Angels and Exposition: Andy B On Angels and Demons

Let’s make a deal. I won’t judge you for what you like, you don’t judge me for what I don’t like. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin with me stating my unabashed hatred of the Dan Brown novel The DaVinci Code. I cannot believe it sold as many copies as it did and that so many people loved the hell out of it. To me, it was an offensive dud of a novel. No, it wasn’t the conspiracy and religious heresay that offended. It was the absolutely horrible writing. The dialogue was so poorly written, it still boggles my mind to this day. While I know many people who breezed through the novel, it took me countless weeks to finish it, simply because I literally found it so unreadable I had to keep putting it down.

Ok, I’ll give you a minute to judge me.

Anyway, with such a hate on for the book, you’re probably not surprised to read that I didn’t see the film version staring Tom Hanks or read any of Dan Brown’s previous books, such as Angels and Demons, which hits theatres today and which I recently had the chance to see.

I’ll admit to you, I had slightly more interest in this particular film. I like Ewan McGregor, who plays the role of the Carmelego Patrick McKenna and seems incapable of a bad performance. Also, all of the previews made Angels and Demons look beautiful. Plus, the main baddies in the film were supposed to be the clandestine Illuminati, determined to overrun the world as minions of the Anti-christ (they also made Steve Guttenberg a star). At least, that’s my Illuminati. But if I’m to be honest with you, and I will be, I figured that I was going to have a hard time liking Angels and Demons.

And I was right.

On the positive side, Ewan McGregor was as good as he usually is, and his role was surprisingly well-written, given the fact that the screenwriter of Angels and Demons is Akiva Goldsman, one half of the duo that nearly wiped out the Batman franchise thanks to his screenplay for Batman and Robin. The fact that this man has in his possession an Oscar will forever remain one of film’s great tragedies.

Angels and Demons does indeed look great. Shot on location around Rome, the city is itself a character in the film, and one of the more interesting and appealing ones at that. And one more for the plus column, the penultimate scene of the film is without question spectacular and almost makes the movie worth recommending.


Here’s the part where you have to remember that we carry our own biases when we review or talk about a film, or a book, or a comic. What I like, you may hate, and vice versa. The things I may find totally unacceptable about Angels and Demons, like Tom Hanks hair piece, you may not take issue with. Maybe the fact that Hanks’ character Robert Langdon is rarely in any sense of palpable danger won’t bother you. And that’s totally cool with me. I just didn’t care enough about Langdon either way. I suppose Langdon is Hanks’ attempt at having an iconic pop culture character, his own Han Solo or Indiana Jones. The problem is, those characters, along with most icons, are multi-dimensional and memorable. Langdon is humourless, which is far from an appealing trait, especially given the chops of Tom Hanks. I expect more from an actor of his caliber and he just didn’t deliver it.

Angles and Demons also features a ton of exposition. Everything needs to be explained, from the history of the Illuminati to the symbolism of events and markings. There were more than a few moments where I had to shift in my seat to keep from nodding off. The notion of “show, don’t tell” was lost in the film.

The other aspect of Angels and Demons that didn’t work for me in the least was the Illuminati as the villain. As a bit of a conspiracy theorist myself, I found the depiction of the organization to be horribly dumbed down. Whether you believe that the Illuminati exists or not, the use of it in the film seemed so ridiculously simplistic, the boogeyman in the shadows meant to elicit fear. In my case, it just elicited eye rolling.

Of course, you may see things totally differently from myself. At the end of the day, all this stuff that I didn’t enjoy may work for you. It certainly did for the people who made The DaVinci Code a box office smash in 2006, when it generated nearly $460,000,000 worldwide. Meanwhile, Angels and Demons will rule the box office this weekend.

That to me, my friends, is the real conspiracy.

3 Replies to “Angels and Exposition: Andy B On Angels and Demons”

  1. I read both books and neither one is very well written, but I guess that's the point. Simple prose, two-page chapters, and some theories about history so that once people finish reading them, they feel like they learned something. Now they've got a conversation starter at the next party. “Did you know…”

    *spoilers for the book Angels & Demons*

    I was actually looking forward less to this movie than TDVC. Why? Because I didn't know how they were going to make plausible the end of the book where Langdon survives an anti-matter explosion by jumping out of a helicopter and using his jacket as a parachute. He makes it out fine, of course, and all the juicy fallout that should be showering over Vatican City? Naw, we won't mention that.

    Unfortunately my wife has been taken in by the previews, which do show a beautifully-shot film, so I will most likely have to see it sometime over the next few weeks.

  2. Angels & Demons Spoilers:

    Never read the book nor its sequel. Have serious issues (given an Art History background) with TDVC, which was not an altogther bad flick, but seriously:

    An anti-matter explosion? Impossible.

    Using a jacket as a parachute? Incredibly unlikely.

    Fallout over Vatican City? Are we talking about pidgeon droppings here, 'cos if so, then o.k. That's plausible.

    Won't be seeing this in theatres. Will not run to catch this on DVD.

    I am, however, extremely interested in the 3rd book of the series. How much more outlandish can these stories get?

  3. I am in the process of reading A&D now, having inherited the book from a friend who asked me to deliver a box of books to the Salvation Army. I refuse to pay for a Dan Brown novel. When I read the illustrated DVC, it was a library book. Look, I'll admit I enjoyed it, and I am enjoying A&D. I also enjoy eating glazed donuts; it doesn't mean they are good food. I detest the head-hammering exposition! Just one recent example among dozens: When Kohler says that English is the universal language of science, Langdon is surprised because he thought that math was the universal language of science. Argh! That is just juvenile! A man as educated as Langdon doesn't know that scientists around the world communicate in English?!? Or Brown having to write that Langdon was “pretty sure” that recherche nucléaire meant nuclear research. God help us. Only in America are readers assumed to be so illiterate that elementary things like this need to be spelled out for them. These novels, like so much successful storytelling nowadays, are written for direct transfer to the screen, not for love of language or literature.

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