“Angels and Demons” is the second film to be made from one of Dan Brown’s books on various aspects of the history of the Roman Catholic Church and the impact of that history on its present role and structure. The first of course was the wildly successful film “The DaVinci Code,” based on the wildly successful book of the same name. Having been a life-long action-adventure-historical novel reader (I started reading the historical novels of Howard Fast, which had plenty of action in them, when I was nine), I think that Brown is good at his craft. He does keep you on the edge of your seat and has a real knack at keeping you guessing about heroes and villains. He has obviously done a huge amount of research about both art history and the history of the Roman Catholic Church. So he does have a huge treasure-trove of facts about both at his command. He liberally shares that research with his readers, while making it very clear from his fanciful plotting that he is writing a novel, not a history book.
One only need look at his hero, symbologist Robert Langdon. I am a reasonably well-educated person, but frankly before I saw “The DaVinci Code,” I had never heard of symbology. In fact, when I saw the movie I thought Brown had made up that occupation. He didn’t, but he most surely did invent a person who, without a whip and skills at the martial arts, has much in common with Indiana Jones. So much so that in “Angels and Demons” at the Vatican’s call, he is off to Rome within 20 minutes of being invited to deal with an emerging emergency. A Harvard professor who hops out of a swimming pool where he is doing laps and then barely has time to dry off before he flies off (apparently without bothering to pack for such a trip)? Once at The Vatican, he becomes not only a practicing symbologist, but also a kind of super-detective trying to figure who the bad guys are. He has got to be a fictional character.