Angels & Demons (2009) – Ron Howard

Tom Hanks reunites with Ron Howard to bring Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon back to the screen in his second adventure (his first in the novels). Once again the renowned symbologist finds himself in over his head, but his wits and knowledge will be key to surviving.

When the pope dies, the Vatican seals itself off for a conclave, in which the next pope will be voted on. But someone is planning on using this to enact a power play and a massive revenge plot, one that ties in with the murder of a priest and the theft of a vial of antimatter from the CERN facility.

Langdon (Hanks) is approached by members of the Vatican after four pope potentials are abducted and a message is delivered hinting that the Illuminati, a science-driven group driven underground by the church for being too heretical, have returned and are planning to exact their vengeance on the Roman Catholics.

With a series of clues and hints, Langdon, who is joined by a physicist from CERN, Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer), gets aid from Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard) of the Swiss Guard, and the Pope’s Camerlengo, McKenna (Ewan McGregor).

And the race is on, to not only recover the missing papal candidates before they are murdered one at a time, hour by hour but the ticking time bomb that is the antimatter, its containment facility slowly losing power.

With recreated sets, beautiful location work, and production, Langdon does what he does best, combining his knowledge of history and art to solve a modern mystery, discover the truth, and true villain, and hopefully save the day. And Howard ably directs and moves the story along at a fast, but enjoyable clip.

Hans Zimmer returns to deliver a solid accompanying score that hints at themes introduced in the first film. And speaking of, there’s a little discussion about how the events of the first film impacted the church’s perception of Langdon in this one.

And they still came to him.

In the end, I actually enjoyed the film adaptation of this one more than The Da Vinci Code. Book-wise Da Vinci is much stronger because there’s that sense of discovery and wonder that permeates it. Angels & Demons works as a solid thriller, and its combination of history and art simply fills out the tale.

Also, thankfully, Hanks has a much better haircut in this film.

Zurer’s Vittoria feels like a stronger character than Sophie was in the previous film, and the production just feels a little more well-rounded overall. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Da Vinci Code, but this one feels like a stronger film.

What will happen in the third film, Inferno, and how close will that one be to the book? I guess we’ll find out next time.

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