Angels and Demons is based on the novel of the same name penned by Dan Brown, which is how this story is best kept. The movie lost a lot of its impact in its transition to the big screen. The best-selling book is no work of classical canon, but it utilizes its length in a way that cannot be translated into a movie.
A large portion of the book educates the reader of the Illuminati, art, artists, history and everything else that lead Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, already knows. There is no way to get this information to the audience without being boring and â€œtalky,â€ so a majority of it is skipped. The audience’s education is largely spit out as quickly and simply as possible through various characters.
The movie focuses on the chase through Rome and the Vatican, and it packs the first hundred pages of the book into its first ten minutes. It is a lean, fast, focused movie that eschews unnecessary things such as characterization. The movie has a great cast (including Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon), but they never get a chance to do more than spit out names and dates and run about.
Where the book succeeds is when Langdon figures out seemingly impossible ancient quandaries. These, however, are skimmed over as merely putting the information together, which defeats the entire purpose of the riddles.
One of the few places in which the movie succeeds is pace. However, not much of this can be attributed to skill. Packing in everything needed to follow the story, the movie does not dwell too much on silent moments, which is exactly what it needs. It never slows down to allow the audience to catch up.
Some story elements, and characters, are left out to make the film shorter, which is not much of a problem until the end. The book’s climax is the culmination of a grand scheme with enough twists and left turns to put a soap opera to shame.
However, Angels & Demons simply did not have the time to set up the gasp-inducing revelations. This makes for a slightly under-whelming ending.
David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman wrote the screenplay, and it does not help that the writers’ strike occurred during pre-production, which becomes obvious in some details. If a character grows up in Italy, he probably would not have an Irish accent.
All problems that I found with the film originate in the script, but it is made with Ron Howard’s excellent visual style. The camera never stops moving, adding energy to the already hyper-kinetic script. For having such a huge focus on the inside of the Vatican and other historical places, these places do not actually appear much in the film.
Overall, the movie tries to squeeze too much into too little time and falls flat. There is no time to become invested in the characters or properly present puzzles. Yet, what the movie lacks in substance it makes up for energy and pacing.
The movie does not stand well by itself and the story is an infinitely better read than watch.