Friday, July 15, 2011

Lit to Film: Angels and Demons


I think it's pretty safe to say that the books Hollywood turns into films are often...lacking. Whether it's missing character traits or thoughts, plot changes to make the story flow better on screen, certain scenes removed altogether...etc...we all know how badly a book can be destroyed while making its way to the silver screen. Last month D.F. Matthews gave an example about how The Shining was one of those films that wound up being better than the book. This time it's the opposite. The film Angels and Demons has nothing on the book by Dan Brown.
Before you go on though, I have to warn you:
*SPOILER ALERT*

Angels and Demons is actually the first book (not The DaVinci Code) from Dan Brown that introduces the character Robert Langdon. The novel opens with Langdon receiving a midnight phone call from Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN, the world's largest scientific research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. One of their top physicists has been murdered and branded with the word Illuminati across his chest. As a symbologist, and expert on this ancient secret society, Langdon is asked to help solve the murder. Turns out that this dead guy was not just a physicist but also a Catholic priest who had been working in secret with his adopted daughter Vittoria (also a scientist) to create antimatter. Problem? This antimatter stuff is extremely delicate. As in it can destroy an entire city--Vatican City--which is where the canister containing it is hidden.
To make matters worse, the Pope has just died and the four priests being considered as replacements have been kidnapped. So now Langdon and Vittoria are in a race against time to try and decipher the clues left by this murderer, who claims to be Illuminati, before it's too late. This race leads them to sealed crypts, empty cathedrals, and into the greatly restricted vault of Vatican City itself to search for the trail of enlightenment which will lead to the location of the secret Illuminati meeting place that has been hidden for centuries.

Now here comes the film, directed by Ron Howard. To say the interpretation was okay would be putting it nicely. Those of you who have read the books and seen the film will probably agree with me. Those who haven't...let me explain.

While the plot pretty much remains the same....

Langdon must figure out the clues and what the Illuminati are saying before the murderer kills every one of the kidnapped priests.

...I was shocked to see how different the film interpretation of the book was right from the start. Not only was it not Kohler who calls Robert Langdon--but Kohler's character was completely erased from the film. The dead scientist was depicted as Vittoria's colleague and not her father. Even Vittoria seemed to be 'dummed' down in the film. From here it just gets worse. The Carmerlengo (a major part of the story) is missing so much of the backstory that made him the great character he should have stayed. There was no understanding from the audience as to why he would do the things he does and his relation to the Pope was also taken out. It made him seem more like master's pet and nothing more. One thing I did find very disappointing is the murderer himself. The Hassasin. There was nothing about his past to motivate him. He's merely a hire for kill. Truly saddening, considering he was very good at what he did. In fact...it was beautiful. (Though I'm no sadist)
Still, I don't have to point out the details to show how off mark the film was. In the end of the book, all four priests are killed. In the movie, however, Robert Langdon manages to save one--who later becomes the Pope.

For those who did read the book and saw the film, the plot changes made the thing hard to follow. Then again there was so much that the director assumed viewers knew that he left out things that would allow the non book readers to understand the story the way it was meant to. An epic battle between Science and Religion. The film played up the conspiracy of the Catholic Church more than explaining the reasons behind WHY characters behaved the way they did. It was typical bad guy vs good guy. So not what it should have been.

So for those of you who have read and watched Angels and Demons...which do you think was better?
Or if you've only watched one and not the other...would you consider reading/viewing the other?

I'm sure there will be some of you who disagree, but I wouldn't recommend watching the film until you've read the book. It will ruin things for you. Then again, I can't really say the book won't ruin the movie either. Guess that's just a decision y'all will have to make. :)

3 comments:

  1. OOOooo I'm surprised nobody has commented on this yet. I was torn when I went to see this one. I loved the book and the movie...but seperately. They were almost two different stories. The endings kind of did that for them. But you are right when you said the director did a horrible job at gettting the book's main point on screen. Tom Hanks is an incredible actor but even he couldn't save the film. They really screwed up with the ending. Did you notice how a lot of characters weren't even on screen? Or how the carmarlengo was italian in the book but irish onscreen? His entire background was stolen. I missed the test tube baby bit. Sigh. Lol. This is definitely one where the book was better. Though both film and book had its good points.

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  2. I believe out of all three books in the Robert Langdon Series, I was most enamored with Angels & Demons. Anything questioning Christianity and Science is sure to lead to controversy. I myself became curious about the history of Christianity, being that I'm not of that faith. There was more action and suspend in this book because of the time limit that was set up at the beginning. Everything speeds by quickly, yet at the same time, slows down just enough as the questions are brought up and answered. The deaths in the story are quite sad, considering the age and status of the men lost. The most shocking part of all was the way it ended, never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that the person behind everything was who it turned out to be. This book is truly captivating, which led me to look forward to the next mystery Robert would be faced with.

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    Replies
    1. I have to agree that the time limit really made it more suspenseful. At first I thought it would be boring..too timed out because obviously there has to be a conclusion at some point but there were so many twists and questions, I was hooked the entire time. And yes! I didn't see that coming at the end. The person didn't even cross my mind. The Lost Symbol is also a great read. :)

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