This Film is NOT a Future Release.
The Following Preview has been Archived.
February 16th, 2009:
When Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati - the most powerful underground organization in history - he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization's most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican's only hope for survival.What to Expect: Ron Howard
is one of those men you can't imagine swearing. I have this picture of him walking around his film sets, knowing everyone's name and greeting them with a cheerful dimpled smile and a brotherly clap on the shoulder. He knows how to do things like whistle through a blade of grass and build a tree fort. Oh, and make movies. This is, of course, a totally fictional version of Howard formed by all those years of watching him on TV as Opie and Richie Cunningham. He's a film director, and film directors are by definition bastards from time to time. So I know he must do things like swear, and bark orders, and perhaps get snippy with the focus-puller. But it just doesn't seem like him, you know? Article continues below
is another guy like that, one who you can't imagine teeing off on some paparazzi or unleashing profanity-laced vitriol on someone's voicemail. He must lose his temper from time to time, he's human, but you just can't imagine him getting angry or being in a bad mood. With all the rumors that fly around about actors and celebrities, and believe me I've been paying attention, I've never heard a bad word said about him. In some ways it's hard to believe that he could actually be nice. He must secretly be a giant asshole, right? Not as far as anyone can tell. Just take the incident on the set of "Angels & Demons," in which shooting was interrupted when a bride, bedecked in her nuptial finery, found her passage into the church where she was to be wed blocked by a big obnoxious film crew. Hanks called for a halt to shooting, escorted the lady and her father into the church himself, and straightened up her train so she looked perfect walking down the aisle. Then he went outside and got back to work.
I once read an online diary kept by an actor named Doug Hutchison
, who played the despised prison guard Percy Wetmore in "The Green Mile." It was frank and fascinating, and much of it was dedicated to Hutchison's continual shock that Hanks was exactly as nice as he seemed to be. He spoke of Friday nights, when Hanks would personally pay for a special dinner for the whole cast and crew. In & Out burgers one week, dim sum the next. He told stories about how Hanks, always professional and knowing his lines, would get blushy and tongue-tied when his wife was on set, and about how he would stick around the set to read lines off-camera for his fellow actor's coverage (a task most A-listers would not do, leaving the job to the script supervisor). It was the kind of account that left you waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for news of some temper tantrum or diva fit to surface, but none ever did.
His career is a Cinderella story, too. Comedians often become movie stars but so seldom get taken seriously. Nor was Hanks, at first. His early career is littered with films like "Bachelor Party" and "Volunteers," comedies that were commercial but...lowbrow (although I confess a weakness for "The Money Pit," which I've seen at least a dozen times on cable TV). The late 80s began his slow ascent to cinema godhood, with the tide really turning on the strength of two surprisingly emotional and dramatic performances in what were titular comedies: "Big" and "Punchline." After flailing for a few more years, the golden Decade of Tom really began in 1992 with "A League of Their Own" and extended through 2002's "Catch Me If You Can." Those ten years include "Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump," "Saving Private Ryan," "The Green Mile," both "Toy Story" films, two hugely successful rom-coms with Meg Ryan, "Road to Perdition" and a little miniseries you may have heard of called "From the Earth to the Moon."
That's a pretty good decade there, Tom. During this time he also won two Oscars back to back and produced what is probably the most acclaimed miniseries in the history of television, "Band of Brothers." Since then...well, things have slowed down a bit, as is inevitable. After "Catch Me If You Can," Hanks did not have another hit until 2006's "The Da Vinci Code"...in fact, he only made three movies, the unremarkable "The Terminal," the creepy schlockfest "Polar Express" and the egregious flop "The Ladykillers," a film that did no box office but did give us all (or at least me) the catchphrase "We must all have waffles, forthwith!"
Hanks was nobody's idea of who ought to play Robert Langdon, the hero of the phenomenon known as "The Da Vinci Code
." I was working at a bookstore when this book hit, and it hit like a thermonuclear weapon. Not only was it a bestseller of a magnitude that is seen once a decade in publishing, but its success was so pervasive that it dragged something like 100 nonfiction titles up with it, books about religious theory and mysticism and the Knights Templar and every other thing. It was so successful that Brown's previous three books, all of which had been published directly into paperback, were republished in hardcover. That's unprecedented. It's unheard of.
