Angels & Demons: 10 Things I Didn’t Like, 5 I Did

Angels and Demons is the somewhat anticipated follow-up to The DaVinci Code, and by almost every measure the new film is superior. Better action, more entertaining, shorter hair… and yet it still manages to be one of the most ridiculous movies of the year.
By  · Published on May 17th, 2009

Editor’s Note: As with many of our Ten and Five articles, this article does contain spoilers. Consider your heathen ass warned.

Angels and Demons is the somewhat anticipated follow-up to The DaVinci Code, and by almost every measure the new film is superior. Better action, more entertaining, shorter hair… and yet it still manages to be one of the most ridiculous movies of the year. Director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks return for a film sequel based on Dan Brown’s book prequel. The pope has died and the cardinals are gathered in Rome (along with tens of thousands of the faithful) to choose his successor. The Catholic Church is forced to call upon Prof. Langdon for help when the “Illuminati” threatens to publicly kill a kidnapped cardinal every hour for four hours and then blow up the Vatican. It’s almost enough to make a bishop pray for a good old fashioned molestation.

10 Things I Didn’t Like

10) Pentagrams!

I actually don’t hate pentagrams, but their use in the movie resulted in a line that had me laughing aloud in the theater. Langdon and the scientist chick are chasing down clues and enter an old castle-like building. The answer is here somewhere! He brushes some leaves aside with his foot and… “A pentagram!” he exclaims with Academy Award-winning shock and surprise. As if the symbol is the answer to the entire mystery, and as if it had been intricately hidden by more than just some wind-blown leaves.

9) Inept Rome police department

Seriously, these guys make the Keystone Cops look like the FBI. Two memorable scenes involve multiple members of the police force being gunned down one by one… with a pistol… by a single assailant. I don’t think they even get a shot off.

8) Questionable time element

I’ve never been to Rome, but I have to imagine you can’t race across the city in under ten minutes… especially when the city is bursting with giddy Catholics waiting to see puffs of white smoke. Yet Langdon and friends zig-zag from one end of the city to the next several times before each Cardinal is killed. And the single killer (see #2) responsible for all of the mayhem outside of the Vatican could not have accomplished all he does in that time frame.

7) Antimatter and whooshing protons

So a side effect of the Hadron collider is the creation of antimatter. Ooookay. And the real scientists are okay with the priest buried in a basement lab collecting this offshoot material against their better scientific judgment for his own priestly purposes. Riiiiight. But am I really supposed to believe that protons make noise? That they collide explosively then go “whoosh” as they fly through the air around the chamber?

6) Obtuse scientists could have saved everyone a lot of trouble

The bad guy at #2 begins the film as a fake scientist working at the Hadron collider.  After the proton experiment is complete he leaves his post at the control room (a room occupied by less than ten people who must have talked to the guy or shared a lunch break at some point), kills the priest and steals the antimatter, then passes the lady scientist (who looks directly at him) and leaves the facility. She finds the dead body and sees the antimatter is missing seconds after passing the mysterious maintenance man in the hall… but she never gives anyone a description?  No one in the control room realizes one of their guys is missing?  There’s no security cameras in this place?  No photo ID badge or something that could have been passed along to the police?

5) Mad dash to save the cardinal, oh no too late, rinse, repeat

Four cardinals kidnapped and threatened to be killed publicly each hour.  Langdon follows some clues and reaches the first location… cardinal dead.  Follows more clues… cardinal is murdered.  Follows more clues… cardinal is murdered.  Follows more clues… cardinal is almost murdered.  The action here was nice, but the scenes were very repetitive.  Plus, Langdon never adapted as they kept dying.  Once he realized he was too late he should have jumped to the next clue immediately instead of dicking around.  But no… he seems to relax until someone reminds him “dead cardinal in twenty minutes” which causes another round of mad dashing throughout Rome.

4) Obvious mastermind and red herrings

I think it’s Roger Ebert who has a rule about big name actors playing unnecessary characters in thrillers… as in they don’t. So when you see a name actor playing second banana to another lead you should always assume there’s more to the character than you may think. The main bad guy here is even more obvious because in addition to being a big name actor he’s also the only one not made to look guilty. Two others, both recognizable character actors, are made to appear so suspicious as to immediately negate your suspicion.

3) Horrible CGI that makes Wolverine’s claws look real

There’s no reason for a film of this type and with this budget to have such shitty CGI effects. The helicopter carrying the antimatter at the end? Flies straight up above the crowd only to explode (silently for some reason) in the clouds and create the Aurora Borealis… all of it, including the chopper, done with poor CGI. Shots from high above, both of large exterior crowds as well as of Langdon and friends inside tall buildings, are done with poor CGI. One of the interior shots actually resembled those pc games that featured live actors in digitized backdrops.

2) One goddamn guy somehow managed all of that

The obvious mastermind at #4 above is responsible for the overall plan as well as some of the misdeeds within the Vatican, but outside of those walls every single evil act is committed by one hired gun.  One guy who manages steal the container of antimatter, set the bomb, kidnap four cardinals from inside Vatican City, lock them up in cages somewhere in Rome, transport one an hour to a different location throughout the city, set up an elaborate scenario (like suspending the cardinal by his limbs above a giant fire inside a church), escape just as Langdon and the clueless cops arrive, and then do it all over again the next hour.

1) Why leave real clues if you don’t want to be caught

The mastermind wants the Church to think the Illuminati is behind it all, I get that, but why leave enough precise clues to allow for the possibility of failure?  No one would question the veracity of it all if they were stumped and were prevented from saving a cardinal or stopping the explosion… so why even give them the chance?

5 Things I Did

5) Less serious tone than DaVinci

Even with the murders and such the movie had a lighter, more entertaining feel to it then DaVinci.  There were a few intentional laughs as well.

4) Trying to save Catholic Church instead of destroy it

The Church is an easy target for obvious reasons, so it was nice to see someone trying to help it for a change.

3) Less convoluted talk

DaVinci had a lot of chit chat to explain what the hell was going on, and it always slowed the film to a crawl.  The new film is still heavy on the explanation, but it’s presented in shorter clips or while things are actually happening on-screen so it all feels faster.

2) More cool action

The action and suspense scenes were well done in general.  True, they were often incredibly stupid too, but Howard’s direction and the editing combined for some fairly exciting set pieces.

1) Final sacrifice

Before he’s revealed to be the bad guy, a certain character takes it upon himself to save the Vatican and the people by flying the antimatter bomb into the sky before it explodes.  The entire scene (minus terribly fake helicopter effects) is done quite well… suspenseful, dramatic, and powerful.

So yes, there’s much more to dislike about Angels & Demons than there is to like… and yet the movie is still pretty entertaining.  Credit goes to director Howard for realizing his earlier mistakes and making a faster, tighter, more exciting sequel.  You won’t be checking your watch at any point which is a major accomplishment over The DaVinci Code too.  Would I recommend the film to friends and family?  No.  But for all of you strangers, if you’re looking for two hours of mindless fun at the movies there are probably worse options this summer than Angels & Demons.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.