If there are four words that can send a chill down my cinema-loving spine, those four words are ‘Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman’. Four more words that leave me shivering in the dark are ‘Screenplay by David Koepp’. When a film comes emblazoned with the seven hellish words ‘Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp’ you’ll find me curled up in the foetal position, near the fire escape, hoping to find a plug socket to frenchie. ‘Angels and Demons’ is such a film.
Its not that these screenwriters haven’t had triumphs. Koepp has ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Spider-Man’ under his belt, Goldsman has an Oscar (very undeserved) for ‘A Beautiful Mind’, and wrote ‘I Am Legend’, which is almost classic for the first two-thirds. Its just that every word they write is formulaic, by-the-numbers tosh. Their only prerequisite is to advance the plot with nary a side thought for anything as complex as characterisation, theme or enjoyable dialogue.
A sequel to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (even though the book is in fact set before) we find symbologist (not archeaologist, definitely not) Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks sans-mullet) not shacked up with Audrey Tatou, and not a huge celebrity for uncovering the fact that Jesus had a child but rather a mid-level writer who can’t get access to the Vatican archives to finish his latest book. Thankfully for Bob, the Pope has just died and his most likely successors (cue ‘Pope Idol’ joke dated 2007) have been popenapped.
On the back of his (obviously not very important) discovery about Da Vinci, the clergy feel Prof Langdon is the right man to find the wannabe Popes before they meet their grisly fates. So they fly him to the Vatican, team him up with some more Euro totty (Ayelet Zurer) and send him on an aesthestic treasure hunt. Oh, and he also has until midnight to find and de-activate an anti-matter bomb that will destroy half of Rome.
What the fuck? Anti-matter bombs!!! First up this is Dan ‘Hack’ Brown’s fault for writing in a plot device so cheap and lazy it couldn’t pick up a tab for half a coke citing ME as its reason. Secondly the ‘Hack’ merchant (Goldsman) who ruined ‘I Am Legend’ by changing the ending, and missing the entire point of the book, has decided that this piece deserves a faithful adaptation. So every (yawn) page-turning aspect of the book remains. Nothing added to, nothing subtracted.
As for the actors, Tom Hanks phones it in and Ayelet Zurer ain’t no Audrey Tatou. Only Ewan McGregor manages to get the few tolerable lines of dialogue that might open this up into a thoughtful meditation on the place of science and religion in the modern age. These are few and far between. While zealots will piss their crucifix-wearing pants at the prospect of the ‘Big’ star messing with the church, this certainly isn’t the Richard Dawkins circle-jerk that was proposed. For it to be that it would have to have a point-of-view or something to say. I don’t think the screenwriters involved have ever had either.