Movie Review: Angels and Demons (2009)

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in Angels and Demons
Photo: Columbia Pictures

NOTE: While I never spoil the film in this review there are some comments made that could affect your viewing. While I don't personally believe anything I have written will ruin your experience watching this film I felt this was worth noting at the outset.

After two hours Angels & Demons hits a climactic crescendo as the clouds are lit with bright light and a savior falls from the sky. It is at this moment when several members of my preview crowd began making their way to the exit, hoping to get out of the theater ahead of the crowd. Little did they know the movie had another 20 minutes of story to tell -- 20 minutes made up of a needless plot twist that essentially negated the truly entertaining first two hours.

Angels and Demons
Grade: C+

Angels and Demons"Angels and Demons" is a Columbia Pictures release, directed by Ron Howard and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.

The cast includes Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Thure Lindhart, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Elya Baskin.

Angels & Demons is the follow-up to the successful, yet poorly reviewed, The Da Vinci Code which was also directed by Ron Howard and starred Tom Hanks as the Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon. This time around, instead of finding clues in age-old paintings, Langdon is following a secret path that will lead him throughout the streets of Rome in an attempt to save four kidnapped cardinals and hopefully save Vatican City from an anti-matter bomb at the end of the path.

Like The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons requires you shut your brain off and let the story guide you through its version of science, art and religious history, fact, fiction and mythology, as a puzzle is presented and solved as the clock ticks away. It's all ludicrous to be sure, but for 120 minutes it is quite exciting.

In comparison to The Da Vinci Code, this film is more entertaining thanks to a far more straight forward plot device that only requires time constraints as opposed to wild coincidences to get our protagonists in and out of trouble. While the plot of Da Vinci involved a much larger conspiracy, Angels actually offers a much more real life consequence, which engages the audience on a larger level with plenty of goals along the way to up the stakes.

These goals serve as the guiding force for the film's first two hours leading up to the climactic moment I alluded to in the opening. However, this is when the train derails as Angels & Demons tries to float above its junk food entertainment genre and turn its final 20 minutes into a twisting maze that manages to extend the running time all while hurting the quality of the film.

In my opinion there are two kinds of plot twists: those that come as a result of the story, and those that are drummed up out of thin air. The finale of Angels & Demons comes out of a needless existence merely serving as a gotcha moment the audience isn't at all interested in, considering the film never gave them a real chance to be in on the solution. The film goes from including the audience in the solving of the mystery to turning them into inactive spectators. Granted, the audience never has any chance at solving the complex problems facing Langdon, but at least there was something of a process.

State of Play used a similar technique, adding one final twist to make sure the audience didn't think they had it all figured out. Unfortunately, this is a cheat and not a legitimate story telling device since it never feels as if it is a part of the story. This kind of twist only serves the story as a lie through climactic storytelling. As a result you lose the respect and interest of your audience, turning your ultimate finale into a waste of time. The final 20 minutes of Angels & Demons suffers from this very problem as it offers up a backhanded message saying the Catholic Church covers up their dirty deeds to maintain their image. Did we really need an additional 20 minutes to tell us this?

It's a shame, considering I would have given this film much higher marks for entertainment value alone, but it was ultimately sabotaged by greedy storytelling. Angels & Demons could have been 20 minutes shorter and no one would have complained, or been remotely aware of what the filmmakers had originally intended and we would have all been better for it. The finale of this film is not one of those twists that makes you gasp as the clues come together, instead you sit and look at the screen without a care, wishing things had ended differently.


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • Eric

    In the book, I remember there being waaaaay more plot twists--that were wackier than the one they left in the movie.

    It was okay, they get a gold sticker for topping The Da Vinci Code however I do think the C+ is a little harsh, I honestly think a B- would be fine.

  • oldskool138

    Remember Eric, the grades don't count for anything. They're only there because people expect films to be graded.

  • Dan Tralder

    I felt the exact same way about the book, just replace '20 minutes' with '20 pages'. I think I won't bother to see this one, thanks for the heads up.

  • adu

    My question is whether that 'forced' twist is the same as in the book? If yes, then I suppose they should have included it.

  • ash

    Something is seriously wrong with the grading system in this website ... this movie has got the same rating as 'Ghosts of girlfriends past' and 'Righteous Kill'.

    You have praised the 2 hours of this flick... were the final 20 minutes so bad as to drag the quality to C+? I think not.

    What pleases a critic? Make the movie faithful to the novel and the critics groan...make them a bit different from the novel and the critics moan...... but I guess you have not read the book, because the moments after 'the saviour' falls from the sky are crucial... and those final 20 mins weren't so incredibly bad as to trash it so much so. And i really do not understand what 'greedy storytelling' means.

