Angels & Demons (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2009 by  

“Angels & Demons” is an entertaining film, it’s an ambitious and beautiful looking film that looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.  But the film does have its shortcomings and some scenes are a bit farfetched, but yet in the end, I found the overall content and presentation of “Angels & Demons” on Blu-ray to be quite fascinating and entertaining and feel it is definitely worth checking out.

Images courtesy of © 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Angels & Demons

DURATION: 139 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/146 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: PG-13 (For Sequences of Violence, Disturbing Images and Thematic Material)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: November 24, 2009

Based on a novel by Dan Brown

Directed by Ron Howard

Written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman

Executive Producer: Dan Brown, Todd Hallowell, Marco Valerio Pugini

Produced by John Calley, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard

Associate Producer: William M. Connor, Kathleen McGill, Louisa Velis

Music by Hans Zimmer

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill

Casting by Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins and Michelle Lewitt

Production Design by Allan Cameron

Set Decoration by Robert Gould, Richard Roberts

Costume Design by Daniel Orlandi


Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon

Ewan McGregor as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna

Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra

Stellan Skarsgard as Commander Richter

Pierfrencesco Favino as Inspector Olivetti

Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Assassin

Armin Mueller-Stahl as Cardinal Strauss

Thure Lindhardt as Chartrand

David Pasquesi as Claudio Vincenzi

Cosimo Fusco as Father Simeon

In Ron Howard’s thrilling follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, expert symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows ancient clues on a heart-racing hunt through Rome to find the four Cardinals kidnapped by the deadly secret society, the Illuminati. With the Cardinals’ lives on the line, and the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) desperate for help, Langdon embarks on a nonstop, action-packed race through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and the most secretive vault on Earth!

Dan Brown’s controversial novel “The Da Vinci Code” was a best seller and the film adaptation of the film was box office gold as the film grossed over $758 million worldwide.  Needless to say, controversy helped catapult this film and the novel and it was no surprise when it was announced that Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Cinderella Man”, “Apollo 13”) would return as director and Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump”, “Castaway”, “Big”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Saving Private Ryan”)  as the main character Robert Langdon in an adaptation of Dan Brown’s 2000 mystery-thriller novel “Angels & Demons”.

The film would feature a screenplay by David Koepp (“Hack”, “War of the Worlds”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “Ghost Town”) and Akiva Goldsman (“I Am Legend”, “I Robot”, “Cinderella Man”).  Music for the film is by Hans Zimmer (“Frost/Nixon”, “The Dark Knight”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “Pirates of the Carribean” films) and cinematography by Salvatore Totino (“Cinderella Man”, “Changing Lanes”, “Frost/Nixon”).  The film The film opened in May 2009 and like “That Da Vinci Code”, received a lot of controversy and did well in the box office as “Angels & Demons” made over $485 million.

Now “Angels & Demons” receives its entry to High Definition with a two-disc Blu-ray release which includes the theatrical and extended edition version of the film plus a third disc which contains a digital copy of the movie.

The film kicks off with Father Silvano Bentigovlio and Dr. Vittoria Vetra (played by Ayalet Zurer, “Adam Resurrected”, “Vantage Point”) at the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) in which the laboratory is trying to initiate a Large Handron Collider and collect the antimatter.  All goes well and when Dr. Vetra goes to visit and congratulate him, she sees an eye socket ripped out and the father laying on the ground dead.  Also, the antimatter has been stolen.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church mourns the death of Pope Pius XI and as the Vatican and people wait for a vote on who will be the next Pope, a group known as the Illuminati kidnap the “preferiti” (the four people nominated to become Pope) and a threat goes out that someone is in possession of the anti-matter and is threatening to kill each of the four and will destroy the Vatican. Meanwhile, while the leaders are working on their votes for the next pope, Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (played by Ewan McGregor, “Star Wars” films, “Black Hawk Down”, “Moulin Rouge!) has temporary control.

Because of the symbols of the Illuminati are being used ala Ambigram (Ampi = two, gram=words), the Vatican contacts symbiologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) who is working at Harvard University for his help and also CERN scientist Dr. Vittoria Vetra to go to Rome and help assist the Swiss Police and the Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State in stopping the person/people involved before they kill any of the four preferiti and to get back the anti-matter.

In a story about mystery, corruption and secrets, both Langdon and Vetra must find a way to stop the next killing before the Vatican is destroyed.


“Angels & Demons” is featured in 1080p High Definition (with an aspect ratio of 2:40:1).  The film looks absolutely stunning on Blu-ray.   Salvatore Totino and Ron Howard make a great filmmaking couple as the Director has trusted Totino to capture the setting in Rome and its people with clarity, amazing detail of the various architecture and the surrounds outside the Vatican.  And of course, the skin pores and detail on the characters face.  It’s all captured quite well and to add to that, a nice fine layer of grain.  Overall, picture quality is fantastic.

