“Angels OR Demons?” No ecstasy for Ron Howard or Dan Brown

Ecstasy.jpgSo the Diocese of Rome (that’d be the pope’s diocese) has barred Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and the production team filming “Angels & Demons,” the “Da Vinci Code” prequel/sequel, from shooting inside two churches in the Eternal City. At the risk of committing pop culture heresy, I can only say: Bravo!
I don’t necessarily base my condemnation on the anti-Catholicism of Brown’s novels, which do traffic in those stereotypes and certainly give church authorities every right to bar such filming. And before you go off on a Brown-ish rant, note that the Vatican is not stopping filming of the exteriors of the churches in question, and that the Anglican Communion also barred filming inside some sacred locales during shooting of the Da Vinci Code for similar reasons–offenses against Christian belief, history, and the rest. Besides, the two churches are gems–Santa Maria della Vittoria houses Bernini’s St. Teresa in Ecstasy (or is that Mary Magdalene?) and Santa Maria del Popolo has the remarkable Caravaggios of the conversion of St. Paul and the crucifixion of St. Peter. Spare a thought for them, at least!
Tom Hanks.jpgBut Brown’s anti-Catholicism is so cartoonish as to be almost laughable. Less amusing is his writing. Sure, I’m a sucker for a paperback thriller, more than most. I knew Robert Ludlum backwards before Matt Damon was born. But for me, Brown’s writing is a greater sin against the spirit than almost anything else in the books. I tried, I really did, not to read “Angels & Demons” once the “Da Vinci Code” tsunami broke. But it’s part of the job…So I read it on a plane ride to Rome, and it didn’t make the trip any shorter. Maybe I needed that plasma-fueled X-33 jet that no one ever heard of that gets Langdon from Manhattan to Geneva in an hour. (“Not Geneva, New York, Mr. Langdon. Geneva, Switzerland.” OMG!!! Does anyone know there is a Geneva, NY? And does anyone realize he coulda done the same to Rome!)
Could anything be worse than “The Da Vinci Code”? Turns out “Angels & Demons” makes a case. More there than one post can critique, but I’m sure there will be other opportunies to do so. But one beautiful passage, from Page 115 in the paperback, when Our Hero, Robert Langdon, the most brilliant intellect in the Western World, is reminded that, oh yeah, the pope just died:

“How could he have forgotten. It had been in the news recently.”

The real secret: Dan Brown is a humorist, the David Sedaris of thriller writers. But I am spitting into the wind. I can’t help myself. This movie will be a phenom, and our cross to bear for the next year or more. Maybe I’ll learn to deal.

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Sally Rogers

posted June 17, 2008 at 12:20 pm

These books do create a real test of my faith, but not in the way Brown intends. They tempt me to despair over human nature when I realize that human beings actually read, enjoy and are influenced by such tripe. How could a good God create beings that appreciate such drivel?
But what we should take away from this is that people are so starving for spiritual significance and mystery that they will gorge themselves on such empty calories. We Christians should be feeding them real food to address this hunger.

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posted June 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm

I do not believe that Brown “intends” to test anyone’s faith. He is a writer of fiction. It’s what he does. If he actually intends to do anything other than entertain, maybe he intends to ask that people read his work with an open mind. God gave us intellect and free will to go along with that. Reading someone else’s views on religious matters is not likely to change my whole belief system.

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Sally Rogers

posted June 17, 2008 at 7:21 pm

I’m sure he intends to entertain. Unfortunately he lacks creativity and writing skills, as well as any depth of character, plot or wisdom to pass along. What he does do is exploit serious topics for gullible people. It’s empty calories leading to hardening of the arteries.

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Annette Iantorno

posted June 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm

I think it’s a crying shame that people have nothing to do but attack Religion.What are the writers in Hollywood thinkinking of.They had better wake up and Smell the Roses before it is to Late.Shame on Howard and of all people Tom Hanks.

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Jamese Martin, SJ

posted June 19, 2008 at 10:58 am

How delightful that Brown, et. al., are seeking to use the very places which were designed to lead people closer to God, and which glorify the church, in their attempt to mock and belittle Catholicism. The irony is delicious.

