Movie Review and Musings on Angels & Demons
By Jason Goble
After the storm of controversy surrounding Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and the movie that followed, the first time I saw a preview for the sequel Angels and Demons my thought was, “Here we go again.” Ask just about any American (Christian or not) about the formation of the NT canon and you are likely to hear some outlandish claim they heard from the first movie. After its release, most churches had to respond in some way to clarify that Dan Brown’s work was in fact a work of FICTION. Wanting to be ahead of the curve this time, I went to the new movie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, grasping an oversized tub of popcorn in one hand and my notebook in the other. When I left both were empty. (Actually, I didn’t finish all the popcorn.)
While Angels and Demons doesn’t do the Catholic Church -- and by extension, all of Christianity -- any favors, it does not call into question the formation of our church or of the NT canon the way its predecessor did. The movie is for the most part mindless fun, with the emphasis on “mindless.”
It is a somber follow-the-clues and beat-the-clock story, much like the National Treasure movies, sans the light-heartedness of that series. To be sure, there are plot holes and errors you could drive a Mack truck filled with the profits this movie is sure to make through, but it won’t cause near the problems of the last movie.
What Angels and Demons does do is bring the religion vs. science debate to the forefront. While the film pays lip service to a pseudo-argument from the religious side (“Science needs to slow down”), this is Harvard professor Robert Langdon’s story. And, when pressed to answer whether or not he believes in God, the Tom Hanks’ character responds, “Faith is a gift I have yet to receive.”
As the protagonist of the movie and the scientist who has to swoop in to save the church from its enemies as well as its own irrational traditions and behavior, professor Langdon (who is a symbologist) along with his sidekick Vittoria Vetra (whose specialty is creating the "God particle" -- antimatter made with a particle accelerator), are presented as the rational and thoughtful side of the debate. Implicit in the movie is that the two sides are ultimately polar opposites and reconciliation is not probable.
While this movie will ultimately fade into the background noise of the frenetic summer blockbuster schedule, it does for the moment bring into sharp focus a dichotomy that shouldn’t be. The book of God’s words and the book of God’s works must ultimately be reconciled, for they both come from the same good God. For those of us on the religious side, waiting for science to come to its senses, we might do well to remember an astronomer named Galileo and the church's response to his heretical notion that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. It didn’t end well for us. When OUR interpretation of God’s word comes up against the revelation of His works, it rarely does.