Main image
18th June
2009
written by Tony
Despite this poster, the movie isn't scary. At all.

Despite this poster, the movie isn't scary. At all.

The word is out that this movie is better than the first, which was apparently really, really boring. And Tom Hanks had some sort of theological-mullet (theomullet?) going on. Granted, neither of us actually saw the first movie (to our credit, I think) and only Steph has read the first book. So I was essentially a tabula rasa going into this, and that was fine by me. Let’s see, why did we go to this movie in the first place? I think we were looking for a way to drown $14.00 and kill an afternoon with what was described as a movie that was “comically bad.” Let me warn you now: the nature of this review necessitates spoilers. That being said, if you haven’t seen it yet and are here reading this, then forge ahead and save the money. Also, Steph brought a little notebook to take notes so we wouldn’t forget any important details. Before we get to the actual movie, let’s mention some of the high-quality selling that took place during the previews. There was the one for the Jodi Piccoult movie (My Sister’s Keeper) that lead with “Most babies are accidents…” Exactly. Then note #2 says simply “Shia LeBouf=douchebag.” Probably for Transformers 2. “Tyler Perry – I feel bad for all the people who laughed at this.” On with the show! First of all, let’s explain the premise of this movie: Vatican City is under threat of explosion from a battery-powered canister full of anti-matter, a material described as “an extremely combustible substance.” Sigh. I get that Dan Brown isn’t a physicist or anything, but just go to the damn wikipedia page at the very least. What kind of anti-particles do we have trapped in the canister? Well, since they seemed to come from a collision between photons, as improbable as it is, we probably have anti-photons (that’s right, just saying “anti-matter” isn’t really specific enough but we can gloss over that I suppose) so the fact that the anti-matter is enclosed in a glass case means that regular photons can get to it and… threat averted. I also haven’t heard much about anti-matter being all that explosive when it’s just sitting around and not the subject of high energy particle collisions, but we’ll leave that to Hollywood. Let’s not forget that, to date, CERN has spent about 300 million dollars to produce around a billionth of a gram (it’s estimated antimatter costs around 63 trillion dollars per gram), which is not enough to damage to much of anything. Turns out this anti-matter is possessed by some terrorist funded by the illusive Illuminati who kidnaps the four “prefereti” (most likely candidates to succeed the recently deceased Pope), brands (yes, like cattle) and kills them on the hour until midnight, when, presumably, the anti-matter runs out of batteries and incinerates most of Vatican City. Let me just state for the record that Hanks & co. cross Rome from one side to the other in less than five minutes multiple times while chasing clues. All you have to do is watch the Amazing Race when it goes to Rome (or use common sense) to know that something like that is probably the largest bit of fiction in the movie. Now, I wouldn’t call this movie laughably bad. I don’t think either of us actually laughed out loud, but the movie is bad, improbable and generally uninspired. I have no idea if this comes from Brown’s writing, and I don’t care to find out, so spare me some tirade about how they butchered his book or whatever (assuming they followed the text, of course). The person who adapted this to film was either lazy and did no actual research or very faithful and Dan Brown is simply an idiot. Either way it makes for a bad movie.
Studies have shown Hanks has never actually had good hair.

Studies have shown Hanks has never actually had good hair.

The brilliant bible scholar and ancient lore cryptologist played by Hanks (who, interestingly enough, can’t read Italian or Latin despite the fact that the subject of his lengthy research is rife with these languages) spends most of the movie running around Rome with a good-natured and predictable Italian policeman and Vittoria, a marine biologist/physicist/visual distraction, trying to get ahead of the villain’s plan and find the “bomb.” I found it interesting that Hanks’ character couldn’t even read Italian, while his female counterpart heard the name of some random drug the Pope was taking and knew an overdose would cause symptoms identical to a heart attack (oooh!), knew the name and location of nearly every historical landmark and sculpture in Rome, spoke Italian, English and Latin, and was also a marine biologist and physicist who apparently knows everything. And yet it was Hanks who solved the mystery and lead the show. Very interesting. Through it all Ewan McGregor plays the laughably naive camerlengo (Pope’s favorite) whose soft-spoken, doe-eyed bumbling makes for the only semi-endurable part of the movie. Fast forward to the end when they finally find the anti-matter bomb and it is almost out of batteries, meaning everyone dies. What does our lovable camerlengo do? Whisks it out to a waiting helicopter (he was a pilot for the army once), flies it up into the skies and parachutes out (no martyrdom for him!) to presumed safety. There is, however, one small problem with this plan, since we seem to be operating in a world where the rules of physics generally apply. When you take a high yield explosive and detonate it above the ground (rather than below ground, or in a thick-walled container), it becomes much more destructive, not less. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan were detonated at between 1,500-2,000 feet above the ground, as was the massive firebomb dropped on Dresden. The fact that Ewan is attached to a parachute several hundred feet in the air when the bomb goes off is also ignored, as he survives the shock-wave and following vacuum in pretty good shape. Oh yeah, turns out he’s EVIL and all this was his doing! Sha-BAM! Turns out it wasn’t the Illuminati, it was little Ewan, upset that the Pope was shacking up with science (he gives an awe-inspiring speech earlier in the movie about how the church basically oppresses and ignores science, and that’s pretty fine by him). The rest unfolds as you would expect it to and Ewan avoids capture by somehow immolating himself using a tiny amount of lamp oil. I bet he’s probably violating one of the laws of thermodynamics at the same time, like he burns and his remains are completely obliterated or something. I hate you Dan Brown and/or Ron Howard. Blech. Boring, untidy, poorly conceived, pseudo-science, tiresome, yawn-tastic. These are all words I would use to describe this movie. Tom Hanks’ hair is better, though still not good. 1 out of 5

5 Comments

  1. Eva
    06/18/2009

    LOL I loved this review!!! I refuse to go see this one, but the first was inflicted on me by my parents. 🙁

    Since I’ve studied WMD nonproliferation, I stay far, far away from any book/movie discussing nuclear briefcase bombs.

  2. From your plot description it looked as though they followed the book quite closely! I’ll get the DVD out when it eventually comes around – just so I can slate it too!

  3. 06/18/2009

    Heehee, great review! You might want to check out what Bob Mondello (NPR) had to say about the movie (if you haven’t already) – seems you’ve come to some similar conclusions 🙂
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104030264

  4. Laura
    06/18/2009

    I was just waiting for Ewan to burst into song…maybe some ‘luck be a lady tonight’?!

    Love the review.

  5. taryn
    06/22/2009

    Ooh, note-taking!! Steph, remember when we went to that show in the Vic auditorium, and spent most of it taking notes by an indiglo watch-light? Fun times.
    Anywho, i went to see this movie with Laura and if i recall correctly, it WAS laugh-out-loud funny a couple of times, in the “that’s so improbably i’m going to guffaw!” sense.
    My personal theory as to why Vittoria knew intricate medical symptoms was because Dan Brown/Ron Howard confused “physicist” with “physician”.

Leave a Reply