Much better than the Da Vinci Code, but this isn’t exactly the definitive work on science vs. faith, either.
Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), head of the non-existent Symbology Dept. (go ahead, look it up) is tapped by the Vatican police to look into a mysterious message. At the same time, CERN physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer, too good looking to be a physicist) discovers a dead colleague and that a bit of harvested anti-matter has gone missing. If all this wasn’t enough, the previous Pope died recently and all Cardinals have been recalled to Vatican city, and THEN a video showing the four most eligible Cardinals have been kidnapped to be made examples of before destroying Vatican City with (you guessed it) an anti-matter bomb. Will Robert Langdon be able to solve the mystery with his Sampson-like hair cut off and possibly get a love scene out of the physicist?
As a new movie opening this weekend, the buzz in my circles has been, well, nil. When I remind people that it’s a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, two questions usually follow: did they fix Tom Hanks hair, and does that mean it happened first? Yes they did, and no it didn’t. Sure, Wolverine and Star Trek got out of the gate first, but this is Ron Howard directing Tom Hanks. Are they simply advertising to a different audience, or does the studio feel this combination is already unbeatable? Having watched the film, it could have benefited from a little more advertising as to what the central theme is really about.
Once again, Langdon is pitted against a secret society, this time the oft-used Illuminati (hey, the best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, right?) What follows is an abridged versions of what the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is supposed to do (which, as of this review, still hasn’t been able to do) and a centuries-old revenge scheme about the Vatican covering up the original works of Galileo because of how they opposed church doctrine. Of course, the underlying story here isn’t as black or white as The Da Vinci Code or even as polarizing as pro-choice vs pro-life. It deals with fundamental doctrine: the betterment of mankind through prospected science or introspected faith.
There’s a lot more science in Dan Brown’s fiction this time around, and that’s where the film decidedly nukes the fridge. With everything at stake (including what’s really going on behind the scenes), the possibilities for anything like this coming together at all (let alone in a timely manner) are slim at best. And come on, how can you NOT hope for the chance to see an anti-matter explosion? What remains is a far-fetched but watchable thriller mixed with a enough history to make it interesting but not compelling (you know, like National Treasure, but without Nicolas Cage). But if Dan Brown, Ron Howard, and Tom Hanks get in line for thirds, enough with the European churches hiding secret societies, okay?
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)