Angels & Demons
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Angels & Demons

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In most form of entertainment the Holy Grail that measures success on both a popular and financial criteria is achieving the franchise. Once this is done the characters familiar to the audience can be placed in one situation after another affording them the opportunity to grow. It also means that far less time has to be spent on back-story and exposition since the audience already knows the characters. This format is particularly suited for the mystery genre placing a well known detective in a series of complicated mysteries to solve amazing the fans once again. In literature many franchises were constructed along these lines including luminaries such as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade and Agatha Christy. In all of the cited cases the novels then went on to launch a new series in the movies. One of the latest franchises to migrate from the literary best seller list to box office sensation is the Robert Langdon novels by Dan Brown. He is a much different type of detective with a primary career was an Ivy League professor of symbology and religious iconography; not exactly the fedoras and trench coat wearing gum shoe most mystery buffs know. This may is consistent with the country’s new found fascination with the science of fighting crime. While the trend initiated on television with all the forensic science shows and a crime fighting professor of mathematics on ‘Numbers’ so Dr. Langdon on the big screen is not really that much of a leap. One thing about this series of stories; you will never think of academic types as dull professor again. Langston is the most action filled professor since Dr. Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones first gained tenure at the box office. There is at least one more book so far so it looks as if the franchise is secure for the moment at least.

Dan Brown has acknowledged Langdon as his gifted alter ego sharing many personal details. On the novels, and subsequently the films, the good doctor is happy just to lecture research and write his scholarly tomes. Unfortunately for Langdon but most fortunately for us it seems he is constantly finding himself in the middle f conspiracies that will shake the religious establishment. Back here in the real world it is not unusual for Brown’s works to generate a sizable amount of controversy which has assisted the box office and book sales so I really doubt the producers are upset. This is a leading example of a new trend in action thrillers; a requirement to follow a cohesive storyline. This is definitely not a run of the mill popcorn flick; it does require the audience to pay attention to what is going on with the characters.

The story was translated to the screen by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman. Koepp has a rather extensive track record with action driven blockbusters including ‘I am Legend’, ‘’Spider-Man’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ so it has to be noted the man is very versed with providing an audience with action. With this screenplay he managed to pull it off once again. You might think a movie about a professor of symbology would be dry but not in his capable hands. It also is a major boon that Goldsman scripted the previous movie ' The Da Vinci Code’ not to mention taking home the Academy Award for his screenplay for ‘A Beautiful Mind’. Brown was successfully able to juxtapose traditions that have existed for over a millennium with cutting edge quantum physics. The story begins with the CERN particle collider that has been making news as it probes the very methodology of creation by examining sub atomic particles that so far have only been theorized. The scientists have managed to create and collect a small amount of anti-matter. If the magnetic field is compromised the subsequent annulations would have the force of a fair size tactical nuclear weapon. Meanwhile in Vatican City something else that was recently in the real news just occurred; the Pope dies. Even more so than most occurrences in that city state the events are strictly mandated by immovable traditions. The young protégé (Ewan McGregor) of the late Pope is chosen to act as Camerlengo to oversee the election of the new Pope and the passing of the Papal authority. Things break drastically from traditions hen the Cardinals in serious contention are brutally murdered. The most bizarre aspect of the deaths is the ritualistic elements pointing to an ancient order opposing the church. In order to understand the cryptic clues they have to turn to Professor Langdon (Tom Hanks). The group is threatening to explode the CERN anti-matter which will level Vatican City. Langdon is joined in the frantic quest by scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) who is there to re-establish the containment as soon as they locate the canister. One clue just seems to lead to another as they race around the city with the killers one step ahead.

This film is available in both DVD and Blu-ray but considering how vital the city is to the story this movie calls out for high definition. The locations are breathtakingly beautiful and only 1080p provides the level of detail it demands. The lossless audio is sweeping; pulling you right into the thick of the action. This film works well but requires a serious time for viewing.

Posted 11/26/09

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