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Angels & Demons: The Guerrilla Grapevine Review
When you write about us, and you will do, do so gently--from Angels & Demons
By Stella Maris
May 22, 2009
Attempts to miraculously generate controversy by baiting the Vatican landed like a dead fish among the loaves.
© Columbia Pictures
Well, the suspense and speculation is finally over--Angels & Demons is out. Now the post-mortems begin. Behind the scenes, there is a frantic manoeuvring by those attempting to appear in-the-know, while Columbia Pictures executives breathe an internal sigh of relief that the movie held its own in its first week at the box office.
So, as you'll have formed your own opinion of the film by now, instead let’s eavesdrop on the grapevine gossip...
One juicy tidbit that emerged at the infamous 2006 Da Vinci Code copyright trial in London is that Angels & Demons was conceived as a result of Brown's first "romantic" weekend away in Rome with his now-wife, Blythe. Blythe Brown, who is sometimes described as an "art expert", was actually a director of the National Academy of Songwriters, of which Dan was a member during his futile attempt to become a pop star--in fact, you can even see his name listed in the credits of The Da Vinci Code movie as a songwriter, if you look closely enough.
But, just think--had Dan Brown's dream to become the next Justin Timberlake come to fruition, we may have never been blessed with either The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons... both of which were enhanced by Blythe's helpful Google-surfing skills.
It also appeared from Dan's testimony that it was the ever-resourceful Blythe's Googling that had plunged Random House into deep water, as it was apparently impossible to ascertain ownership of the material incorporated into the pages upon pages of cut-and-pasted website printouts in her files, which were drawn upon unquestioningly by Brown as "research" background.
According to The Grapevine, the upshot of this cunning cyber-sleuthing technique was that the release of Brown's next book, now called The Lost Symbol, was allegedly put on hold as he returned to the old-fashioned laborious process of conducting research and re-confirming facts in person.
Which meant that, as The Lost Symbol was supposedly intended to become the second installment in the Columbia "trilogy", Brown's ensuing "writer's block" dictated that Angels & Demons was quickly slotted into the second release position by Columbia, while Dan earnestly traipsed around Masonic Lodges corresponding with the Great Architect.
As a result, the delicate timings of the symbology coordinates were thrown off, in many senses of the word. Not only will the September 2009 release of The Lost Symbol miss the euphoria surrounding the election of the 44th American President (44 being a "master number"), but the film release of Angels & Demons even missed the media buzz around the genuinely thwarted attempts by CERN to detect "The God Particle" (yes, I know scientists cringe at the use of this term, but we're writing for mainstream readers here, okay?) last year.
But, from The Grapevine's point of view, the biggest downside to the improvized reshuffle was the retention of the film’s director Ron Howard and his production team.
As much as I hate to sound mean-spirited, it's clear to connoisseurs that Ron Howard simply doesn't "get" this material at all. Granted, one can easily grasp how the fine art of meticulously combing obscure church alignments for hermetic codes wouldn't be the most scintillating exercize to transcribe into an action-packed big screen extravaganza. But, between Howard's direction and Akiva Goldsman's turgid screenplay adaptations, neither Da Vinci Code nor Angels & Demons succeeds, either as an intellectually illuminating inspiration or an action-packed thriller. It's neither one thing or another and therefore fails at both.
In fact, it was rumored that the original Da Vinci Code script was so dire that a re-write was commissioned on the fly just weeks before filming began. And even the collaboration of Spider-Man's David Koepp in the Angels & Demons adaptation couldn't salvage the inherent ennui, despite the compensation of an abundance of special effects.
Furthermore, Columbia's hamfisted attempts to miraculously generate controversy by baiting the Vatican, in the run-up the film's release, landed like a dead fish among the loaves, as even The Catholic Herald's own reviewer indicates that the movie's boredom factor is far more offensive to anyone with a functioning brain than its portrayal of the Catholic Church.
Which we believe is a genuine shame, as this type of material actually has great potential, albeit when handled correctly. Whatever you think of Dan Brown, his books have built upon the groundbreaking foundations laid by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln and simultaneously stimulated both religious introspection and popular culture in the 21st century.
Having said all that, I actually enjoyed Angels & Demons… both the book and the film. But, then again, I also enjoy the fine art of meticulously combing obscure church alignments for hermetic codes, so I’m easy to please.
But I triple-dog dare Columbia Pictures to take the leap of faith for the film version of The Lost Symbol and appoint a new director, as Warner Bros did for the Harry Potter films. Someone like David Lynch, perhaps?
After all, as John Calley should realize by now, the owls are not what they seem…