Not that the movie, the latest in the Dan Brown-Catholic Church-conspiracy free-for-all of a series, isn’t perfectly understandable on its own. But the mix of heavy history-as-conspiracy lectures, life-threatening situations, and holy men triple-crosses is aimed at very specific tastes, and it’s a lot easier to say never mind to a book than it is to a two and a half hour-long movie.
Following the continued adventures of symbologist Robert Langdon, “Angels and Demons” is a literary prequel to “The Da Vinci Code” that has been turned into a sequel by Hollywood (though fans shouldn’t worry – all that means is a couple of references to a ‘previous incident’ and several annoyed Catholics).
Though it’s always dangerous to offer plot outlines in conspiracy thrillers, the basics are that the Pope is dead, the four cardinals that were the favorites to replace him have been kidnapped, and antimatter may blow the whole city sky high. And, once again, only Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) can save the day.
The history lessons fly as thick and fast here as they did in “The Da Vinci Code,” though here they’re all in an intensive class about the secret society known as the Illuminati. Though Google assures me that the group did briefly exist a few hundred years ago, Langdon joins in the ranks of conspiracy theorists of giving them a membership roll of some of history’s greatest men, a healthy amount of power, and a much longer history than most historians do. I enjoyed the history in “The Da Vinci Code,” but here I was tempted to roll my eyes at the man.
Of course, since this is a Dan Brown movie there really is a conspiracy going on. It’s wise to go in trusting absolutely no one, and the plot twists in the last third of the movie are dramatic and twisty enough for a thriller about the mystery and grandiosity of the Catholic Church. I did figure out the biggest one after the first 20 minutes, but that just means that I’m a deeply paranoid person.
Before then, it’s an equal mix of lectures and genuinely tense moments, though some of the imagery wanders a little too close to the disturbing for my personal tastes (file it under the category “Priests killed in creative ways”). There’s one scene that takes place under water where I was actually cheering Langdon on, worried for his life and those of everyone else involved.
The book, however, is probably going to stay on the shelf.