One of the rules in the mystery thriller genre is that if you want to find your suspect for the killings, it’s probably not the obvious answer. One should be suspicious of the nice, the genteel, the physical unthreatening, and often the sexual repressed/fey types. If the idea is surprising your audience, the person in the first act cutting the brushes will probably not be the killer, unless he never shows up again, and the camera lingers (the Hunt for Red October rule). As mystery/thrillers go, Angels & Demons is perfectly competent, but never much more, and the person most likely to be the ringleader is evident if the rules above are paid attention to. My review of the Angels and Demons Blu-ray after the jump.
Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon, called to the Vatican to help after the illuminati have shown their hand and threaten to kill the four leading contenders to replace the current – now deceased – pope. There’s also intrigue as the large haldron collider (hey!) has created anti-matter, and it’s been stolen, which is why Langdon teams up with the hot scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer). He’s joined at the Vatican by the pope’s former assistant Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), and inspector Richter (Stellan Skarsgard). Also at the Vatican, Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who is conducting the election for the next pope, but the four missing priests aren’t dead yet, so the election is postponed as long as it can as people wait outside for the results.
Langdon needs access to the library files of the Vatican to decode what the illuminati are going to do next, so he hits up their library and finds the answers he needs, which sends him from pope candidate to pope candidate hoping to rescue them before they’re killed. Some priests die in the interim, and it appears the illuminati have found their way into the Vatican with that missing anti-matter.
If the first film was sloppy, stupid, and based on strange, bullshity nonsense conspiracy theories to forward the plot, Angels & Demons is a little more anchored, but the plotting isn’t as heightened. There was something to the goofy nonsense of the first film’s “child of Jesus,” artwork revealing hidden truths that was good pulp fun. Whereas here, it doesn’t have the same sacrilegious kick, and audiences responded similarly as this did okay but wasn’t a global phenomenon like the first film. Ron Howard is a competent shooter, and the film gets across, but he doesn’t have the Hitchockian love for set pieces that would make this into more than the sum of a solid but unremarkable murder mystery. It’s also not very taut, which is the greatest sin a picture like this can commit. There’s a good sequence where the air goes out of a sealed room, but that’s about the highlight, and Langdon is more in running mode than genius mode. Still, a very forgettable night at the movies.
Sony presents the Blu-ray in a perfect widescreen (2.40:1) transfer and in English 5.1 DTS-HD. There are two cuts of the film, with the theatrical running 138, and the extended cut running 146 minutes. Negligible, but there you go. The film also comes with a digital copy. Extras on the second disc include “The Path of Illumination” which walks you through the locations of the film. This offers location tours, behind the scenes footage, text information, and info about what the location was used for specifically in the film. Then there’s some featurettes. “Rome was not Built in a Day” (18 min.) covers the making of the film, while “Writing Angels and Demons” (10 min.) gives David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman their propers for writing the film on the verge of the writer’s strike. “Characters in Search of the True Story” (18 min.) talks to the performers and “Cern: Pushing the Frontiers of Human Knowledge” (15 min.) gives the Collider its due. “Handling Props” (12 min.) gets into the work that goes into recreating the Vatican, while “Angels and Demons: The Full Story” (10 min.) wraps up the making of, while finally “This is an Ambigram” (5 min.) talks to the real Robert Langdon, who helps create the upside-down text that appears in the film (and can be read the same by rotating the text 180 degrees). This feels light, but no one was running on all cylinders with this film.