Director: Ron Howard Release Date: 14/05/09 Link: IMDB I've heard from several people that your preference for either “The Da Vinci Code” or “Angels & Demons” will most likely depend on the order you read them. Of course this theory will not apply to everyone, but from what I’ve been told, whichever of Dan Brown’s novels you read first will be the one you like the most. Since I have only read “The Da Vinci Code” I admit I am no expert on this subject, but I can tell you the hypothesis does hold true for director Ron Howard’s film adaptations of Brown’s controversial books. Well, at least for me it did. I guess I am only one of a few critics across the country who actually enjoyed 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code” (it’s currently at a measly 24 percent at rottentomatoes.com) and in my opinion it’s slightly better than Howard’s follow-up, “Angels & Demons.” What made “The Da Vinci Code” so compelling to me was it played exactly like a scavenger hunt and there was no way you could predict where the story was going next. Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle came together and after various twists and turns the ending left me rather surprised. With “Angels & Demons,” there’s no secret as to where the narrative is heading and the film is more of a race against the clock that bounces around like a hyperactive child who just washed down a handful of Pixy Stix with a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. (Plus, it’s abundantly more violent.) So, those of you who felt “The Da Vinci Code” was too slow moving and dull should find a lot more to appreciate in the up-tempo “Angels & Demons.” Tom Hanks is back once again as Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon, who in “The Da Vinci Code” exposed one of the greatest cover-ups in human history. This time he is called upon for help by the Vatican police following the pope’s death and the kidnapping of the preferiti, the four cardinals deemed most likely to be elected the new holy father. Langdon quickly realizes the whole mess is being orchestrated by the Illuminati, a secret underground society that was supposedly hunted down by the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago for believing science was far superior to religion. Meanwhile, the Illuminati are also thought to be responsible for violently stealing a canister of highly explosive antimatter — or the God particle — from Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research. With the Vatican at its most vulnerable time in history, Langdon and Vetra must hastily uncover clues to stop the Illuminati before they murder each of the four cardinals on the hour every hour starting at 8 p.m. and blow up St. Peter’s Square with the antimatter at midnight. Also aiding in the search are Swiss Guard Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), inspector Ernesto Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) and Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), the acting head of Vatican City until the new pope is elected. Howard stages these frantic chase scenes with a great sense of urgency, but what’s most impressive of all is the way he keeps things from becoming overly redundant by crosscutting between the action and the ancient ritual of conclave, the super-secret process of selecting a new pope. Now I know everything presented in the movie is not fact, but it is interesting to see someone’s take on what happens during this behind-the-closed-doors voting process, and the drama is especially heightened due to some of the cardinals acting awfully shady. (I’m looking at you, Armin Mueller-Stahl) There’s no doubt “Angels & Demons” is the kind of film where you have to suspend all disbelief to get into the material, and sometimes that does become a little difficult because the CGI can get pretty ridiculous and poor. Fortunately “Angels & Demons” is not driven by special effects, but in the instances they are prevalent (especially the famous helicopter scene), the movie does lose some of its credibility. The film also suffers a bit from barely having any memorable side characters that will stick in your mind after you leave the theater. Sure, Hanks is his usual self, but nowhere in “Angels & Demons” will you find any personalities that are nearly as fascinating as Sir Ian McKellen’s Leigh Teabing, Paul Bettany’s Silas or Jean Reno’s Capt. Bezu Fache. (All make appearances in “The Da Vinci Code,” in case you didn’t know) Look, we could argue until we are blue in the face when it comes to which movie we think is better, but there is something all of us should hopefully be able to agree on with “Angels & Demons”: Thank God Hanks no longer has that horrible, distracting mop on the top of his head. Rating: 6/10