Monday, May 18, 2009

Angels and Demons

As most of my readers will know, I really enjoy exploring issues of science, politics and religion. I particularly enjoy looking into where they overlap. Some of the best books I have read are on exactly this subject. Whether fiction or non-fiction I enjoy seeing how different characters balance these sometimes conflicting priorities in their lives.
With this in mind I was really apprehensive about Ron Howard’s film adaptation of Dan Brown’s book Angels and Demons. The book was very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed that each and every character in the book had a slightly different way of balancing science and religion in their lives. New details that were revealed in the process of the story unfolding forced these characters to have to reevaluate their decisions. How each of those characters responded to this problem was what gave depth and reality to the book. It was a very cerebral book.
As many others have pointed out, Brown does take a very liberal interpretation of what he refers to as facts. As he did in The DaVinci Code and all of his books he frequently twists the facts a little to make the codes and mysteries in his story work. I don’t really have a problem with this as long as he doesn’t claim that those details are facts. Brown does claim that those details are facts and it gets the church and others outraged and just draws publicity to the book. I enjoyed his books as fiction and something to provoke thought and further research but they are fiction so I’m not going to get too hung up on those details.
Anyway, I was apprehensive about seeing the movie because I really was unimpressed with Howard’s interpretation of The Davinci Code. Now I’m not one of those who gets all upset just because every detail and nuance of a book that takes days to read isn’t spelled out in a two hour movie. I understand the differences and the strengths of both mediums and I enjoy them both. Although I typically enjoy reading the book better than the movie I have seen a few movie versions that I enjoyed even better than the books. Jurassic Park and Contact are the first two that come to mind.
I just thought that Howard left out far too much of Angels and Demons. The depth of each character in the book was defined by how they responded to their internal conflict regarding the balance of science and religion. The movie avoided this conflict completely with most characters and only hinted at it with one or two. Sure the chase through Rome to find the killer was a good action story but without the internal struggles of the main characters you didn’t understand or even care why the chase was important. One of the main characters in the book was a prominent scientist who you suspected may have even been the one behind the murders was left out of the movie all together. His internal struggle and ultimately his decision to assist the church was one of the more dramatic character conflicts in the book. I have no idea why he was wholesale written out of the movie as well as nearly all of the other character’s internal struggles.
In the movie and in the book you really grow to love one character who comes across very likable and reasonable. At the end of the book his positive attributes are rewarded. However in the movie adaptation this character does not get the same reward. I can see no reason at all to make this change in the movie. It would have cost no extra film time and would have been a nice way to reward a likable character.
I've seen a few book to movie conversions where I liked the movie much better. This just wasn't one of them. I wish I’d have waited for the DVD.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your review. You put it more succintly than I could have. The movie was a dissappointment.