When Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is in trouble, and even with the possibility of an anti-matter bomb exploding, tension is limited. The horror of a multi-million dollar movie franchise being sucked into a black hole is simply too ridiculous to consider.
However, when Langdon is involved in the rescue of four Catholic Cardinals across Rome, Angels & Demons begins to build its grip. The Cardinals are a sign of how close Langdon and his partner Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) are getting to their goal. Each time one is killed, they are closer to rescuing them, and preventing the Illuminati from destroying Vatican City. There is a legitimate threat of death in regards to the Cardinals.
It also gives Angels & Demons some structure, whereas the rest of the film is so choppy it fails miserably. Langdon finds a clue, explains everything to the audience, drives through the streets narrowly missing other cars, and then repeats until the clues are unraveled.
Langdon isn’t so much a character as he is the audience’s voice, and the limited depth he is given means the previous film does not need to be seen to pick up this sequel. Da Vinci Code had the same problem, giving Langdon little purpose besides exposition. His happy, school boy-like look as he enters the Vatican Archives is the closest you see Langdon expressing himself beyond telling everyone his thoughts.
Angels & Demons strongest asset is its core, which in this outing doesn’t rely on the ridiculousness of using a computer program to manipulate paintings. Internal deceit inside the highest ranks of the Catholic Church is far more convincing, not to mention a hint of movie science to add an enjoyable element of time to the proceedings.
Still, believing any of this to be possible requires a string of actions so complex prior to their execution, it is absurd. At least, it is an enjoyable absurdity, and it’s a good thing Ewan McGregor kept his Jedi handbook with him after the Star Wars prequels. He needed those skills to jump out of a helicopter carrying an anti-matter bomb, survive, and still carry out his plan. Jedi mind tricks are powerful things these days.
Sony delivers a strong if sometimes rough AVC encode for this sequel. Immediately apparent are strong, saturated colors, especially the Cardinals robes. Minimal (at worst) bleeding is evident. Flesh tones are vibrant yet accurate. Detail is stunning, capturing flawless facial textures even in mid-range shots. Clothing is well defined. Black levels are rich, delivering wonderful depth with minimal crush.
All of that happens before the story begins entering into the Roman underground, inside crypts and the like. There, detail takes a significant hit. Black levels remain firm, but the sharpness dips and that crisp, flawless look is absent. Considering how much of the film is shot in the darkness, this is a serious issue with this transfer.
Detail/sharpness drops are also evident elsewhere, the first being noted near the 24-minute mark on Tom Hank’s face. These are less common, but notable.
A DTS-HD mix has a few chances to work, including a shoot-out that offers nicely directional bullet hits, and the opening inside CERN where the atoms begin moving about.
Large crowds are common, filling the sound field fully. Street level ambiance is handled well, while the numerous reporters in Vatican City are delivered in the spacious fronts as the camera pans. A beefy car explosion pushes a significant low-end jolt. Hans Zimmer’s score is powerful, not to mention crisp and satisfying.
Spread across two discs, the first is mostly about BD-Live, including MovieIQ, CineChat, and generic online splash page access from Sony. Some trailers also reside here.
Disc two carries seven featurettes of various length, all in fine quality HD. Handling Props is the best of the group, focusing on the creation of the various props while the people responsible show them off in detail. Rome Was Not Built in a Day focuses on sets and visual effects, a fine piece.
The only questionable inclusion is Angels and Demons: The Full Story, a blatantly promotional piece that offers information available in the other features. In total, these all run a little over an hour in total.
The final piece is the idiotic Path of Illumination, a ridiculous and convoluted interactive feature that requires you to “tour Rome” just to view a 40-second feature with interviews pulled from elsewhere on the disc (and limited new footage). The information may be there, but finding it requires a ridiculous time investment that could have been solved by adding a generic menu.