    Agreed that the DaVinci movie sucked hard, and even this one wasn't mindblowing, but that grade is just too harsh. C'mon, 'The Reader', which has more plot holes than a freaking Swiss Cheese has got a higher rating here than Angels and Demons. I'm not a certified movie critic, but even I can tell the difference of quality between this film and 'The Haunting in Connecticut', 'Righteous Kill', 'Seven Pounds', 'Four Christmases', 'Zach and Miri', 'Twilight' and 'Death Race' (all of which have been given more or less the same grade here)

  • Jadium

    @ash: I give you a A+ for that response ash

  • Kevin

    This is kinda funny. Why is every taking this rating so personally? It's his opinion, feel free to formulate your own.

    Not too mention that Brad has said before that he has a hard time coming up with ratings for these exact reasons, but does it because people expect one.

    It's the review that's important, not the rating.

  • Eric

    @Kevin: People only read headlines and bottom lines.
    He could have given a glowing review with valid points, but in the end, people only read C+

  • Philip

    actually while i hated the second twist ending in 'State Of Play' i loved it in this one..if it had remained !!!!SPOILER!!!! with the idiotic cheesy-hollywood finale with the hero priest jumping orm the hellicopter it would have made the movie too ridiculous..actually i laughed at that scene..!!!!END OF SPOILERS!!!!If it wasn't for the second ending i would have prob. hated the mvie now it's mediocre to good

  • Kevin

    @Eric: I'm aware of that. It just boggles my mind and makes me laugh all at the same time.

  • bryce

    The ending is the exact same in the book; therefore, the movie could not have been without it.
    The only thing that disappointed me was in the book, the man hired to kidnap and murder the cardinals was made out to be this massive human being. I actually remember being scared of this man while reading. Whoever cast for the film did a poor job on that aspect, but everything else was spot on

  • Topy

    A&D? Better than Da Vinci Code, B-.

  • Nick

    @bryce Actually the ending isn't the same as in the book. Someone else was in the helicopter with The Camerlengo in the book and didn't have a parachute.

  • adu


    Ash I know what you are saying. But you must understand even if two movies get a C+, one can still be better than the other. So Brad could say that he liked A&D more than Righteous Kill despite giving them the same rating.

    So while I may not agree with the rating for this movie, I'm not getting worked up like you. Relax and dont think so hard :)

  • ash

    @adu: how can two movies that get a C+ be enjoyed its flawed thinking ... especially if you're talking about Righteous Kill vs A&D... two movies that are not even close in quality

    What's more...if i remember correctly, a few months ago this guy took a shot at Roger Ebert for giving movies the same rating...he was going on and on about how 'Mummy 3' was given the same grade as some other better flicks...

    I'm not getting worked up or anything, but people see ratings like these and avoid good films... that's all

  • Chris C

    @ash: If somebody has a desire to see a film, and that desire is diminished by somebody else's convictions, obviously the one deterred by the grade isn't forceful enough in their sentiments.

  • Brad Brevet

    @ash: You need to work on your reading comprehension and stop paying so much attention to the grade as it is pretty much the only part of a review that means absolutely nothing.

    As for you pointing out my Roger Ebert articles, I offer them both up to you again for closer inspection. Is Roger Ebert Still Credible? and Roger Ebert Responds to Star Haters. Maybe this time you will understand them, if not then there is nothing left to discuss.

    My opinion of Angels & Demons is up there in black and white... NOT in red.

    Beyond that, this is not the place to have a grade argument, it is a thread to discuss Angels & Demons (which you have already done). Check the rules for commenting... Stay on topic.

  • Ed McGrath

    The movie follows the book up to the ending and then Ron Howard takes a subtle, but effective swipe at the basic beliefs of the Christians.

    For some, the point may be too subtle but for those who got it, the last dig scored a solid hit.

    In the twist ending, Prof. Langdon proves, with a gold key, that Science trumps faith. The Cardinals were ready to act on "signs" from the Holy Spirit but when they were exposed to Scientific knowledge, they quickly changed their minds. Subtle but Effective. I like this ending much more than the one in the book.

  • ajr620

    The thing about the last 20 minutes is that they are in the book semi like that. If you take out the last 20 minutes then you change the entire book. I enjoyed it up until the end.

  • Shawn

    Of course they final twist was necessary because it was an essential part of the book, anyone who read the book then saw the movie would have complained twice as much as you about taking out the final twist than you did about extra 20 mins. This movie is based off the book, you cant just exclude the ending from the book or you might as well just made a different movie. How can you give a bad rating when they are simply trying to be comprehensive?

  • fran2009

    Decent movie. I think the plot was surealist and the antimatter bomb is a purely fictional. Even if it promoted the idea and deception that the Catholic Church and Illuminati are against each other, when are really on the same side.

  • Kristi

    @Kevin: Funny, everyone in this day seems to take opinions very personally. What happened to the freedom to express yourself that those same people who are trashing an opinion would fight to the death to preserve for themselves? I HATE listening to people bitch about opinions that don't agree with what they believe. SHUT UP CRAZIES.