I'm not a Dan Brown fan, let's make that completely clear. I have read The Da Vinci Code and that was just because I felt I was perhaps missing out on something. It's a good yarn and it makes you turn the pages. A guilty pleasure, perhaps. But, alas, Mr. Brown you're just a hack writer churning out potboiler thrillers. You're not going to win any prizes for literature.
And so to Angels & Demons. I also have to confess I did not see the film version of The Da Vinci Code and therefore I really didn't know what to expect with this. Aware of the Vatican's grudge match with Brown over The Da Vinci Code and their dogged refusal to allow this production to film in Rome's churches, I thought we'd get two hours of Catholic bashing. However, Ron Howard's film (hardly believable that this is the same Ron Howard that gave us the superb Frost/Nixon in the same year) falls over itself to be nice to the Pope and the internecine religious corporation that he's the CO of.
It's a romp, first and foremost, and will keep those evangelical conspiracy theorists happy as the Catholic church is attacked by that other shadowy organisation, the Illuminati. The Enlightenment era, Bavarian based secret society is allegedly the power behind world governments and corporations and it's manipulation of world events has captured the imaginations of novelists, comic book writers, musicians and film makers. Anyway, the old Pope has carked it and elections are being held but the candidates have all been kidnapped and incarcerated and the Illuminati have nicked some anti-matter from the CERN large Hadron collider in Geneva and are threatening to blow up the Vatican. Robert Langdon, Brown's symbologist hero ('what a relief the symbologist is here' purrs the rather excellent Stellan Skarsgaard's head of Vatican police), has to locate the clerics before they are executed one by one and prevent the anti-matter from leveling Rome.
Langdon has a habit of gabbing on, and on...and on. He is Mr. Exposition in the film, coming out with all sorts of 'interesting facts' about Popes castrating statues, Illuminati symbols, paths of Illumination etc etc. He works out a trail of symbols, leafing through a ton of books, that will lead him to each of the prisoners and sets off to solve the riddle. It's wordy and often a little bit dull and puzzling information endlessly spills from his mouth as he strides through the film. If you like people babbling away trying to solve obscure clues then this is for you. Tom Hanks plays it firmly and terrifically with tongue in cheek, holding the film together, whilst everything and everyone else around him takes it all far too seriously. Ewan MacGregor sleepwalks through most of this as a sympathetic priest but still provides some light amongst the shade of the film. Underneath it all there are themes; science versus church and out of touch religious corporatism being the main discussions going on but the film runs out of energy and can only pay lip service to such ideas.
The deaths of the clerics are rather nasty but it's the only visceral thrill in a film weighed down by the Langdon's endless history lessons and other characters chipping in, the forelock tugging to the Vatican, and director Howard's valiant attempts to make this pretentious jigsaw puzzle at least look like a bone fide epic. And Rome looks especially gorgeous, so I'm sure their tourist board is particularly pleased, even if all the large scale Rome scenes were shot in Hollywood and made copious use of CGI.
The picture quality on Blu Ray is rather stunning. Sharp, with extremely good inky contrast, vibrant colours, particularly the reds, skin tones look great and the image is packed with immaculate detail. The transfer copes magnificently with Howard's lighting scheme and the darker scenes inside buildings or at night. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundstage reproduces dialogue very crisply, throws some low frequency delights our way and comes into its own with Hans Zimmer's thundering score. The sound is especially vibrant in a sequence where Langdon tries to rescue a cleric from a hideous roasting!
We get both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film here with the extended version offering a further seven minutes.
This is the first Blu Ray to show off Sony's new Movie IQ function. It allows you to call up an online database whilst watching the film so you can check on actors' biographies and other details about the film makers. Powered by Gracenote, it offers an updating and ever changing text feature for movies and the information you can access changes as the scenes in the movie alter.
Path To Illumination: is an interactive map which you have to unlock to gain access to behind the scenes footage and material.
The Rome Was Not Built In A Day: is a fairly detailed look, in 17 minutes, at the making of the film, covering all aspects of the film's production, interviews with key crew. It looks at production design, costumes, visual effects.
Cern: Pushing The Frontiers Of Knowledge: is a head scratching 15 minutes spent with the scientists at CERN and the large Hadron collider in Geneva.
Angels & Demons: The Full Story: is a basic PR piece that includes 10 minutes of interviews with Hanks, Howard and even Dan Brown.
Angels & Demons (Sony Pictures Blu Ray - SBR47404 - Region B - Cert 15 - Released September 14th 2009)
Cathode Ray Tube has two copies of the Blu Ray of 'Angels & Demons' to give away. This competition is courtesy of Sony Pictures.
- This competition is open to residents of the UK only over the age of 15, but not employees of Sony Pictures Releasing or their agents.
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