Cardinal sins

“Hmm … this is some real silly mumbo gumbo.”

“Hmm … this is some real silly mumbo gumbo.”

Rated 1.0

Movies based on the books of Dan Brown officially rank as one of the worst movie franchises in existence. I put it right alongside the Alien vs. Predator movies, the American Pie monstrosities and those horrendous Beethoven flicks. Tom Hanks … Ron Howard … you must stop … NOW!!!

Angels & Demons starts dumb and just gets dumber as it plods along. This is a movie where you can guess the bad guy from watching the promo commercials, and it’s littered with continuity problems. (There’s some business involving a retinal scanner at the beginning that blew my mind with its ineptitude.) This is a movie that presents scenarios so illogical, so preposterous, it makes the other above mentioned franchises look like high art.

The events of the book actually happened before The Da Vinci Code, but the film acts as a sequel. Robert Langdon (Hanks) is working on a book when the Vatican contacts him. He thinks it’s because they are going to grant him access to their archives for research, but it turns out his “expertise” is needed for a grave situation.

The Pope is dead, and somebody has kidnapped the four cardinals most likely to replace him. That somebody plans to knock off each of the candidates on an hourly basis, leading up to a cataclysmic explosion of “antimatter.” The claim is that this antimatter is the stuff that caused creation as we know it, basically God’s version of flour in his big-assed creation cake. So, right there, I had to ask myself, “WTF?”

Langdon allies himself with a scientist who was working on the antimatter (Ayelet Zurer, who is, of course, super hot). Following clues left by the psycho, they find themselves running around to different relics and ruins in Rome, usually arriving just a little too late to save the life of the cardinals.

And those cardinals die some particularly gruesome deaths for a PG-13 movie. They’re like Eli Roth’s Hostel deaths (another decaying movie franchise that’s still better than this one). A couple of dudes burn in front of our eyes, another gets his lung punctured complete with blood spurting into Hanks’ face, and another gets ashes stuffed in his mouth until he suffocates. It’s Catholic torture porn!

Hanks is basically collecting a big paycheck to look puzzled and spout a bunch of nonsense about the Illuminati. (The killer is making the deaths look like the return of the Illuminati, a secret religious society dedicated to “scientific truth.”) It’s so disappointing to watch his talents squandered in this drivel. One could say it’s worth it to him for the money, but Hanks can make lots of money making great films rather then lending his presence to stupid puzzle movies.

And the puzzles are the things that make this film most ridiculous. The murderer gives clues, in plain sight, to where murders will be, increasing the likelihood that his plan will be foiled. On top of this, some of the so-called mysteries aren’t very mysterious at all. As I said before, I correctly guessed the mastermind behind the killings before I stepped into the theater.

The supporting cast boasts some admirable talent: Stellan Skarsgard plays a Vatican security commander, Ewan McGregor is on hand as a high ranking priest, and Armin Mueller-Stahl gets all dressed up to play a cardinal. All three are good actors and, like Hanks, they are forced to recite nonsensical, ridiculous dialogue.

Howard is already buzzing about making another film based on a Brown novel, and Brown will continue the adventures of Robert Langdon in The Lost Symbol, a book due for release in September. No doubt, people do love these books.

I read The Da Vinci Code and, while I didn’t care for it all that much, it was better than the movie. Perhaps these literary puzzles play better on the page than on the silver screen. As long as Brown keeps churning them out, they will more than likely find their ways to cinemas. Woe is me.