They key to The Da Vinci Code’s success was not due to its writing or directing (neither of which were all that outstanding, just merely “ok”), but almost completely bent towards the controversy it created with the Roman Catholic Church. The condemning of the film made for great press as the film generated $758 million worldwide. Flash forward to its sequel, Angels & Demons, just three short years later, and one would expect a similar reaction to this film. But…that wasn’t the case. The Catholic Church didn’t say much about Angels & Demons and as a result…neither did many others. Admittedly Angels & Demons was still profitable (a $150 million budget made for a $485 million worldwide total), just not as much as the first film.
In Ron Howard’s thrilling follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, expert symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows ancient clues on a heart-racing hunt through Rome to find the four Cardinals kidnapped by the deadly secret society, the Illuminati. With the Cardinals’ lives on the line, and the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) desperate for help, Langdon embarks on a nonstop, action-packed race through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and the most secretive vault on Earth!
“So what,” you may ask, “a lot of my favorite films don’t do all that great at the box office! Angels & Demons still made a heckuva profit!” Well yes, that’s entirely true. But pretty much the only reason we even saw this film was because Sony wanted another massive hit like its predecessor gave them. But that just isn’t the case with this film. Admittedly I did enjoy it more than the first film, but to be completely honest the films really aren’t all that great. I mean when you pair up the likes of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard you expect some Oscar material…but all we get from these movies is pure and utter fluff.
Which, to be honest, is completely fine with me. They’re forgettable films, but they’re fun to watch while they last (ala the National Treasure series). In fact this film was so forgettable that when I sat down to write this review the first time, I honestly couldn’t remember much from the movie since it’d been so long since I’d seen it during its theatrical release. At nearly two and a half hours you would think a film would leave a longer lasting impression on me…but, alas, that is not the case. There was little about this film that stuck with me aside from the “twist” at the end.
The time crunch placed on this film (as in the last one as well, I suppose) is really the most exciting element of this one. There’s less talking this time around which was done intentionally since this was actually a prequel to The Da Vinci Code novel, so Ron Howard felt there was more leeway by making this a sequel to The Da Vinci Code film. Either way you cut it, they gave Tom Hanks a hair cut so he’s not rocking the Nicolas Cage look this time around.
Of course the film is loaded with flaws. Most of which involve the actors; only McGregor and Hanks are really recognizable, with most others being actors you either don’t recognize at all or are of the “Oh I know him! Who is he…” variety. Not a real fault for using unknown actors, mind you, but it’s just odd that this film seems to blow its actor wad on two big names and nothing else. In addition I found the acting itself a bit hokey at times, almost hyper-realistic at times. Everything seemed super emphatic or overly emphasized, almost (cheesy) comic book at times.
Other issues with the film is just that it lasts so long; the repetitious preferiti deaths are a bit dull, even if they do gradually get more and more gruesome, and watching Hanks fail repeatedly at his task to save them becomes old hat. Plus there’s that whole segment where Hanks gets trapped in a vacuum sealed room and the oxygen gets shut off; exciting to be sure but really quite pointless as it has no impact on the film whatsoever. That and he seems to recover from having the oxygen cut off fairly fast.
But…flaws aside, this is honestly a fun flick. I don’t have too many nice things to say about it simply because there aren’t many; it’s a bunch of conjecture wrapped up in fancy blockbuster wrapping. What is based in reality is overshadowed by the hyperbole and…well, honestly, it’s just not a really believable film. Still, I’d lump it into the same category as National Treasure and maybe even Indiana Jones, although Jones has quite a bit more substance. But Angles & Demons does fall into the “Fun to watch, if a bit slow and unbelievable” category of flicks and is, at least, worth a Rental. If you found The Da Vinci Code enjoyable, however, this really is a better film than that one since it already gives Tom Hanks’s character a fleshed out background.
Sony is releasing this title in a variety of flavors, with the “ultimate” being the three-disc Blu-ray release. Of course Sony properly advertises this as a two-disc release, as the third disc is just a digital copy. The film itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray double wide case (I guess Sony doesn’t like the condensed cases that Warner uses for their three-disc releases) with the only insert being the code for the digital copy. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the overall presentation of this set is pretty solid.
Should we expect anything less than brilliance from Sony, founders of Blu-ray, for one of their biggest titles of the year? Well, we could, but in this case we don’t have to as the AVC encoded 1080p transfer for Angels & Demons is simply breathtaking. The brilliant settings, visuals, and superb detail run rampant throughout the entirety of the film. While things do get a bit grim and dark towards the end of the film when the sun sets, the vast majority of the film is wonderfully lit and looks simply magnificent. Even when the lights do go down, however, the transfer still holds up and manages to impress as the blacks are nice and deep without any real hint of blocking or crushing. Everything about this transfer just jumps off the screen, as buildings, faces, clothing…pretty much everything is dripping with full detail. Quite honestly I enjoyed watching this movie more on Blu-ray than I did in theaters.
Audio arrives in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and while the idea of running around Rome doesn’t exactly scream awesome sound mix, the end result here is…really quite an awesome sound mix. The walls and floor rumble with the slightest shake in the film, but what really drives the mix home is Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score that simply floods the room at every turn. Plus there are environmental sound effects that kick into high gear as well, especially with the church fire sequence and the underwater bit. Simply put this is a fantastic film to show off your home theater with and watching it loud and on a big TV is almost as enjoyable as the action in the film itself.
Extras are spread across the first two discs and include:
• “Rome Was Not Built in a Day” – The Filmmakers share their secrets to creating the world of Angels & Demons (17:30, 1080p)
• “Writing Angels & Demons” – Dan Brown and the screenwriters discuss adapting his bestselling book into a movie (10:08, 1080p)
• “Characters in Search of the True Story” – The cast share their experiences of bringing Dan Brown’s characters to the screen (17:10, 1080p)
• “CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge” – A look at one of the world’s largest and most respected scientific research centers (14:52, 1080i)
• “Handling Props” – The filmmakers discuss bringing the props from Dan Brown’s book to life (11:35, 1080p)
• “Angels & Demons: The Full Story” – A complete behind-the-scenes look at making the film (9:46, 1080p)
• “This is an Ambigram” – Meet ambigram artist John Langdon the inspiration for Dan Brown’s leading character (4:45, 1080p)
• Hans Zimmer Music Studio Powered by Sequel 2
• movieIQ—Fans can immediately access continuously updated information on cast and crew and explore relevant trivia such as production facts, music and soundtrack information all tied to scenes within the movie
• cinechat—Send on-screen instant messages to your friends around the world while you watch the movie together
• “The Path of Illumination” – Follow Robert Langdon’s journey through Rome and see if you can unlock the path of illumination
The final four items on the list are pretty unimpressive extras. The “Zimmer Studio” is just trial software on the digital copy disc and the movieIQ and cinechat are BD-Live extras. “The Path of Illumination” is pretty cool, however, as Robert Langdon “tours” with you and you see historical video clips and the like along the way. Fun little history lesson.
Overall this is a solid set and one that’s Recommended. The lack of commentary is disappointing, but through all of the various featurettes you get a pretty solid idea of how the film came about. Plus that CERN piece was pretty cool as well. That Collider will kill us all someday…
Angels & Demons arrives on single and two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray on November 24th.