Monday, May 18, 2009

Watching Bad Movies So You Don't Have To: Rickey Reviews "Angels & Demons"

"To pay to see this movie would be an affront unto God, Man, and Good Taste" -The Gospel of Rickey, 5:18

Pop quiz moviegoers: what do you get when you make a movie featuring a lead actor who hasn't made a good film since "Bonfire of the Vanities," shot by a director who hasn't made a good film since "Apollo 13," based on a book by a guy who hasn't written a good novel since... well ever? You get one seriously terrible movie.

"Angels & Demons" kicks off much like any other subtle intellectual movie about the conflict between science and religion: with a member of the Illuminati breaking into a particle collider facility using the old "gouge out somebody's eyeball to get past the retinal scanner" trick, making off with a vial of highly destructive anti-matter, and then planning to annihilate the Vatican and all of Rome in a 5 kiloton anti-matter fueled cataclysmic blast. The Vatican gets word of this and a closed door meeting is convened consisting of a lot of billowing red robes and incense and a consensus is reached along the lines of "Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, we're having a tough enough time getting our priests to keep their hands off altar boys--we ARE NOT equipped to prevent the detonation of an anti-matter bomb." And so the Catholic Church does what any other organization would do in these sorts of situations, they hire a consultant.

Enter stage right, Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon. A man whose intelligence the movie goes to strenuous lengths to point out. Marvel as Tom Hanks mumbles aloud in Latin! He stares pensively at marble statues! He turns pieces of parchment upside down! He sees symbols and icons that non-academics like us could never perceive! He can detect when people are jetlagged! He went to Exeter! (Rickey can totally testify to the intellectual capabilities of Exeter men, by the way. A college buddy of Rickey's who attended Exeter once got rip-roaring drunk and tumbled down a flight of stairs and upon reaching the bottom immediately and correctly proclaimed that he had fractured his fifth metacarpal. Let's see one of you public school lackeys try to pull that off). Tom Hank’s character at first refuses the Vatican’s plea for help, because they’ve been denying him access to their library resources which he needs to complete his book about religious iconography. Even worse, he continues to gripe about his incomplete book throughout the entire damned movie, presumably because he’s worried about losing his tenure at whatever university he teaches at that’s cool with him squinting a lot and walking around like a complete prick.

After some cajoling, Tom Hanks finally agrees to aid the Vatican and sets off for Rome, the location in which both the Illuminati and director Ron Howard have chosen to hold their audience hostage for two agonizing hours. Hanks, with a sassy female scientist in tow, scurries around Rome trying to track down an Illuminati terrorist whose nefarious plan is unraveled by his ill advised decision to commit his crimes in easily discovered locations marked by Renaissance statues pointing directly at them. There's enough sweeping camera angles, flowing red robes, and pageantry in this film that one has a tough time believing that the Catholic Church didn't make the movie themselves. In actuality, the Catholic Church forbade Ron Howard from shooting "Angels & Demons" in Vatican City, apparently unaware of the benefits of any media coverage that distracts the public that we live in a day and age in which it's necessary for a religious organization to buy an insurance policy for pedaresty.

The action in “Angels & Demons” is completely uninspired. Trust us, you’ve seen enough movies shot in Italy with small European cars whizzing through crowded streets not to be impressed by this one. One thrilling scene even features Hanks trying to escape from the hallowed Vatican archives as oxygen is drained from an airtight reading room (and you thought senior citizens breaking wind at your local library was bad). The main bad guy is a bespectacled member of the Illuminati, a secret society introduced into the movie’s plot to pander to the highly coveted tinfoil hat/ten sided die owning demographic.
After much scurrying about the prominent tourist spots of Rome, the movie climaxes with a heroic priest played by Ewan McGregor grabbing the anti-matter bomb right as it’s about to detonate, hopping in a helicopter and flying it way the hell up into the sky, then parachuting out at the last moment as the bomb goes off. Call us nuts, but a movie that takes itself so seriously really shouldn't have parachuting priests in it. McGregor then lands in St. Peter’s Square and the amazed crowd promptly demands that he be anointed as the next Pope (the previous one was murdered—don’t ask). And this was when Rickey stopped watching. Twenty minutes remained in the movie, so we’re assuming that Ewan McGregor turns out to be the bad guy and that Clint Howard is made Pope, thus ushering in a brave new era for creepy pederasts everywhere.

