Personally, I think “Angels and Demons”, the book is much better than “Da Vinci Code”, the book. The same holds true for the movies, if you ask me.
For those who haven’t read the book, here’s the plot:
The Christian Catholic world is waiting for The Papal Conclave to begin. On the auspicious (and fateful) day, a dangerous explosive goes missing from CERN, and is hidden somewhere in Vatican. Also missing are 4 preferiti (members of College of Cardinals who are favourites to become Pope), all courtesy of an age-old enemy of the Church, bent on the destruction of the Church.
It is up to Robert Langdon to uncover the Path of Illumination as told by Galileo, and follow it to its end, to save the cardinals and find the explosive before it destroys the Vatican.
The movie (as opposed to the book) makes a lot of references to Da Vinci Code. But that won’t confuse those who haven’t see the …Code or haven’t read the book (is there any such person?). Robert Langdon has enough of “attitude”, and the Church officials enough animosity towards him, to convey that whatever happened was pretty bad from church’s point of view.
Camerlengo Patrick McKenna isn’t the potential leader he is supposed to be in the book. Except for one or two scenes, the character is definitely charismatic, and probably decisive, but not the authoritative, determined clergyman of the book. That does take away a bit from the reactions of the characters at the end, but I doubt people will recognise that if they haven’t read the book.
For most part, the battle is between Langdon, Inspector Olivetti (Vatican Police) and Il Camerlengo on one side, Commander Richter (Swiss Guards), Cardinal Strauss on the other side within the church and the Assassin haunting them from outside.
I haven’t mentioned Vittoria Vetra, because some changes in the storyline have severely reduced her role, leaving her as almost a secondary character. Which is probably why the romance between Langdon and Vittoria is almost absent.
(SPOILERS for those who have read the book)
The movie does have some changes which make the events more contemporary (*cough* large hadron collider *cough). Which does make the basic premise a bit more believable.
After an initial sequence at CERN, the movie confines itself exclusively to Rome, thus taking out the entire back story of Vetra, leaving her just as a scientist working on the project, not as a bereaved daughter. Even the involvement of CERN leading to climax is limited, with Vatican characters taking over for others.
Even the assassin’s character is severely reduced from the religious fanatic to just a hired gun. I can see how putting another controversial factor was not exactly necessary (the storyline is not affected all that much), not to mention two for two maniacal killers is bad enough. But that leaves him just as a ruthless killer, rather than manic ruthless. Of course, the end matches perfectly with this characterization.
(End of spoilers)
Overall, the end is more “Crime doesn’t pay” than “Good triumphs over Bad in The End” as in the book.
The basic premise is much more believable than …Code, and Langdon is also more believable (less “action hero”, more professor) than …Code. Keeping him out of fights was one change I didn’t really mind. But as long as it is viewed as a religious thriller, and not as a religious film, the movie is enjoyable.
P.S. It has been some time since I read the book, so in case of errata, mea culpa.
P.P.S. On the first visit to Vatican’s Secret Archives, Langdon tears up a book. On the second visit, he damages (and possibly destroys) a lot more books. If it was up to me, I would keep him as away from the Archives as possible, not give him an all-access pass.