And as for audio quality, the film is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Unlike “The Da Vinci Code”, “Angels & Demons” is a film that features a lot of action scenes (which either is going to make you feel its going a bit too farfetched or will make you feel that it’s wonderful).  From the gunshots from the assassin, the helicopter overhead, the cars racing and of course the anti-matter scenes, there is a good use of audio because of those action sequences.  But what about the ambiance of a crowded area of the Vatican.  Yes, you can hear the crowds with clarity and you can hear the people in the Vatican chit chatting, it’s a wonderful use of the soundscape.  But the main thing that you will notice right off the bat is Hans Zimmer’s music.  The music plays a big part of the “Angels & Demons” in creating that feel of action, sadness or the key dramatic moments.  Overall, this is another lossless soundtrack that really utilizes audio completely well.  It’s not a full-on action-based film but it’s a film that does sound remarkably well.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.


“Angel & Demons” has a second Blu-ray disc primarily for the special features.  The special features are all in High Definition, in English (Stereo) and also has English subtitles.  Included are:

  • Cinechat – On Disc 1, the ability to chat with friends via BD Live while watching the film.
  • movieIQ – Pull up facts about the talent, the film and more while watching the film via BD Live.
  • Rome Was Not Built in a Day – (17:29) Interview with cast and crew of how to bring Dan Brown’s book to life.  About the production design, the visual effects, editing and music of the film.
  • Writing Angels & Demons – (10:07) Director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer talks about the adaptation of Dan Brown’s books to film and working with the character for “Angels & Demons”.
  • Characters in Search of the True Story – (17:10) Director Ron Howard talks about the importance of the characters in the film.  Cast talk about their characters and Ron Howard and author Dan Brown talks about the talent bringing the character to life.
  • Cern: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge – (14:49) Director Ron Howard talking about working with the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory and featuring the Director of Research  and staff of CERN (the top laboratory for particle physics) talking about the lab and what they do at the lab and their mission.  Director Ron Howard talks about how CERN is trying to recreate the “Big Bang” and the cast talk about the involvement of science in the film.
  • Handling Props – (11:34) Director Ron Howard talks about the art department and the many set pieces used in the film.  Interview with the prop master and she explains her and her staff’s duties during the film.
  • Angels & Demons: The Full Story – (9:46) Director Ron Howard,  Dan Brown and Tom Hanks talk about filming in Rome and the logistics of filming in the area.  Also, the building and recreating the sets in Los Angeles and more.
  • This is Ambigram – (4:44)  Dan Brown talks about Ambigrams and how difficult it is to create.  John Langon talks about his book “Wordplay” and the concept of ambigram and incorporating it for “Angels & Demons”.
  • The Path of Illumination – Follow Robert Langdon’s journey through Rome and unlock hidden secrets of the Illuminati.  Select from five marked locations on a map.  And you can unearth in-depth historical facts, film clips and behind-the-scenes footage.  Choose from the Piazza Del Popolo, St. Peter’s Square, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. For example, if you click on Piazza Del Popolo, you get “Church” and “Obelisk”.  Choose church and you will see footage of the church and commentary by Ron Howard explaining the history of that location or structures.  Also, read information and detail of other subjects as well.
  • “Angels & Demons” is one of those films that you either love or hate, as the same situation with “The Da Vinci Code”.

    I found the film to be quite entertaining and the cinematography and music to really enhance the film because the biggest problem that I found was the overuse of CG.  I know the goal was to show how religion and science can work together but I tend to have a disdain towards films that try to be real but overuse CG in ways that are a bit farfetched.

    Also, there was a problem with character development.  In “The Da Vinci Code”, there were characters that you actually cared about.  With “Angels & Demons”, I could hardly care for the Dr. Vetra because she’s hardly around Robert for most of the film.  That’s what I enjoyed about the last film, the characters of Audrey Tautou’s Agent Sophie Neveu and Dr. Robert Langdon developed well over the course of the film, while in “Angels & Demons”…somehow the symbiologist ends up becoming an action-hero, escaping major predicaments, one after the other and it was one thing to see it happen but seeing him do it over and over again, was a bit too farfetched for my taste.  I wanted to see more of that intelligence and knowledge in symbiology and history to play a big part of the film.

    But the saving grace for this film was my appreciation of “Angels & Demons” cinematography and music.  Similar to how Jacques Tati made the city come alive in a film like “Playtime”, Rome was captured as is.   No matter how many people were loitering near the set, director Ron Howard wanted to capture the city and its beauty and they succeeded.

    This is definitely a beautiful film and the Blu-ray release definitely brings out the film’s detail and clarity.   I was quite impressed with the picture quality, although the CG was just a bit too out-of-place it seemed.  But the overall locations of where the film was shot and the creating of the sets to make the film come alive and make a set in Los Angeles look like Rome, a job well done by the production department.

    And the lossless soundtrack is solid as well.  Special features wise, “The Da Vinci Code” was packed with bonus features but “Angels & Demons” had about seven major features and no commentary track by Ron Howard either.  But I did enjoy the use of “The Path of the Illumination” featuring the various areas around Rome.

    Overall, “Angels & Demons” is an entertaining film, it’s an ambitious and beautiful looking film that looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.  But the film does have its shortcomings and some scenes are a bit farfetched, but yet in the end, I found the overall content and presentation of “Angels & Demons” on Blu-ray to be quite fascinating and entertaining and feel it is definitely worth checking out.

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