Wednesday, November 25, 2009
ANGELS & DEMONS Review
by Brian Holcomb
It's easy to look at the work of novelist Dan Brown and think that virtually anyone could be just as successful by using Wikipedia and the cut-and-paste function on their computer. Look up some arcane trivia about the Catholic Church, make a few references to the Illuminati or the Knights Templar, and mix it all up in some kind of treasure-hunt mystery based on clues found in ancient documents. That gets you more than halfway there. Establish some symbologist or semiotician as the hero, add a smart European heroine who is basically the modern-day version of the "kidnapped scientist's daughter," and in just a few weeks you could create something like "The Michelangelo Connection."
These external trappings obscure Brown's real skill as a writer, which lies in plot construction. It might be easy to concoct the framework of an exciting thriller, but it's quite another thing to keep the reader in suspense for 500-odd pages. While Brown's novels have cerebral subjects, they remain old-fashioned pulp adventures at heart, featuring the hero surviving cliffhangers while trying to save the world from literal or figurative ticking bombs. Brown is very good at keeping the action moving in a very linear, scene-by-scene manner. Which is exactly why they are perfect source material for movies.
How director Ron Howard failed to make an entertaining movie out of Brown's fourth novel, The Da Vinci Code, remains a mystery more puzzling than the story itself. As a filmmaker, Howard is an anonymous but dependable craftsman. Da Vinci, however, was inept. Paced like a Sunday visit to the Louvre, the film was talky in the extreme, dramatically neutral, and featured a hero who was more of a bystander than an active participant. Tom Hanks' weird experimental hairstyle didn't exactly help matters either. In terms of cinematic craft, Howard's flat and ludicrously self-important film was like a handbook on how not to craft a suspense thriller.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by Angels & Demons. It appears that Howard knew that he had to change the way everything was done in the previous film, and sending Tom Hanks to the barber was a very good start.(Read the rest of the review at CINEMABLEND.COM )