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Angels & Demons (Blu-ray Review)

21 Nov, 2009 By: John Latchem

Street 11/24/09
Sony Pictures
Box Office $133.4 million
$28.96 DVD,  $36.95 two-DVD set, $39.95 Blu-ray, $24.94 UMD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.
Stars Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Armin Mueller-Stahl.

In his second adaptation of a Dan Brown novel, director Ron Howard seems to have learned a few lessons from the first. Angels & Demons is a tauter thriller than The Da Vinci Code, and thus a better movie. I think Angels & Demons actually plays better on disc, where the story is given a chance to breathe and the viewer can better appreciate the cleverness of the clues embedded throughout the story.

Angels & Demons finds symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) traipsing through Rome in search of four kidnapped Cardinals, any one of whom could become the next pope. To provide a science vs. religion theme, the enemy is the Illuminati, enlightened adversaries of church doctrine who have left clues of their existence throughout the city.

The extended cut of the film offers about eight more minutes of footage, but most of it doesn’t amount to anything meaningful. In fact, one new scene toward the beginning of the film, involving the College of Cardinals’ attitude toward holding off conclave, seems to contradict their actions in the theatrical cut.

Fans of the book will be disappointed to learn that there is no trace whatsoever of a subplot concerning the genetic lineage of the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor).

The making of the film is covered extensively in the extras on the Blu-ray and special-edition DVD. Featurettes chronicle every aspect of the production, from the screenplay, to the music, to the props, to the process of re-creating the Vatican (the Catholic Church would not permit filming in the holy city).

Most interesting is a featurette about John Langdon, the typographer who designed the ambigrams of the original novel, and for whom the main character was named.

What seems to be missing, however, is any insightful analysis of how the film differs from the novel. A substantive commentary may have yielded such details, but alas, the disc contains no commentary at all.

The Blu-ray edition offers a few fun exclusives. The straightforward MovieIQ feature takes a while to load but lets viewers access information about actors and music in each scene as the movie plays (although career information is available only for the main cast).

The more immersive “The Path of Illumination” offers a virtual encyclopedia about Vatican City, the story of Angels & Demons and the making of the film.

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