Let me first state that I did not read author Dan Brown's novel, Angels & Demons or its sequel, The Da Vinci Code. Nor did I see the 2006 film version of the latter -- which despite mixed reviews, earned over $758 million worldwide, making it both star Tom Hanks' and director Ron Howard's most successful film.
So it's no surprise that both Howard and Hanks are back to continue the storyline of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. Howard chose to reverse the order of the films -- to match the order in which most people read the books. But you need not have read the books or seen the first movie to follow the plot or understand what drives the lead character. With that said, here is my review...
Angels & Demons
The movie opens with the death of the Pope -- and the kidnapping of four Cardinals considered the top prospects to replace him. The plot follows Professor Langdon (Hanks), who is brought in to assist investigators in stopping the suspect -- the Illuminati, the most powerful underground organization in history. Is the legendary secret society really back in action? And why are they so hell-bent on not only messing up the papal election process (the conclave), but destroying the entire Vatican City with a very lethal time-bomb?
The race against the clock is nonstop and full of action as Langdon rushes to unravel mysterious 400-year-old ancient symbols -- the only hope to save the Vatican. Langdon is joined by Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra (played by acclaimed Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer). Ewan McGregor plays the Camerlengo, who until a successor Pope is elected, serves as acting head of state of the Vatican City. Will he help or hinder Langdon's race to save it?
Howard does a great job exploring the highest workings of the Catholic Church -- and showcasing some sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs and deserted cathedrals in the Vatican City and neighboring Rome. But you have to suspend reality -- and you have to excuse the fact that the police are all portrayed as complete idiots.