frayed nerves of movie-watchers trained to perceive honorary U.S. Army Ranger Tom Hanks as some sort of paternal voice of American reason. And Hanks sure schools those useless arseholes in the Swiss Guard for not treating the Illuminati like the dire threat it really is. “Jeez,” he bitches at them. “You guys don’t even read your own history!”
Reprising his role as hairstyle-impaired symbologist Dr. Robert Langdon, but really just adding flesh to all the psycho-political things signified by the words "Tom Hanks", Tom Hanks is tapped by the Vatican to undergo another intense night of puzzle-solving after the Illuminati kidnaps the four Cardinals of the Preferiti and begins snuffing them out. One every hour, in accordance with some overwrought hooey concerning the four elements (science!), all as a sort of foreplay before the literal Big Bang planned for midnight. Thus begins Langdon’s ripping yawn through the secret catacombs of Rome, aided by a pneumatic particle physicist (Ayelet Zurer), Vatican cops, and the skeptical Commander of the Swiss Guard (Stellan Skarsgård).
By the time Langdon discovers the first holy corpse with its mouth stuffed with dirt, Angels & Demons starts to look like a half-assed, Malachi Martin version of Se7en. The idea of ritualistically branding and then killing the Pope’s farm team also has a certain Monty Python or Luis Bunuel ring to it, but at least they would have made it funny.
Enter Ewan McGregor
A third act twist only raises the hokum, not that Ewan McGregor’s pious-if-modern and tremendously handsome Camerlengo parachuting out-of-the sky and into probable Popedom hasn't already stretched one’s faith in the Howard-Hanks filmmaking team to the limit.
As a two-and-a-half hour potboiler, Angels & Demons is flat, obvious, and looks like shit. As an exercise in Hollywood message-insertion, it’s also flat, obvious, and looks like shit. Hanks’ Langdon is largely responsible for reconciling heaven and earth in his inimitably prudent way, which is just another day’s work for Mr. Oswald-Did-It. Rest assured that even in these cockamamie times, you can set your watch to Tom Hanks.
But perhaps the most significant part of Angels & Demons, if not the most explicit, is a subplot involving the murder of a popular pope. This is derived from the actual murder of an actually popular pope - John Paul I, whose pledge to rid the Vatican of corruption led to a murder spree and his own death in 1978, after a mere 33 days under the big pointy hat. He was replaced by the arch-Conservative swinging dick JP II, and the Vatican’s astronomical wealth and power remains unchanged.
Behind all that is a tale of staggering corruption and vice featuring a Masonic Lodge called Propaganda Due, and an international cast of mobsters, right-wing politicians, former Nazis, and bankers. It's reduced to a one-liner in Angels & Demons, which is the movie's way of saying "fuck you" to anyone who cares.
Most people don’t know about the Banco Ambrosiano scandal. But they certainly know about Dan Brown’s bullshit-packed airport grade conspiracy fiction and the crappy movies it spawned.
Illuminati? Please, it's got nothing on Sony Pictures.