Director Ron Howard ventures into the absurd with his latest film, “Angels & Demons”. A sequel of sorts to “The DaVinci Code”, Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon, Harvard professor turned action hero. The pope has died suddenly. An ancient threat returns to destroy the Catholic Church on the first day of the conclave, the meeting where church cardinals elect the new pontiff. The fabled Illuminati have kidnapped the four cardinals (Preferiti) likeliest to succeed. They will kill a cardinal each hour leading up to midnight; branding them with antiquities symbols for earth, wind, fire, and water. Then at the stroke of midnight, they will eradicate the church forever with a powerful weapon from its greatest enemy – science. Langdon has mere hours to stop the Illuminati from executing their heinous plan.

The general plot of Angels & Demons is well conceived and initially interesting. The problem is that willing suspension of disbelief evaporates under the preposterous clues left by the villains. Langdon, the Illuminati expert, is literally able to decipher each puzzle within minutes, traverse all of Rome, and still be able to have character interactions in the brief time frame given. Not possible. Also, many of the clues are statues literally pointing in the right direction. So if one statue or painting had been moved in the last few hundred years, he would be screwed in his search. Too many astonishingly obscure variables fall into place for this film to be believed.

I was able to spot the antagonist within the first ten minutes of the film. It’s that obvious. You then sit around for a whopping two and half hours; waiting for Langdon and crew to uncover something that is achingly apparent to the audience. There’s really no surprise or mystery whatsoever in who the bad guy is. For all the history and extraordinary details put in this script, it’s criminal that the suspense element is so lacking. This is an absolute deathblow to a thriller.

The film works from a visual standpoint. Ron Howard is an all-time great director. He has the skill and money to make any movie look fantastic. But a dressed up pig is still a pig. An A-list star, like Tom Hanks, and good production design doesn’t make up for weaknesses of the script. Angels & Demons is just too plodding and obvious. Worth seeing if you like scenic vistas of Rome and Vatican City.

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