“Angels & Demons”
 
            “Angels & Demons” is based on Dan Brown’s prequel to “The DaVinci Code.”  Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard Professor Robert Langdon, who can read Latin faster than speeding bullet, interpret obscure ancient symbolism more powerfully than a locomotive, and guess what the bad guy is going to do next, like leaping over tall buildings in a single bound.
            Of course, part of Langdon’s genius is playing detective better than the police, and figuring out not only who the bad guy is, but why he’s gone over to the Dark Side in the first place.  The Vatican can only wish that some brilliant symbologist would fly over there and instantly solve all their mysteries.  But, alas, instead, they apparently attempted to obstruct Director Ron Howard’s production by blocking access to certain historical sites crucial to the making of the film.  Well, if you were in charge of The Sistine Chapel, would you clear out all the tourists in order to give exclusive access to an American film crew whose intent is probably to make you look like buffoons?
            The Catholic Church comes across here as the keeper of dark secrets, the maintainers of priceless artistic treasures which they refuse to share with the rest of the world, and the enemies of a secret cult called “The Illuminati” which wants to kill them all in the name of science?
            Well, supposedly, the Catholic Church is at odds with modern science, but somehow this centuries-old debate hasn’t moved much past Galileo in this film.  This is going to seem a little silly to those who are familiar with more modern (or even post-modern) science, and with more enlightened Church views (we don’t still insist that everyone believe that the sun revolves around the earth).  But that gaping hole in logic aside, “Angels and Demons” is a pretty good yarn.  It’s basically a “whodunit” in an ecclesiastical context.  So we get to enjoy lots of old cathedrals, art work, cardinals in conclave, and even the occasional decent theology.  Yes, as Professor Langdon admits, faith is a gift, not necessarily given to all.  And yes, as Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) proclaims, God may well be utilizing people who are unaware that they are serving as God’s instruments.  And yes, as Cardinal Strauss confesses to Professor Langdon, the Church does not necessarily speak for God, or always give glory to the God it seeks to serve, because the Church is made up of imperfect humans, like himself.  Well said.  At least the Professor, though admittedly not a believer himself, possesses a wealth of knowledge about the history and content of the faith, as does his investigative partner, Dr. Vetra (Ayelet Zurer, who, ironically, is an Israeli actress, but is portrayed here as a scientist enormously knowledgeable about Roman Catholic Church history).  Well, any movie that features Ewan McGregor (of Obi Wan Kenobi fame) as the Pope’s “Camerlengo,” is asking the viewer for a huge suspension of disbelief, anyway.  May as well just go along for the ride and enjoy the suspense inherent in killing off one hostage Cardinal every hour, until our Superman Symbologist saves the day.
            The real-life Vatican, allegedly desiring not to add to the film’s publicity by criticizing it (as it did for “The Da Vinci Code”) chooses to be more silent on this one, though Director Howard insists that they were still active obstructionists both before and during the filming.  What more intrigue would you need?
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      Are creationism and evolution mutually exclusive?
2)      What professor has been your hero?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas