Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Angels & Demons (2009)

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The mystical design of the poster has kept the contents of the movie very much mysterious to the viewers; although it should come as no surprise anymore since it comes from the same author of the highly acclaimed Da Vinci Code, which has rocked the Roman Catholic community from the start.

Readers and fans of Dan Brown should expect no less either; after reading the story from the book of the same title; since the movie is, after all, based on the book itself.

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Interestingly to note though, in the book sequence, Angels & Demons is actually the prequel to the Da Vinci Code.
This sequence seemed to have taken a switch in the movie release; as they had followed the frenzy created after the fame of Da Vinci Code.

To be frank, I think nothing much of Da Vinci Code, which I only read the book and not watch the movie (I don't really see a point to).
Religion aside, I do admire Dan Brown for his great twists and turns and how he manages to confuse readers on fact and fiction, a dangerously thin line in between as he cooks up a plot like in the Da Vinci Code and ultimately, putting the Roman Catholic Church to infamy.

I decided to watch Angels & Demons, after reading the review from the Church that is is practically harmless, and at the same time, since it's been such a long time I've actually watched a movie.
(After so long, and I watched 2 movies two days in a row..LOL!)

In this supposedly sequel to Da Vinci Code, Tom Hanks reprised his role as world-renowned symbologist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon who was called upon by the Roman Catholic Church/The Vatican in Rome to assist in their crisis of the four missing cardinals (known as preferiti in the movie) following the death of their beloved pope and towards the commencement of the papal conclave.

The Church mourns the death of the Pope and all the necessary arrangements are being made at the same time to elect the next pope; keeping the church busy with the preparations for the well-known papal conclave (the selection process of the pope which involves the congregation of the cardinals from all around the world to partake in the election process).
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At the same time, the movie details the process of the melting of the pope's ring after his death and the funeral procession as well.

On the other hand, in the world's famous science laboratory; European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland (CERN), scientist Dr Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) works in collaboration with Father Silvano Bentivoglio to initiate the antimatter; through the Large Hadron Collider.
They then captured the antimatter in three cannisters and kept them securely locked in the secret room; accessible only by retinal recognition.

Shortly after, we were brought to the scene where Dr Vittoria found the dead body of Father Silvanor who was found lying on the floor of the lab with his eyeball taken out of its socket; an obvious indication of someone breaking into the lab when she also finds one of the canister missing.

Back to Rome, while the Church continues to mourn and prays in faith for the selection of the next Pope.
Robert Langdon is then brought to Rome and was given an exactly warm welcome as most of the Church remembers his previous deeds on the Holy Grail mystery (prequel of Da Vinci Code). He feigns subtlety and interst when he was introduced to the Vatican police, Inspector General Ernesto Olivetti (Perfrancesco Favino) and Lieutenant Valenti (Victor Alfieri), Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard) who fills him in on the seriousness of the issue when they revealed the story of the four missing cardinals; preferiti, who are the four possible successors to being the next pope.
He was also given a piece of paper with the inscribed 'Illuminati' which the Vatican received following the disappearance of the four cardinals.
He immediately links this to the 400-year old secret society; Illuminati which was depicted as the Church of Science and is in conflict with the Catholic church from the past as they killed their members in public (an event known as Inquisition).

Robert was told to listen to the message sent by the kidnapper, which threatens that each of the cardinal will be killed from 8.00pm that same night; with one cardinal per hour and then the Vatican City will be destroyed in a burst of light at midnight.
He traces it back to the message and deduced that this pattern is in sync with the death at the four altars of the Path of Illumination; or the four altars of science which coincides with the four main elements of the universe; air, water, fire, earth.

At the same time, Robert also meets with Dr Vittoria who will join him in his race as she wants to salvage her antimatter before it truly destroys the Vatican City.
She requested for the diary of Father Silvano to be flown into the Vatican City immediately while Robert demands access to the Vatican Secret Archives; a request he has been denied for years, explaining that the clue to unravel the paths to the four secret churches/altars could be found in the original copy of Galileo Galilei's book, which was banned by the Church.
The Camerlengo, who is the person in charge of the church during the sede vacante (the period during the death of the pope until the selection of the next pope) grants him the access after asking him whether he trusts in God, and Robert Langdon gave a very interesting answer, "Faith is a gift I have yet to receive"

Using the only copy left, Robert, Vittoria and the Vatican cops raced to the first church, Santa Maria Del Pappolo; only to find that they were too late (they misinterpreted the clue and went to the wrong church; the Pantheon at first). They found the first cardinal dead on the floor; with a brand of 'Earth' on his chest.

Based on his observation on the statues and possible symbols in the first church, he raced towards the second location at the square where they found the wind symbol and found the second cardinal dead with puncture in his lungs as they tried to revive him.
They then proceeded to the next church; Santa Maria Vittoria where they find the famous St Theresa in Ecstasy and found the third cardinal burnt at the stake; hanging from the two pillars of the church.
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The two Vatican cops were also killed as Robert continues to fight against time.

Earlier, Vittoria had gone back to the Vatican upon arrival of Father Silvano's diaries and found the behavior of Commander Richter suspicious when she found the missing diary locked in his drawer.
Robert had also tried to check the Galileo's book again and was found trapped in the secret archives, gasping for air but fortunately and miraculously escaped after his several ridiculous attempts at breaking the hermetic vault room.

Camerlengo Patrick McKenna was trying to convince the cardinals to evacuate the Vatican; telling them that the church is under attack by the Illuminati while Cardinal Strauss who was the appointed elector of the conclave, insisted on the proceeding of the conclave and towards the seclusion as scheduled.
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Robert continues his raging time battle with the Hassassin, and races to the final location in Piazza Navona where the Fountain of the Four Rivers are located and successfully rescued the last cardinal, who was bounded and branded with 'Water' before being thrown into the fountain.
Upon ensuring the safety of the cardinal, Robert rushes after the Hassassin to find the Church of Illuminati and save the Vatican city from being destroyed.
He found his way to the Castel Sant'Angelo with Vittoria and met the Hassassin who spared their lives; relating that he was not instructed to kill them and told them to stay off; as they are dealing with very faithful and highly dangerous people; indicating that they came from the Church itself.

The Hassassin found his vehicle which contained his payment but the car exploded immediately after he ignited the engine.

Robert then discovers in shock that there is a fifth element and together, he and Vittoria raced towards the Vatican, upon realizing that the Camerlengo himself (who is the temporary person in charge of Vatican) has been identified as the last victim.
They rushed into his rescue when he was found suffering from the fresh brands on his chest and pointing to both the Commander Richter and one of the cardinals as illuminatus which triggered the Swiss Guards to fire shots at them to save the Camerlengo.

In the confusion, Robert found a key entrusted into his hand by the Commander.
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They then rushed to the location of the hidden antimatter and upon finding it, realizes that the battery is dying fast (due to the temperature) and they may not be able to get it out by flight on time.
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The Camerlengo snatches the antimatter from them and ran off; taking flight in the helicopter, flying high above, leaving the copter to explode in the air finally while Vittoria and Robert mourns his great deed.
The faithful were relieved to find him flying down with his parachute and though suffering serious wounds, he was fine.

Robert then used the key to Richter's office and found a videotape that revealed the mastermind of the whole murder was actually the Camerlengo himself and not the Illuminati. He was against the whole idea of science and was worried for the future of the church.
At the same time, while the Camerlengo was being treated at the hospital for his wounds, the conclave was coming to an unanimous vote to have his as the next pope; despite his age and non-cardinal status by invoking the Election by Adoration (where they ask for the intervention of the Holy Spirit).

Robert raced to the Vatican and informed the cardinals and the Camerlengo was summoned back to the Vatican. He was anticipating his election and was shocked to realize that his plot has been uncovered; by the faces of the Cardinals of the College.
He then runs off and heads towards the center of the St Peter's Basilica and burns himself, praying to God from one of the holy lamps.

The new Pope is then elected; who was the surviving preferiti cardinal taking on the new name of Pope Luke (a name that was never used before) and he gives the Galileo's book to Robert as a sign of gratitude.
At the same time, the Church announces the Camerlengo has died due to his internal wounds during the explosion and landing and has been canonized as a saint.

Cardinal Strauss also made an interesting statement to Robert Langdon,
"Every religion has its flaws; as in every man, including the one that is standing before you. However, it is the man who is the flaw in the religion"

Overall, the movie was well-filmed; after all, we had the award winning Steven Spielberg and I can't expect lesser than that.
The story plot was interesting and the whole movie was kept to a dark and sinister atmosphere which made the whole storyline even more interesting as a whole.

However, as a Roman Catholic myself and also an avid reader, I have to share a few interesting quirks I found in the Angels & Demons concept in general.

