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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » June 3, 2009
The world of movies
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Angels & Demons
June 3, 2009 By Witold Żygulski   
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The sequel to The Da Vinci Code was predestined to succeed and this is exactly what happened: the movie has topped box offices around the globe.

Unlike the previous movie about Prof. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks-Cast Away, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump), Angels & Demons spares viewers longish monologues about history, and instead it delivers a combination of an action-packed adventure thriller like National Treasure and the James Bond saga. The latter style contributes a dozen or so dead bodies and inspires several drastic murder scenes.

Apart from the first and last scenes, the plot only spans a few hours. On the day of a papal conclave in the Vatican, someone kidnaps four preferiti, the cardinals with the biggest chances to become the new pope. The kidnappers call themselves Illuminati, a society of thinkers crushed by the church a few centuries ago. They plan to kill the preferiti one by one at hourly intervals in four different locations in Rome. All four murder sites symbolize the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The terrorists want to conclude their deadly plan with a stupendous blast to wipe the Holy See off the face of the earth, using a canister with antimatter stolen from the CERN research center in Switzerland. The blast would have an impact comparable to that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Brought to the Vatican from the safe and quiet confines of Harvard, Langdon teams up with a CERN scientist by the name of Vittoria Vetra (Israeli actress Avelet Zurer). The couple have less than five hours to prevent the impending Apocalypse and figure out who is behind the scheme. The suspects are many, from Camerlengo Patrick MacKenna (Ewan MacGregor-Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge, Star Wars series) to the Swiss Guards Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard-King Arthur, Mamma Mia, Hunt for Red October) to several cardinals, and time is running out…

The movie may come as a bit of a letdown to fans of the Dan Brown book. The script modifies the original a lot, completely ignoring some key characters and altering others beyond recognition. For example, the original's Assassin, a sadistic Middle Eastern murderer with the burning eyes of a fanatic gets replaced by an ordinary hit man who looks and behaves like a Western European yuppie (Danish actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas-Adam's Apples). One by one he executes his contracts in cold blood, taking breaks to look at his laptop screen to check if any new bank transfers are reaching his bank account. Still, the changes actually do the adaptation good, as the screenwriters have taken the opportunity to ditch the most implausible scenes such as those involving jumping out of a helicopter without a parachute or a close combat between the scientists and the Assassin.

Screenwriters Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend) and David Koepp (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull, War of the Worlds) were cautious not to stir too much controversy or raise the ire of the Church the way The Da Vinci Code did. As a result, the conflict between faith and love for science, very pronounced in the book, is watered down in the movie so that both the agnostic Langdon and almost all the men in cassocks keep talking about the need for science and religion to coexist. In the closing scene, venerable Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl-The Peacemaker, The X-Files) timidly asks Langdon, "When you write about us, and you will, do so gently." In reward, he hands the scholar the original of a treatise by Galileo stored in the Vatican vaults. Smiles are exchanged and good prevails-time to get back to Harvard!
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