Saturday, March 12, 2011

Angels & Demons

About five years ago, I had a dislocated shoulder that sidelined me for several days.

While I was healing, I read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and became so caught up in the tale that I went to see the movie at the theater (a rare thing for me in recent years) a couple of months later.

But I never read the prequel, "Angels & Demons," which was published first but turned into a movie second (and, as a result, was treated like a sequel in the film story line, not a prequel).

Nor did I see the movie when it was at the theaters a couple of years ago. I don't know why. I generally like the films that Ron Howard directs, and I almost always like anything that features Tom Hanks.

Well, I missed it. Don't know how I did, but I did.

And then, I stumbled onto it on cable last month, entirely by accident.

It was during the time when we had all the ice here in Dallas in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Frankly, I was afraid the power would go out in my apartment, and I would be stranded with no heat. But, after a morning of citywide "rolling blackouts" to preserve energy that was subjected to considerable public criticism, my power was uninterrupted until I was finally able to venture out.

I was trapped in my apartment for four days — until the ice finally thawed from the 15 stairs I have to go down to reach the ground level (and have to go back up to re–enter my apartment). I tried not to watch TV very much, but there were times when it was just unavoidable.

And on one occasion, as I was idly surfing through the channels, I happened to find "Angels & Demons" about to begin.

Well, I watched it, and I've been meaning to write about it. Today is the day.

If you saw "The Da Vinci Code," you'll recognize some of the themes — secret societies ("Opus Dei" in the first movie, "The Illuminati" in this one), ancient history, conspiracy, etc. — in "Angels & Demons."

Personally, I liked it. I'm not sure I got everything from it that I should have. Some movies are like that. Some movies must be seen several times, and each time one sees it, one must peel back another layer in the quest to learn all there is to learn from it.

I suppose I would have picked up on more if I had been more knowledgeable about religious symbolism and ambigrams.

I guess, too, I would have picked up on more if Howard and his adviser(s) hadn't decided that some of the dialogue in a foreign language (I presume it was Italian, but I don't speak Italian so I don't know) merited subtitles and some did not.

The audience wasn't allowed to make that judgment for itself — so, when something was stated in a language other than English and was not accompanied by an English subtitle, I had to assume it was not a critical point in the plot.

And maybe Brown did a better job of this in his book than Howard did in his film adaptation — but there were some compelling moments when the dialogue was in English — for instance, when Hanks, who plays the Harvard professor investigating a murder, is asked by the pope's camerlengo if he believes in God.

"I'm an academic," Hanks' character replies. "My mind tells me I will never understand God."

"And your heart?" the camerlengo persists.

"Tells me I'm not meant to," Hanks says. "Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive."

That's honest writing. Pulls no punches. I liked it. That moment — and moments like that — made the movie a worthwhile experience — even if there were things I didn't understand.

At some point, I will watch it again — and when I do, I'll pick up on more than I did the first time.

I'm sure that there will be new observations to make, new issues to discuss because this is a work in progress.