6/4/09

Angels & Demons

I told you I would post a review as soon as I saw Angels & Demons. Sorry it took so long...

It's really easy to see this movie as an apology by Ron Howard (henceforth referred to as Opie) to the Church for The Da Vinci Code, but I don't really think that's the case. It does, in a sense, redeem Opie from the heretical claims in the previous movie, but I believe the intent was not so much to apologize as it was to tell an intriguing story about a man returning to help the very institution his previous research ended up undermining. And this he did well.

Let's get this out of the way: I understand that Angels & Demons is, as The Da Vinci Code, a book by Dan Brown. I've heard different things about the relationship between the two books, that A&D is a prequel to Da Vinci and so forth, but I honestly don't have a clue how the books read or in what order they go because I never read. Ok, I don't never read, but I just haven't read these books. Nor am I very interested in Dan Brown material in general. This review is about the movie as a separate entity.

As a thinker in general, I am automatically attracted to Langdon's (Hanks) profession. It's always intriguing to me to see symbols with hidden meanings come together like a jigsaw puzzle. This doesn't always translate well to film, but I think they did it well in this case. Much of the exposition was done while they were rushing off to save the next victim or find the anti-matter container. That said, exposition is never really the most exciting part of the movie. Interesting, maybe, but not exciting. There are only so many gimmicks you can pull out of your hat before you start thinking "alright, you got the clue, let's move on."

As a Christian I was relieved to see the over-all message of the film was that religion and science are not mutually exclusive. They are not like matter and anti-matter which annihilate each other on contact. The Church is portrayed in a relatively good light in this movie. While they do strive to keep some secrets and are chastised for doing so, it's not ultimately for malicious reasons. There is a great line of dialog delivered by one of the bishops portrayed by actor Armin Mueller-Stahl: "Religion is flawed because we are flawed. That includes me." (That's probably not exactly what he said, but it's close enough.) This is true. Religion, as a separate entity from God himself, is a flawed human institution and should not be used as measure by which to gauge the worthiness of the object of worship. As evangelist Ravi Zacharias always says: "You cannot judge any worldview [or religion] by its abuse." And just because early Church leaders saw science as a threat and abused their power to stifle scientific voices does not mean that science is indeed threatening to the church. The two can easily work in harmony.

The production value of the movie was impressive. The cinimatics left nothing behind. Opie is a great director, and I would expect nothing less of the way one of his movies looks. In this particular story, the actors never really had a good chance to shine. Not that they didn't do well, but there was nothing really impressive about Langdon telling us all about symbology or the doctor following him around only to tell them the bomb is going to explode sooner than she expected. I think the best bit of acting in this film was done by Ewan McGregor who played the part of a priest that was very special to the Pope who died in the beginning of the film. Without giving away too much, the part required a lot of un-preist-like qualities that I think Ewan pulled off very well.

In all, I liked the movie. And that's me speaking as both a Christian and a movie geek. After you see Up, Angels & Demons is a good next stop.