Intense and graphic violence, torture, grisly images, guns, immolation
Movie Release Date:
May 15, 2009
DVD Release Date:
November 24, 2009
Harvard professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) returns for another round of save the world heroics peppered with chases, kidnapping, murders, clues, codes, and ancient manuscripts, a beautiful and very erudite woman, murky motives, and a lot of historical, religious, and artistic arcana, all to the music of angelic choirs and crashing horns.While the book occurs before the blockbuster sequel, this movie begins after the events of The Da Vinci Code. Langdon is not the Catholic church’s favorite guy, given his heretical findings about the role of the real-life Mary Magdalene and the efforts of the church to suppress it. The Vatican has repeatedly denied his request for access to some of their historic documents. But when a crisis hits just as the cardinals have convened to select the new pope and the four leading candidates are kidnapped, with the clues pointing to a secret and possibly terrorist sect of Catholic rebels, the Vatican calls on Langdon to solve the mystery.To make things more complicated — and believe me, this gets very complicated — something else has been stolen. It is “antimatter” created by a supercollider that is intended to find “the God particle,” the piece of matter that will answer some important questions about how the universe began. And if they don’t get to it by 8 pm, there will be a very, very big boom.It isn’t just atoms that are colliding here. Author Dan Brown specializes in dark conspiracies of power in the name of faith. He posits this story as a conflict between religion and science going back hundreds of years. Once again, he takes intensely detailed research into church culture, history, and canons, even the intricacy of Vatican succession and chains of command plus Galileo, Raphael, sculpture, and architecture, and then he builds a fictional story around it, giving a standard chase and explosion saga some added weight, freight, and interest. Once again, however, the heavy exposition translates unevenly to the screen as the actors have to chew through paragraphs of detailed information as they are careening through the streets of Rome.Hanks (without the scholar’s mullet this time, thank goodness) is game throughout, always seeming skeptical without being cynical, though for a guy who says he is “anti-vandalism” he leaves a lot of destruction in his wake. Ewan McGregor seems a little lost as the assistant to the late pope whose position gives him a fragile claim to authority. And the lovely Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is wasted in a role that calls on her to provide instant expertise in everything from astrophysics to Latin and pharmacology. Like its predecessor, this book and film have been controversial, challenging the church for the way it responds to challenges. For much of the story, Langdon is chasing after the Illuminati, for the purposes of this story a pro-science group “radicalized” by mistreatment hundreds of years ago and allegedly seeking the destruction of the church hierarchy by infiltration or violence. The bark of author Brown and director Ron Howard is provocative but the bite is thoroughly de-fanged and by its fictional overlay and its conclusion. Most of those who have what Langdon describes as the gift of faith will be satisfied. Parents should know that this film includes intense peril and very graphic images including a ripped-out eyeball. Violence includes guns, explosions, and torture, branding of humans, kidnapping, deaths by burning, dead bodies, grisly and disturbing visuals, and challenges to religious practice and belief.Family discussion: Read up on the history of the Illuminati and the past and present struggles between religion and science. How do you think they can be reconciled? What symbols do you find most meaningful and why? For more information about the controversy this book and movie have generated, see the comments of Beliefnet’s David Gibson, the Vatican, and Catholic Answers (some spoilers).If you like this, try: the book by Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code
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