Loosely Based on the Novel

May 18, 2009 at 8:16 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment

The film adaptation of Angels and Demons left so much to be desired. It was greatly altered that the initial thrill and excitement I felt when I read the book, and even after reading it the second time, was gone. I know that translating the book into a movie could be tricky, what with the technicalities of Dan Brown’s intricate plots and narration, but I didn’t expect it to be so far off from the original. The movie wasn’t faithful to the book anymore. A lot of vital scenes and sub-plots from the book were omitted and replaced with something sub-standard.

Angels and Demons movie poster

The first few scenes of the movie were good though, as it narrated the death of the pope and showed how the Vatican prepares for the conclave. But later as the movie unfolded, the audience is taken to the massive surroundings of CERN, the nuclear research center in Geneva where a team of scientists prepares to launch the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in which particles were going to be smashed together to recreate the Big Bang and in turn create antimatter. This is one of the many scenes where the movie veered away from the original.

In the book, Vittoria Vetra and her adoptive father Leonardo Vetra were the ones who invented antimatter and they kept this discovery between themselves only. But in the movie, a bunch of scientists knew the antimatter project and the character of Leonardo Vetra is now replaced with a research partner named Silvano, who is also a priest. No father and daughter tandem here anymore. I think it’s a mistake to not include Leonardo in the movie – or at least mentioned. Vittoria’s close relationship with Leonardo is what defined her character and her actions in the story. Her grief over Leonardo’s death and the guilt she felt when the antimatter was stolen were what  propelled her to help Robert Langdon and the Vatican catch the killer.

And that is why Ayelet Zurer’s performance as Vittoria wracked with shock upon seeing her research partner killed was not entirely convincing. That scene also omitted one important element: the first Illuminati branding. The first branding was what got me hooked right away when I read the book, as well as the live video feed of the missing antimatter. And replacing that in the movie with a simple print of the ambigram on a paper made it rather trivial.

Another significant character that didn’t appear in the movie is Maximilian Kohler, the CERN director general. Kohler played a vital role in the story but in the movie his character was never mentioned. His role in the book as the one who exposed the real villain is now passed on to Commander Richter (Captain Rocher in the book). And the role of Rocher is now replaced with a new character named Father Simeon.

Two more things I found ridiculous in the movie were Cardinal Baggia’s survival and the replacement of the fifth brand. In the book, the four elected cardinals (the preferiti) perished and not one survived. And I couldn’t believe that they traded the Illuminati Diamond – the fifth brand – with a papal brand (two crossed keys), which honestly didn’t hold much significance on the Illuminati threat. And the sub-plot involving the camerlengo’s family background was also left out.

Tom Hanks is never believable as Robert Langdon. His portrayal of Langdon in The Da Vinci Code was unimpressive and lacked substance. The same could be said about him in Angels and Demons. Zurer’s portrayal of Vittoria was all right, not that good but it’s fine. Disregarding that scene in CERN, she showed enough strength and intelligence and her chemistry with Hanks was better than Hanks’ and Audrey Tatu’s in The Da Vinci Code. However her role in the movie was more or less reduced.

Ewan McGregor as the camerlengo just didn’t do well for me. His face and actions didn’t show a troubled and twisted soul battling with his personal demons. His long speech inside the Sistine Chapel didn’t carry any weight. His justifications when he was confronted by Richter didn’t hold any conviction as well. And the Hassassin – ugh! The performance of Nikolaj Lei Kaas, the actor who played the Hassassin,  was bland. There wasn’t any menacing or dangerous quality about his portrayal. In fact, he looked more like a university scholar or even a geek more than a Hassassin.

It is interesting to note though the way the movie sort of updated the scene in St. Peter’s Square. Protesters of stem cell research crowded the square instead of the mere onlookers and TV reporters mentioned in the book. CNN reporters –- not BBC — also had small scenes in the movie. I figured that since the movie is an American production, the BBC reporters in the book were substituted with CNN reporters.

One thing I appreciated in the movie though was the inclusion of Robert Langdon’s Mickey Mouse watch, which figured rather prominently in the book. And the antimatter explosion scene wasn’t too shabby either.

Angels and Demons is not as compelling as the book. So many have been altered that it’s hardly recognizable anymore as Dan Brown’s masterpiece. Perhaps the movie would be more enjoyable to those who haven’t yet read the book.

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