Angels & Demons

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2

Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Ayelet Zurer, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Political/religious thriller. Written by David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman. Directed by Ron Howard.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Tom Hanks reprises his role as Robert Langdon, a symbologist (he deduces clues by reading ancient symbols), in this sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Yes, I said sequel, for although the book version was written before The Da Vinci Code, the screenplay is set after Langdonís plodding investigation of a sect bent on hiding church secrets. This time out, heís tracking down a centuries-old clandestine group determined to destroy the Roman Catholic Church. Or so he thinks.

Forming an uneasy alliance with the papal police, Langdon embarks upon a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and the 400-year-old Path of Illumination in order to decipher clues that will save four kidnapped Cardinals and locate a destructive mechanism able to destroy the Eternal City.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Tom Hanks is our bosom buddy, the Jimmy Stewart of this era, and Ron Howard is both Ritchie Cunningham and the new Frank Capra. From the days when Opie charmed us by skipping stones with his Mayberry Pa, to his adult profession as a dream-weaver who beguiles us with depictions such as those of Apollo astronauts lost in space, Mr. Howard has become a beloved icon. Indeed, both these men are adored in our culture, and therefore it seems nearly sacrilegious to take the names of Hanks or Howard in vain. But like most filmmakers who address religious-themed storylines, both Hanks and Howard feel safer with exposing the foibles of heads of church than exploring their nobilities. It makes for better cinematic drama. So, once again Hanks and Howard have come acourtiní Dan Brown, allowing for the possible ill-will caused by the highly successful authorís past Christian bashing. But if you are wondering if all those anti-A&D articles that upon reflection seem more self-promoting than enlightening, were accurate assessments of the filmís intent, the answer is no. There are other problems with this film, but heresy is not one of them.

Angels & Demons is a mix of fast-paced, action-pumped, nonsensical deeds of derring-do, blended with a tug-of-war theme between science and religion. But is it an attack on the Christian faith? Again, I say no.

Yes, it ponders the question of scientific supremacy, but never does it belittle religion Ė only those who corrupt it. And when asked by a priest if he has any belief in God, the Hanksí character professes that he hasnít been given such a gift. Thatís as close as heíll come to admitting the existence of a Divine planner. But at no point does he refute the existence of God. Thereís even a statement at the end of the film declaring that the world needs both science and faith. The statement is meant to satisfy those who believe science created God, and those of us who believe it to be the other way around.

Though one must do that whole suspension-of-disbelief thing (to give examples of the filmís silly situations and illogical premises would divulge plot points), if you are able to leave all reasoning at the box office, and if you are forgiving of Dan Brownís Da Vinci conspiratorial suggestions, then youíll be able to enjoy its armchair-grabbing thrills, be mesmerized by its gilded Renaissance glow, amazed by a meticulous production design, and subdued by the auteurís visceral directorial style.

There is one other aspect to consider, however. Overshadowed by the Da Vince debate and ignored by those who equate action adventure with blood and gore, Angels & Demons is excessive in its violent shock treatment. The film does contain several disturbing images, including torture, in-your-face shootings and blood-splattering executions Ė not to mention one guy setting himself on fire and burning up before our eyes.

Todayís audiences have been numbed into submission, but the deleterious effects of violence in movies has been discussed to death. My violence warning may therefore be met with apathy. So far, no one Iíve discussed the early screening of the movie with has brought up its violence. But Iíll press my luck, here. In a time when such atrocities are reported on nightly news broadcasts, we still seem to absorb the portrayal of human degradation in the name of entertainment. And there seems to be no line the Hollywood community will cross that filmgoers wonít cross with them.

DVD Alternative: The Shoes of the Fisherman.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Columbia Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: A couple of minor expletives, but I didnít catch any harsh or obscene words other than one misuse of Godís name.

Profanity: One profane use of Godís name Ė muffled, barely audible and by a minor character.

Violence: Several people are either shot dead at close range or suffer forms of torture; we see the suffering bodies before they die; one man sets himself on fire, other extreme visuals include a rat gnawing at a dead manís face; a trail of blood leads to a plucked-out eyeball; another man is nearly drowned; several other unnerving visuals. Blood: Lots of blood.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: 105 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and above

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