5 Nov 2011

Angels and Demons

In the early part of the previous decade you weren’t any one unless you had read Dan Brown. Seriously you could have your New Zealand residence revoked if you had not read the Di Vinci Code. It was the new literary zeitgeist, and at the time I hadn’t seen this much  excitement hit adults over a book since Harry Potter. 

Being the curious animal I am, I borrowed a copy and read it

My most memorable moment of that book was muttering out loud “If there is one more bloody flash back I’ll rip this bloody book in half!” to which the actual owner of the book said “Oh no you won’t”

I returned to the flash backs shame faced.

So no I did not enjoy the Di Vinci Code. To me it was a pulp version of Umberto Ecos Foucaults pendulum, which if you like Eco, then I would recommend it.  But Dan Browns Di Vinci Code left me cold.  I found the plot ludicrous, and I found the writing sloppy.

When I heard that they were making a movie, and logically they would, I had no interest to see it. Then when they made a prequel of one of Mr Brown’s earlier books, I had even less inclination to spend my hard earned silver at the cinema watching it. You can imagine my unbridled joy to know that both movies are in H’s collection.

Lets move to a synopsis:
The Pope is dead and the next candidates in line have been kidnapped by a secret society, the Illuminati. The church persecuted the Illuminati in the middle ages and now they want revenge. The Illuminati have also stolen some anti matter from the CERN science facility located in Switzerland, where the large hadron collider is. The Illuminati are going to use the anti matter to create a bomb to enact their revenge on their ancient enemies. 

 The Vatican police recruit Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University, who is also the most prominent scholar of Illuminati history.  Langdon with help from Camerlengo McKenna (Ewan McGregor), Vittoria Vetra, a scientist from CERN (Ayelet Zurer) ,and inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) race against timeto save the cardinals from being murdered, and Vatican City blown up.

It is directed by Ron Howard and written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, The first writer did Spider Man and then wrote a whole parcel of bad scripts after that.  Goldsman wrote I Robot and episodes of Fringe the TV show. Both of which I enjoyed.

Prior to this, and despite a reasonable cast and good director, the film just didn’t interest me, as I have mentioned earlier. My experience with Brown did not interest me in his writing or anything associated with his work. I suspect that he is playing to the general trend of anti-Christian sentiment to gain popularity by demonising (no pun intended) the Catholic Church. I could be wrong in this, but given the history of the Church, why would you need to invent stuff about them.

As a student of history I do not like people inventing or changing history in a way that I think is inappropriate. The use of artistic licence obviously assists with a good narrative, and can assist in the transition form one medium to the other.  Also a tweak here and there can create marvellous opportunities for story telling. 
Kayne West revealing the secret of his success

But this sort of invention annoys me. The premise that the church burned the Illuminati to death in the fourteenth century is completely untrue, and is historical slander.  Not to a scale of U571, but it makes me cringe to know people are quoting this movie to demonise the church. Even though the film itself portrays the Vatican characters in a sympathetic light.

But in saying all that, the film was enjoyable to watch. With such a strong cast the performances were very good. I thought McGregor’s performance was excellent, and he stole pretty much most of the scenes. The film was shot in Vatican city and Rome, the setting adding to the drama of the work . The story pacing was good, if the story itself was a bit ludicrous. Normally that sort of thing makes me detach, but the movie did still manage to hold my focus until the finale.  I suspect if you had a weaker cast this would have bombed, as it was it was not a great critical or financial success. It was a lot better than I expected, and depending on your taste a very enjoyable movie.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I think you will be too.

Five and a half Monkeys from me.

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