To refer to the themes that “Angels & Demons” plays with as actual ideas would be an insult to sentient thought, but the central conceit of the movie seems to revolve around the conflict between science and religion. Kudos to Dan Brown and Ron Howard for dredging up a debate that’s every bit as fresh as Galileo’s corpse and continues to rage on to this day in yawn inducing poorly attended core curriculum courses across the nation. People refer to the “controversy” surrounding this Dan Brown nonsense and it irritates Rickey. Just like the Da Vinci Code, it’s all manufactured nonsense originating from a poorly written and misinformed book. Rickey was far more hyped and buzzed when Gillette added a fifth blade to their razors. If this movie actually was controversial, it might be interesting to watch, but no, it’s far worse than that. It’s a bore.

CNN ran a story this morning about how this movie was No. 1 at the Box Office, then they ran a story about a car bomb exploding in Iraq. Both stories elicited the same response from Rickey. Rickey’s verdict: avoid this one at all costs. And if you're one of the folks who contributed to this movie's $48 million opening weekend at the box office, say 56 Hail Marys and smack yourself upside the head.

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Smitty said...

I will describe the literary works of Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code thusly: fun. The were fun thrillers, very pulp, and entertaining. Not great. About on the same par as Clancy.

The problems began when, as happens to Clancy books, people started to take Brown's books as some sort of newly unveiled truth. Then people read them as some sort of philosophical statement and textbook of biblical history.

The Catholic Church didn't help. They could have said "'s just a work of fiction." Instead, they went batshit crazy and it fanned the flames.

And so now what should have been brainless entertainment has been blown into this franchise. But where Indiana Jones movies never took themselves seriously and were better for it, these movies seem to take themselves very seriously indeed.

Rickey Henderson said...

Rickey will describe the literary works of Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code thusly: not literary works.

Out of curiosity, did the book also have skydiving priests?

You're 100% right--it's the seriousness that kills these movies. If you're gonna make something like this, make it like National Treasure.

Adam said...

Papal Paratroopers? I think I jsut found a name for my new garage band!

How was Hans Zimmer's score? (the only worthwhile thing to come out of the first movie).

Rickey Henderson said...

That was the worst part--they cut out the heroic theme from Zimmer's score from the last film (you know, the soaring music that plays when Tom Hanks has those "Beautiful Mind" moments where he decrypts the code). Just all around weak sauce.

bobmelonosky said...

I hate movies with eunuchs. In DaVinci, Tom Hanks spends three hours with that smoking hot French actress and never even cops a feel.

Is the similarly hot Israeli actress similary wasted?

Adam said...

"Chevaliers de Sangreal" is the piece, Rickey. I have decoded part of the track's title to mean "Royal Blood" which tells me that Tom Hanks is a royal tampon. But seriously, they wouldn't use the Holy Grail music in this one. Thye needed anti-matter music. And I guess Jerry Goldsmith being dead kind of took away from that fun.

Rickey Henderson said...

@Bob: Sadly, no. No time for love, Dr. Langdon. That's probably the greatest irony of all in the movie--for a guy who proclaims to be critical of the Catholic Church, Hanks' Robert Langdon is chaste like a freaking priest.

Adam said...

According to some film score geeks, Chevaliers de Sangreal is on the A&D soundtrack- Joshua Bell plays it on his Stradivarius. Does that ring a "bell" to you, eh?

Rickey Henderson said...

No, none whatsoever. Perhaps it was played during the credits. Thanks for luring Rickey's inner movie nerd out into the light by the way...

Smitty said...

Hey! I hear Dan Brown's next book comes out pretty soon!

Lots in Samara Costa Rica said...

I saw that movie and is great, thanks for the blog!!!