Naturally, everyone was waiting for a film, and they got...a film. Ron Howard would not have been my choice to direct, nor Hanks to star. They're too nice. Howard is too conventional. His films have never been envelope-pushing feats of edginess and cinematic daring. He makes good films, but safe films. This story wasn't safe. I would have preferred to see it done by Gus Van Sant or Stephen Soderbergh, or even someone really out there like Robert Rodriguez. Someone with an outsider's viewpoint who knew about challenging authority and sticking it to the man. But, I'm sure the studio was seeing big-blockbuster dollars, so they wanted someone to deliver something they could depend on, something without surprises or challenges. Ergo, Ron Howard (I'm amazed they didn't go to Robert Zemeckis) and Tom Hanks.
It was an okay movie. It was quite faithful to the book and dramatized all the...uh, drama. There was some cred lent to the production by actors like Jean Reno, Ian McKellan and Audrey Tatou. It was fun. I enjoyed it.
As you probably know, "Angels & Demons" is not a sequel to "Da Vinci." "Da Vinci" is, in fact, the sequel. "A&D" was the first novel Brown wrote featuring Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks). It's unclear whether this temporal relationship is maintained in the film, although frankly it doesn't matter one way or the other. The two stories are not connected and share no characters or plot elements, so which one came first is irrelevant. Some reports place this film before the events of "Da Vinci," as in the book, others claim that the script sets it after the previous film. Again, it doesn't matter.
The script is once again by Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman, who one blogger memorably called "the worst working mainstream screenwriter." I think that assessment is a little harsh, but Goldman's work is what one might call "workmanlike." Competent but uninspired. Apparently Howard thought so, too...the film began filming in 2007 but had to come to a halt with the WGA writer's strike; the script needed work and the strike would not allow script changes to be made while Goldsman was on the picket line. It cost Pinewood Shepperton studios millions in production costs, but at least this film got made. Others weren't so lucky. Oliver Stone's film about the My Lai massacre, "Pinkville," was permanently derailed and Stone went on to make "W
" instead. Filming resumed after the strike, but the release date had to be moved from late 2008 to May 2009. "War of the Worlds" and "Spider-Man" screenwriter David Koepp was brought in for a script polish and the film was off to the races. I have to wonder if the strike cost the film a cast member, too. Early reports had Naomi Watts cast as the female lead, but she seems to have either left or been dropped. Whether the strike-related filming delay caused the cast change is unknown. I suspect that dollar signs were the culprit, as high-octane actress Watts was replaced by a virtual unknown, "Munich" star Ayelet Zurer.
The film was immediately beset with resistance from no less an authority than the Pope. Never exactly a fan of Brown's novels, which pretty much rake the Catholic religion up one side and down the other, and having learned their lesson after "The Da Vinci Code," the Vatican immediately forbade the production from filming inside two key churches, the Santa Maria del Popolo and the Santa Maria della Vittoria. They could film the outside, but were not allowed to enter. Howard has dropped some hints that this might have led to some guerrilla filmmaking techniques. "You can make a camera really small," he said. Oh, Ron. You scamp. Doug Liman had to do the same thing while filming "Bourne Identity" inside the Gare Lyon in Paris. They just went in with a small handheld and shot the footage they needed. I guess we'll see how Howard's footage looks in a few months.
"The Da Vinci Code" was not well-reviewed. I wasn't as down on it as a lot of people were, but the whole thing did feel a bit uninspired (how much of that is the fault of the source material is another question). The book upon which "Angels and Demons" is based is, in my opinion, better, but similar enough in tone and subject matter to "Da Vinci" that it's almost pointless to draw distinctions, and I don't think the moviegoing public will, either. This could be good or bad. If they liked the first film (and judging by the box office, they did) they may flock to this one...or they could just think they've been there, done that, and save their money to pay the gas bill.
Then again, Tom Hanks has better hair this time. That was a huge concern before. I guess we can all relax now.In Conclusion:
So...arcane symbols, guys in red smocks, people speaking Latin. Sounds like a rip-roaring action thriller, right? Well, the last time we rode this trolleycar the film raked in a boatload, so second time's a charm, or so Columbia is hoping. It's been a few years, though, longer than they would have wished (darn those writers and their wanting of being paid) and people's memories are short. The "Da Vinci" craze has passed. Will anyone care about Tom Hanks saving priests with ancient puzzles?Similar Titles: The Da Vinci Code
, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets