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Mission incapable: Angels and Demons
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-05-26 09:35:20
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Angels and Demons
Directed by Ron Howard
2009, Columbia Pictures

Let’s see how things can go wrong: a crime happens in CERN, you know this place in Switzerland where scientists try to discover God, a woman physicist has an epiphany that turns her Robin, she speaks fluent Latin and she knows how to shoot with all kinds of weapons. She then meets Batman, sorry, she meets Tom Hanks and it all happens in the Vatican just after the death of the Pope! Oops, I forgot that there is also a secret organization with the name Illuminati - yes, the very same one Lana Croft was fighting in Tomb Raider. The name of the film is Angels and Demons when it should have been Mission Incapable: Vatican!

Back in the '70s there was a Swiss writer with the name Erich von Däniken, who was a very controversial researcher who used parts of all the holy books from every religion to claim that there was evidence for alien influence on earth from the very early times. The man wrote over 20 books that became best sellers worldwide at the time, plus were made into TV documentaries and even films.  The man made money, real big money with his naïve theories, but because people are easy to believe conspiracy theories, especially the ones based on "scientific documents", von Däniken became a hit at the time. I have the feeling that Dan Brown tries to do the same in a more cynical way. He ignores even the scientific facts that even von Däniken respected.

I didn’t like his book The Da Vinci Code. I didn’t even like it as a holiday adventure story and this is the reason I didn’t read Angels and Demons, his second book with the same hero, the symbologist Indiana Jones without this meaning that I think that he is a bad writer. I actually think that his book Deception Point is a clever book and well written. Unfortunately he didn’t stop there! Even worse, Hollywood decided to make a film from one of them and then after the success of the first they did a second and yes I watched them both.

I had three reasons to watch them. First was curiosity. Of course that was the reason for everybody who watched them and the Vatican, in a very weird way, decided to dedicate time and a lot of ink making me wonder if any of them bothered to read the book or watch the film because if they had done so they wouldn’t have bothered and the film would have vanished into the canyon of D-list movies.

The second reason was Ron Howard. Ok, he hasn’t made fantastic films but one way or another he made entertaining films that balance between reality and fantasy, and I do appreciate that. The third reason was Tom Hanks. I don’t like Tom Hanks, I mean seeing his name is enough to put me off watching any film and this is the reason I haven’t watched some films that, according to others, are brilliant. But somehow I was forced to see him in The Da Vinci Code, I was surprised. It was not Tom Hanks; it was something totally different, actually after a bit you had totally forgotten that it was Tom Hanks. I have to admit that I liked him, he was very good at what he was expected to do.

The same I can say about Ron Howard, he did the best he could with the material he had. After all we all need money to live and make real other dreams that cannot have the producers a film like that had and definitely not the income this film will bring. There are some really well crafted action scenes and some really clever directorial details that I really liked, details that helped the tension he was trying to build.

But as I said, the story was a fraud all the way and you can sense it even if you had no idea about the conspiracy theory behind. As I said in the beginning, the physics assistant in all the action, Professor Vittoria Vetra, actress Ayetel Zurer, is at least pathetic when she’s proved that aside from being a brilliant physicist she is also an expert in Latin, Ancient Greek, painting, symbols and, at the same time, she can make the best carbonara ever. Ewan MacGregor tries but Camerlengo Patrick McKenna’s role is very weak and predictable from the beginning. The rest of them try hard but the truth is that Tom Hanks overshadows them all.

Coming back to the story and Dan Brown, he wrote the book before The Da Vinci Code and obviously in the film they are trying to fit everything together but in the end they screw up everything since the big apocalypse that came with The Da Vinci Code is absolutely absent here except some hints that confuse. They tried to tie Da Vinci with an organization that became gradually a secret organization but it started in Austria and died there. Illuminati have nothing to do with the Vatican and they have absolutely nothing to do with Da Vinci. Let’s hope that he can see beyond the temporary success and write something away from conspiracy theories or if he will continue with those at least he must do a better research.

Now coming to the film, for the fans of Tom Hanks it is a great film, for the fans of the Da Vinci theories it is good for the rest of us well …better wait for the DVD and choose another film for entertainment, the new Terminator is far more scientific based anyway.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-26 10:29:43
Indeed Thanos, undoubtedly there is much money to be made nowadays in the trivializing and the caricaturizing of religion and Mr. Brown and Mr. Howard, and Mr. von Daniken have seized the opportunity and are laughing all the way to the bank. As today’s article by Francesco Tampoia hints at, Derrida, toward the end of his life “deconstructed” Paul’s letters and his own Jewish background and left us some powerful reflections on the role of religion in a philosopher’s life and indeed in every man’s journey. I am willing to wager that, on both sides of the Atlantic pond, many more people have read The Da Vinci Code than Derrida’s meditations. Unfortunately, that is where religion has been relegated nowadays: to a mere caricature. We are told that it the "politically correct" position is to relegate it to the privacy of one’s worship in church on Sunday but ought to keep silent in the public agora and precious for the sake of "laicitè". Few pf the European intelligentia realize that such an "enlightened posture ltimately ultimately translates into a violation of ree speech. But paradoxically religion continues to be firercely debated in public as the Da Vinci Code and the conspiracy of the Opus Dei to take over the government of the US. The mystery has been transformed into a crime investigation and a conspiracy theory.

Emanuel Paparella2009-05-26 10:34:00
Illuminato in Italian means “enlightened.” Dante too presents us with an illuminato in his Inferno. His name is Bertran del Bornio; he is best known as “the lantern man,” the man who does light unto himself into a terrible dark cave by holding in his hand his own decapitated head in the guise of a lantern. He is a poet but he is there not because of his poetry but because he used his poetry as ideology and propaganda to disseminate discord and dissensions. Plenty of food for though there. Had we in Western civilization reflected on that horrible image we might have spared ourselves much grief and we would not have needed Jews (Derrida, and Weiler) to remind us of how ignorant we are of our own religions heritage.

Emanuel Paparella2009-05-26 10:39:45
Errata: it ought to keep silent for the sake of "laicitè". Religious heritage.

Alexander Mikhaylov2009-05-26 17:30:46
Such characters as Mr. Brown with his 'crafty' literary garbage, as well as many others opportunists of the same kidney, do not even belong to literature. Speaking of them and their sinister and offensive writing, there is nothing to discuss except, perhaps, a certain pathological tendency that thrives in contemporary mass entertainment and media

Eero Nevalainen2009-05-28 00:23:11
My most important commentary here will be to note that it is "Lara" Croft. Thanos is obviously old enough never to have played the games as considering that I was in my teens then, having ogled at Lara's digital charms for hours, I would never ever misspell her name. :-)

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