Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons is based on the book by Dan ‘Da Vinci Code’ Brown and is directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks and all I can really say about it is this: if there is one movie you don’t see this year, do make it this one. Or, as you’ll never read on the poster but is true nonetheless: ‘Magnificently missable. Do yourselves a favour’. At first, it’s so preposterous and so bad it’s almost OK, kind of funny, but after 20 minutes even that wears thin and then it hits you: there are still two hours to go. How, how, how is it to be endured? Mid-way through, at the press screening, I even heard one reviewer emit a noise of the sort I had never heard before. It was part-yawn, part-anguished-howl-of-boredom, and went, ‘AEEOOOWWWW.’ Now, it wouldn’t do to name names, for fear of reprisals but, yes, it was me. This means that next time I see me, I’ll probably have to punch myself. Damn.
So, first there was the Hollywood blockbuster version of The Da Vinci Code — also directed by Howard and starring Hanks — and now this, in which Hanks returns as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who is tootling about as Harvard symbologists no doubt do when an official from the Vatican summons him to Rome. The Vatican, it appears, is in trouble and it is big trouble. Following the death of the old Pope, a secret, science-worshipping society — the Illuminati — have kidnapped four cardinals and have also planted a bomb in Vatican City. The bomb is made of ‘anti-matter’, which the society stole from CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva. Quite why they went to all this trouble and didn’t just opt for a regular bomb, is anyone’s guess. There is no external logic to this film, just as there is no internal logic or any kind of logic, not even the sort that pops out for milk but may be back at any minute. It’s a logic-free bonanza!
Anyway, Robert flies in to help, via helicopter which, I’m thinking, has to be quite a feat, trans-Atlantically, although the main problem with Robert is this: he has no personality. He has no quirks, no endearing habits, no affectations, and no back story. All he does, all the time, is spew exposition. He’s sprinting across rooftops and he’s spewing exposition. He’s racing from a burning church and he’s spewing exposition. ‘In 1698…huff, puff…the church kidnapped…pant, pant…the Illuminati…’ You could tie this man down and gag him and he’d still find a corner of his mouth from which to gasp: ‘The Illuminati…did not become famous…until 1700.’ Meanwhile, he is teamed with Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) a beautiful Italian physicist of the sort that it is actually good to see occasionally on film, otherwise people might think physicists were scholarly people with, perhaps, nothing much going for them in the looks department. I know one who even wears glasses, for example. Vittoria, like Robert, also has zero personality. The two were made for each other but not for cinema, where they will bore you to death.
This is a race-against-time movie, so Robert and Vittoria do just that and race against time as police cars screech and cardinals are murdered, all the while following the clues the Illuminati helpfully left on a video. Why? Why would anyone help with their own detection? Because this is a logic-free bonanza, dumbo! I suppose I should mention that Ewan McGregor turns up in this, as does Armin Mueller-Stahl. Previously, I’d have said I could happily watch these two in anything, but I’ll now revise that. I could watch them in anything bar this.
Look, I’m usually up for a bit of overblown nonsense as much as anyone — in fact, show me some overblown nonsense, and I’m there — but the whole thing is so joyless and pedestrian and patronising and cynical and boring I could only respond in one way, and that was with an: ‘AEEOOOWWWWWW.’ And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to punch myself. It’s right and it’s fair and even seems like the comparatively interesting thing to do.