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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Angels And Demons: A Review

   May to August in the northern hemisphere spring and summer is a time for almost weekly release of blockbusters with huge budgets, action and effects and potential for high grosses at the box office. 2009 has seen Wolverine, Star Trek, followed by Angels and Demons , with Night at the Museum 2, Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation in the offing.

Here is a doomsday plot, murder mystery, action thriller with a cast led by Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon and Ewan McGregor as the Vatican Camerlengo and an international cast portraying scientists, police, bishops and cardinals.

Angels and Demons , unlike the film of The Da Vinci Code, is fast-paced, the L'Osservatore Romano review referring to Ron Howard's dynamic direction. It also used the word 'commercial' as well as noting that it was 'harmless entertainment' and not a danger to the Church.

In fact, the film treats the church quite interestingly, scenes behind a conclave and inside the conclave, fine sets of the Sistine Chapel, the interiors of St Peter's, Castel San Angelo, the Vatican Necropolis, the Swiss Guards centre, the Vatican archives and several churches with art by Bernini. The film won't harm tourism to Rome or to the Vatican. Probably, the contrary.

The issue is science and religion. There are some very impressive scenes of CERN in Switzerland where the Big Bang was re-created in 2008. Dan Brown, writing years earlier, posited this explosion and the formation of anti-matter which is then used as a terrorist threat in Rome. Arguments are put forward about the church's record in persecuting scientists in past centuries, especially Galileo (true) with some inquisitorial interrogations and tortures. The material about the Illuminati, the underground society of scientists has some foundation but was not as extensive as speculated on here - a kind of Masonic brotherhood of scientists. (They appeared in the first Lara Croft film without anybody taking to controversy.)

One of the issues facing the conclave in the film is the Church in the Modern World vis-a-vis science, with the dialogue for the meeting of ideas of science and theology or extremist attitudes towards religion capitulating to science and so destroying the church - the point being that this kind of fanatic stance can become a cause, righteously crusading with violence against those who hold more moderate views - leading to what could be labelled 'ecclesiastical terrorism'.

Oh, the tale has so many plot-holes (with the action moving so fast you don't quite have time to follow through on them) that they don't bear thinking about - so, either one sits irritated at the inaccuracies about dates and historical figures and driven up the wall by the lack of coherence in the course of events or, as one does, offer a willing suspension of disbelief and enjoy the action for what it is, a lavishly-mounted, pot-boiling thriller. 

Review By Peter Malone.

    About The Reviewer...

  • Fr. Peter Malone is a Sacred Heart Father (Missionaries of the Sacred Heart) from Australia living in England. In 1998 he was elected preseident of the International Catholic Organization for Cinema (OCIC) and is a former member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was also the first President ofSIGNIS, the international Catholic body for film, radio, and television. He is a regular member of the Catholic Jury at major film festivals throughout the world, including Cannes, Venice, Montreal, Berlin as well as in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. He is the author of Movie Christs and Anti-Christs and co-author of Cinema Religion and Values and is a regular columnist for The Universe, a Catholic newspaper in the UK. His newest book, written with Rose Pacatte, FSP, is Lights, Camera... Faith! The Ten Commandments (2007, Paulines Philippines).

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