I just raked The Da Vinci Code over the coals, so let us turn to Angels & Demons, shall we? This Dan Brown novel came before "The Da Vinci Code," but that book was more famous, necessitating that its adaptation arrive first. "Angels & Demons" is the better and more exciting novel, and, on its surface, it should have been an easier adaptation to the silver screen. Despite the critical drubbing The Da Vinci Code received, Sony invited director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman back three years later to again butcher an adaptation of Brown's work. My gracious, my goodness this is such a bloated, embarrassing mess that I cannot fathom how it cost $150 million to make. I recalled this film being marginally better than its predecessor, but upon further review it is even less impressive. At least Angels & Demons did not get heartily booed at Cannes. It did not screen there, of course.
The film opens as Pope Pius XVI suddenly dies, and the Roman Catholic Church prepares for the papal conclave to elect the next Pope. The Camerlengo, Father Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), is in charge during the conclave, but four of the cardinals favored to be the next pope are abducted. Their kidnapper claims to represent the Illuminati, and threatens to kill a cardinal each hour starting at 8 p.m. that evening before destroying the entirety of Vatican City. The man claims possession of a vial of antimatter recently stolen from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which is powerful enough to level the entire area. Trusty symbologist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is called to the Vatican to assist in saving the day.
Before Brown went a bit overboard with his nerd chic leading man, he played Langdon a little cooler and closer to the vest. In the novel, Langdon travels deep inside the Vatican and discovers secrets within the Catholic Church that could shake its very foundation. He does this in the film, too, but Langdon adopts the dopey, tell-me-everything demeanor birthed in the previous outing. Howard and company again insist on spelling every plot development out for the audience, which robs the film of any suspense it may have otherwise offered. Hanks and co-star Ayelet Zurer, who plays scientist Vittoria Vetra, run from landmark to landmark in Rome, looking for clues to save the cardinals. "Look, a clue!," Landon said. "I bet that's important," said Vetra, admiring Langdon's tweed blazer. Seriously, this is how the entire 138-minute film plays out.
This adaptation irritates me more than The Da Vinci Code because it dumbs down a fairly interesting conspiracy thriller. Brown weaves a tale of red herrings and religious intrigue to cover human tracks, and I recall being genuinely surprised as the novel's plot unspooled. Unfortunately for viewers, Angels & Demons simply rolls from plot point to plot point without purpose or intrigue. Gone are any internal reflections from Langdon or character motivations for anyone, and in their wake lies a dull, overlong drama seriously lacking in actual drama. The novel's effective climax unspools like a cheap James Bond knockoff, and Howard again provides zero personality behind the camera. Between the disappointing reactions to The Da Vinci Code and this film, it is not surprising Inferno is tanking at the box office.
This sequel also receives a 4K remaster, and this transfer is more impressive than that provided for The Da Vinci Code. Sharpness and clarity are excellent, and this transfer provides a sharp, clear and pleasing HD presentation. The thin layer of grain appears natural and stable, colors are nicely saturated, and skin tones are accurate. Black levels are inky and shadow detail is impressive. I noticed no print flaws or edge enhancement.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is immersive, with plenty of ambient and action effects to surround the viewer. Dialogue is clear and balanced appropriately with effects and score. The surrounds and subwoofer are used frequently, and the mix impresses in both quiet, dialogue-driven scenes and during action sequences. A host of lossy dubs and subtitle options are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in an Elite Blu-ray case that is wrapped in a glossy slipcover that replicates the awful cover artwork. An insert offers an UltraViolet HD digital copy. You get a couple of new extras: Legacy of Langdon (4:10/HD), a look at the new film Inferno, and the Extended Cut Scenes (9:23/HD). As with the new The Da Vinci Code Blu-ray, this re-issue of Angels & Demons drops the 146-minute extended cut of the film and includes only the 138-minute theatrical version. You can choose to watch those scenes separately as a bonus. You also get the Teaser Trailer (1:11/HD) and the Theatrical Trailer (2:16/HD). The remainder of the supplements appeared on the previous Blu-ray release, reviewed here in 2009, and include over an hour of production featurettes.
After watching the lackluster The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons back to back, I will certainly not be lining up to see Inferno in theaters. I prefer this Dan Brown novel to its more popular sequel, which makes this bloated, dull adaptation all the more disappointing. Skip It.