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posted June 20, 2008 at 1:48 am

Jamese Martin, SJ: “How delightful that Brown, et. al., are seeking to use the very places which were designed to lead people closer to God, and which glorify the church, in their attempt to mock and belittle Catholicism. The irony is delicious.”
You’ve got to be kidding us, right? Brown, et. al. are, indeed, “seeking to use the very places which were desighted to lead people closer to God.” But only in the sense of a drunken man who finds himself in a church and mistakes the baptismal font for a urinal.

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Pat French

posted August 10, 2008 at 9:13 am

The biggest “sin” is not Brown’s attacks on catholicism. After all we are a free society, and it is true that the Catholic Church is not immune to many sins itself. The real sin is in Brown’s writing skills. He may be entertaining but he simply is not a very talented writer. I agree with Sally Rogers’ comments in that regard.
Regarding the merits of his claims as put forward in the Da Vinci Code: he really did not invent anything. Those theories in various forms have been existing and spreading all over Europe for at least sixteen hundred years. From the Merovingian blood line to the reality of a secret society destined to protect the secret of the Grail, all of that is not new. It really amazes me that Mr. Brown seemed to make it as if those ideas were his.
However, like with any fiction there is always a part of truth in a story, even ever so tiny.
1.The early Christianity was not monotheist, far from it. Christianity was after all one more Jewish sect of the time. It fragmented into various sub-groups. The issue of admitting gentiles into the movement was already a breaking point for many. The divine origins of Jesus and what it realy meant was another breaking point.
2.Approximately 100-200 AD the gnostic movement had slowly started to spread into southern France while the “roman” movement was fast spreading from Rome to the colonies.
3.It appears true that Mary Magdeleine, Sarah and others fled Palestine after the death of Christ and finally touched down on the shores next to Marseilles. Some of the oldest early Christian catacombs exist to this day in the catacombs of St Victor’s Abbey in Marseille, France.
The cult of Mary Magdeleine is very strong is that part of the world and she is said to have taken refuge and lived as an hermit in the mountains East of Marseille.
The rest, no one knows for sure thus the total fiction created by Brown.
Again, we are a free society. free to believe without proof or free to reject.
I read “Angels and Demons” and it is for me one of the most boring pieces of literature ever written

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posted August 26, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Boring… are you kidding me? Of course Dan Brown didn’t make all of this up himself. He did his research. We all know that the Church has deep, dark secrets: perhaps even some that could greatly diminish faith in the Church. However, that is not what Brown was looking to do. He is a FICTIONAL AUTHOR, as Enkelte said before. He is paid to entertain readers, and I don’t think he cares that he has some religious fanatics up his butt for writing a controversial piece. The fact that it is controversial is what keeps the attention of myself and fellow “tripe-loving, gullible” friends. Everyone knows that the Church does things to protect its image, yet it is still a place of hope and solidarity for millions, maybe billions, across the globe. Take the book for what it is: a suspense-filled thriller full of mystery, second-guessing, and puzzles in a city with a history as rich as Rome. My favorite book of all time.

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Hey Zeus

posted March 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

The Catholic Church eats this stuff up. Barring Filming – give me a Break ! A huge budget hollywood feature with A list stars that gets people to sit and soak in a mixture of new age with theologist BRAINWASHING. They NEVER wanted to film inside – Impractical, Expensive, when you can build a set or just green screen in your own back yard and manipulate all conditions since you will be spending at least two days shooting ONE take. This is all just media-whip-up-the-public manipulation. The ‘Church’ is so desperate to engage the minds of the weak because their suckers er..uh I mean followers have been slipping in numbers for years. More mumbo-jumbo-mysticism-revisionist-history is just what the doctor called for. It’s been their bread and butter for centuries. What an OLD SAW – ” Folks, see what the Vatican doesn’t want you to see! See the FORBIDDEN secrets! Step right inside !” Just how ignorant are all of you that anything else could have been written here. Grow up.

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