The FACT vs FICTION part in Angels & Demons:
1. The overall papal conclave process is accurate; whereby the cardinals are locked in seclusion in the Sistine Chapel which is a tradition for centuries, following the death of the pope. The election process can take days; where the College will burn the election votes using damp straw with chemicals to produce black smoke; indicating that there is no decision yet, and dry straw for white smoke; the victorious moment when the pope is selected!
2. The process of the ring and the sealing of the documents, funeral and arrangements are accurate (shown in the beginning of the movie).
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(The following is from Wikipedia)
The death of the Pope is verified by the Cardinal Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, who traditionally performed the task by gently striking the Pope's head with a small silver hammer and calling out his Christian (not papal) name three times. During the twentieth century the use of the hammer in this ritual has been abandoned; under Universi Dominici Gregis, the Camerlengo must merely declare the Pope's death by calling him three times by his Christian name in the presence of the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, and of the Cleric Prelates, Secretary and Chancellor of the Apostolic Camera. The Cardinal Camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman worn by the Pope; the Ring, along with the papal seal, is later destroyed before the College of Cardinals. The tradition originated to avoid forgery of documents, but today merely is a symbol of the end of the pope's reign.[36]

During the sede vacante, as the papal vacancy is known, certain limited powers pass to the College of Cardinals, which is convoked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals. All cardinals are obliged to attend the General Congregation of Cardinals, except those whose health does not permit, or who are over eighty (but those cardinals may choose to attend if they please).

3. There is no such term as preferiti, for the next in line cardinals.
The correct term is papabili.

4. St Theresa in Ecstasy is not depicted as the saint in a lucrative manner; and has no sexual indication. It was a portrayal of a holy woman who experienced the presence of God and the Holy Spirit and was said to have described is as such elevating happiness that it was illustrated by Bernini in the form of ecstasy.

5. The churches are, accurate, on location in Rome, though not accurate in the direction in the storyline.
All the churches are not as near as depicted in the movie where Robert Langdon can arrive in a mere 1-2 minutes from one church to another.

6. Antimatter do exist, but it is not something which can be brought or stored in a canister for that matter.
The impact of the explosion (if it does occur) can definitely destroy the whole of Vatican City.

7. Galileo and Bernini are not part of the Illuminati as claimed.
Reason 1: They are both faithful men to the church; especially Bernini who was favored by most of the popes and a highly gifted child artist and sculptor since young.
Reason 2: Illuminati existed and was abolished a century before Galileo was even born!

8. Galileo was not prosecuted by the Church; it was Giordano Bruno.
Galileo was indeed called for Inquisition and was renounced due to his aggressive acts to prove his theory; and given the state of the church who was fighting against the Protestants, it was a threat to their existence.
However, Galileo was not killed by the Church.
Copernicus was also not being punished by the church for starting his idea of the planetary movement and that Earth is not in the center. In fact, the Pope then was accepting the idea and Copernicus himself dedicated the theory/book to Pope Paul III.

9. The Great Castration by Pope Pius IX, is not as claimed. In fact, the fig leaves were added, but not castrated. Subsequent efforts to remove the leaves proves harder than leaving them in place.

10. Camerlengo is indeed the man in charge of the Vatican during the period between the death of the pope until the selection of the next pope; a period known as sede vacante tempe.
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The Camerlengo is the chamberlain and oversees the Holy See's Office and all office matters. He is also the one in charge of making funeral arrangements after the pope's death and calling for the conclave into action.

There are many more facts vs fiction that I think I must create an article in my blog on this one day =)

Another interesting part of this movie is the cast too; boasting of a wide international cast:
Robert Langdon - Tom Hanks (US)
Dr Vittoria Vetra - Ayelet Zurer (Israel)
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Camerlengo Patrick McKenna - Ewan McGregor (Scotland)
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Cardinal Strauss - Armin Mueller-Stahl (Germany)
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Commander Richter/Head of Swiss Guards - Stellan Skarsgard (Sweden)
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Inspector General Ernesto Olivetti - Pierfrancesco Favino (Rome, Italy) - remember the evil uncle in Prince Caspian?
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Hassassin - Nikolaj Lie-Kaas (Scandinavia/Denmark)
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My thought?
I applaud Dan Brown for a brilliant piece of work, and in twisting the fact and fiction.I have to say that he is indeed a creative and innovative writer; whose work really amazes me.
At the same time, Steven Spielberg has once again contributed to the blockbuster status of the movie with his great work and the strong cast.

The church is depicted in connection to the dark ages in the past, where several issues of disgrace were being discussed in both the book and the movie, the corruption, conspiracies, and the lives and reigns of the popes which have been consistently the central theme in Dan Brown's stories in both Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

I was taken on a memorable and nostalgic ride through the city of Rome where I visited last year, and it made me wanting to go again after watching the movie.
I am very sure that all the landmarks of the movie/book will be world-famous landmarks(as if they are not already) and the major tourist attractions!

A definitely recommended movie to watch; but for pure entertainment fiction; not for factual education!

Dan Brown's works could definitely awaken Leonardo Da Vinci,Bernini, Galileo and Copernicus, and various historical figures from the dead, with their alleged involvement in his various theories!
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1 comment:

Scaila said...

Nice article :-) ... but there is a mistake ... Ewan McGregor is scottish actor or GB if you want, but definetly not US actor ;-)