Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

The Vatican Drag 

Faith and theology do battle in Angels and Demons

Despite a prose style distinguished by its stunning ineptitude, Dan Brown is one of the world's top-selling authors. Consider the opening sentence of his crypto-religious thriller The Da Vinci Code: "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery." Of course it's important to know that the curator is "renowned" as he staggers through the archway. Or this: "On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly." It's hard to find writing worse than that.

But what does it matter? The Da Vinci Code sold more than almost any book in history. Brown's page-turners are what people confined on long plane rides praise as "a good read."

Director Ron Howard's 2006 Da Vinci Code adaptation relieved the book of its one saving grace: briskness. Critics panned the movie as bloated and contrived. Stung by the reviews, Howard rethought his approach before adapting Brown's Angels and Demons (which was published before Da Vinci, but which Howard treats as a sequel). With writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, he condensed the plot and made things less stagy, using the handheld cameras he employed in Frost/Nixon. So, instead of characters standing around speechifying, they speechify while walking down hallways.

Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard professor Robert Langdon, who's summoned to the Vatican to investigate a plot to kill four cardinals and destroy St. Peter's Basilica with a stolen anti-matter device, whose developer, physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), teams up with Langdon. The villains are said to be the Illuminati, the Enlightenment secret society that wants revenge for the church's sins against science, including the persecution of Galileo (which, in fact, has been greatly exaggerated).

There's a lot of dashing about, some ghastly killings, a possibly murdered pope, ominous pseudo-Carmina Burana choral music and a visually impressive scene involving an airplane. Hanks seems strangely detached, even though he's the central character.

The movie lacks even the frisson of the forbidden: The Vatican isn't protesting, like it did The Da Vinci Code, since the story is more or less pro-church. What fun is that?

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.

Latest in Screens

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 9, 2020

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2020 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation