Blu-ray Review: Angels & Demons (2009)

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As Robin said in the gleefully campy original '66 Batman, “some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.” However, what Boy Wonder failed to realize was that the best solution to the bomb problem was to simply let it explode... or attach it to yet another bomb. And sure enough, by adding a bomb to the plot of Angels & Demons, Ron Howard's contractually obligated sequel to the dead-on-arrival cinematic bomb that was The Da Vinci Code explodes into a plot line that's more entertaining to watch.

Although like Code, Demons is similarly plagued with its laughable absence of subtlety since the debate of science vs. religion can't get much more literal than a bomb underneath the Vatican. Yet, the old Hollywood approach employed by Ron Howard fits the material better this time around.

Due to its already overwhelming length, I can't imagine many people choosing to view the film in the Blu-ray's alternate “extended edition,” since we'd invariably be faced with an even greater number of plodding speeches forced upon Oscar winner Tom Hanks' Harvard professor Robert Langdon. However, the Blu-ray's rich transfer of the gorgeous Roman scenery and the production department's tremendously impressive recreation of the Vatican is well worth the price-tag for enthusiasts debating which format offers the most quality for the cost.

Although I'm one of a handful of individuals who hasn't read the Harry Potter or Twilight for grownups like smash that was The Da Vinci Code, I feel I
can view it with an added level of objectivity since in the end knowledge of the source material shouldn't be required to appreciate a film. On the other hand, however when it came to Angels & Demons, once again the filmmakers were placed under intense scrutiny for making an adjustment with Brown's original chronology.

In this regard, they made a decision that was far more controversial than simply changing the ethnic background of Ewan McGregor's Camerlengo from Italian to make the part reflect McGregor's background in his portrayal of the recently deceased progressive Pope's favorite priest. In a drastic move, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment and Sony's Columbia Pictures wisely realized that moviegoers would prefer a continuation of the previous movie so to this end, they transformed Brown's Da Vinci Code prequel Angels & Demons into a film version sequel by setting the events after Code.

Additionally it strengthened the already strained timeline of the cinematic trilogy and especially benefited its screenwriters including Akiva Goldsman (a longtime Howard collaborator) and David Koepp (whom Hanks requested for rewrites) since Demons was delayed two years as “the first big screen casualty” of 2007's, Writer's Guild of America Strike.

Yet despite the fact that poor Hanks is forced to wax academically like he's a contestant on "Catholic Jeopardy," "Ancient Symbol Win, Lose, or Draw," or "Ridiculously Obscure Trivial Pursuit" even when faced with Vatican bomb situations of life or death, overall this sequel drastically improves upon the original. Likewise, the laughably ludicrous and illogical premise is largely forgiven since-- by summer movie comparison-- I'll take a historical scavenger hunt over Hasbro toy franchise pictures any day of the week. And my belief remains true regardless of the fact that I don't think the revenge driven sect of the Illuminati would've gone to the effort of employing Die Hard style clues to risk spoiling their diabolical plan.

Working with another dark haired beautiful female partner and minus his Catch Me If You Can co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio whom Tom Hanks had approached personally to recruit into Langdon's angelic (or rather seemingly agnostic) crew of Illuminati fighters, the movie focuses more strongly on its action based plot. Therefore, it succeeds best when reminiscent of Indiana Jones, National Treasure and The Mummy, and loses us when it halts its
Die Hard approach for pseudo-intellectual Scoody Doo discussions that go around and around in irrational circles that felt as legitimate as the faux syllogism: "if Galileo was a man, and there's a hole in the ground, then we must go down here to reach a crypt."

Fortunately, it boasts one ingenious twist that most viewers won't see coming since it isn't as heavily foreshadowed as the classically edited rest of the moving, which punctuates every possible clue or potential problem with the score, a tight close-up or a lingering edit. In fact, the cleverly inserted surprise manages to redeem the movie from average status to above average before this same twist in human form defies death so many times they might as well have been a superhero on the level of Batman instead of Robin.

Nevertheless, Angels & Demons remains quite watchable overall. If you overlook the flaws and ignore the ponderous pretensions of too much conversation and interpersonal drama that occurs at the same time as a bomb threat, you'll be mesmerized by the gorgeous Blu-ray transfer that shows off the strongest asset of the film via its exquisite Roman setting.

With an extra disc of bonus features and Sony's admirable slate of BD-Live extras including cinechat and movieIQ, as well as a PC/Mac compatible digital copy and free trial of a Hans Zimmer music mix program, those caught up in Dan Brown's world will be eager to illuminate more information about the Illuminati. Similarly, it's sure to appeal as well to Blu-ray tech junkies bound to discover there's a whole lot to praise in the set as well, even if the dedication to go on that much of a scavenger hunt depends upon how true of a believer you are, either in Brown or Howard.

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