Angels & Demons

Now I think Dan Brown is a really crap writer; the “hidden history” he exposes is stuff that anyone with a vaguely erudite Western education has known about since they were about 10, his characters are wooden, his plots incredibly ridiculous and the logic of the proposed puzzle solving process so frustratingly childish, I could break things. I mean: Google it, for God’s sake, and have done. Anyway, whilst the Da Vinci Code rose above its mediocre beginnings (mostly thanks to the campy menace of Sir Ian McKellern and Paul Bettany) the latest Dan Brown pic to hit our screens – Angels & Demons – crashes and burns…..

This time round, some nutter has stolen anti-matter from a Swiss laboratory, and is threatening to use it to blow up Vatican City during the conclave that’s been called to elect a new Pope. And because said nutcase is apparently a member of the Illuminati, a secret sect determined to bring scientific enlightenment to the Papacy (surely it would take more than a 5 megaton blast to effect that kind of lasting change?) the personality-less Professor Robert Langdon (Hanks sans mullet) is called upon to decifer the clues. Thus follows another chase, this time across a picturesque Rome, with the dull protagonists doing unfathomably stupid things – and always a little too late to save the Cardinals and find the bomb.

Anyway, frankly, the way more interesting part of Angels & Demons is its backstory – the challenges the team underwent to bring the movie to the big screen. Obstacles included an obstructive church hierarchy (who perhaps missed the point that in this film they are actually the good guys) and forced many of the physical church interiors to be rebuilt on a sound stage or recreated on a 360 degree green screen – including a full size Sistine Chapel. There was also a summer filming schedule that resulted in scenes inundated with crowds of intrusive tourists singing the Happy Days theme tune. I found a lot of good stuff at the film’s Wikipedia site.

Take good note of this too, though: Angels was planned as an eco-friendly shoot, with the production team selecting locations based on how much time and fuel it would save, using cargo containers to support set walls or greenscreens, and storing props for future productions or donating them to charity. Having just attended Film London’s Green Screen launch, I can assure you this is a trend to watch……

Angels and Demons

My friend Jan will not eat onions nor watch a movie that features Tom Hanks. And whilst I really don’t get the onion thing, I admit I’ve often been with him when it comes to the squeaky Mr. Hanks. But times are a-changing. After last year’s Da Vinci Code, in which he wasn’t too bad, then the really excellent Charlie Wilson’s War (review soon!), the New York Times reports that he’s currently on set in Rome working on the Dan Brown sequel “Angels and Demons.” And it’s causing excitement.

Patrizia Prestipino, head of Rome’s provincial department of tourism, said, “A film like this could relaunch American tourism,” which has dropped by 6 percent this year from the same period last year (largely because of the weak dollar). The story takes place in some of the most magnificent spots in Rome, including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.

“For us it’s like free advertising,” Ms. Prestipino said. “I say the more films they produce in Rome, the better.”


Clever lady, that. Before “The Da Vinci Code,” Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland was averaging 38,000 visitors a year; in 2006, the year the movie was released, 176,000 visitors came. 

Incidentally, Rome already has a tour inspired by the Angels and Demons book that’s already encouraged some 600 people a month to part with a 56 euro/$87 fee. With the film due for release in May 2009, the tour organisers must be rubbing their hands with gleeful anticipation. 

Oh My God, Can You Rent the Colosseum?!

For a Locations junkie, I took my own sweet time to get around to blogging about Jumper, the Hayden Christiansen / Samuel L Jackson sci fi pic about a young man who learns that he has the power of teleportation. Given his special skills, it’s unsurprising that the movie’s locations include Paris, China, Egypt, the Sahara, Toronto, New York, Michigan, Tokyo and Rome.

Most impressive of these, the Rome Film Commission granted rare access to film in the Colosseum for three days.


The New York Times reports this film-making coup to have been made possible by Rome Mayor, Walter Veltroni, “an unabashed cinephile with a soft spot for Hollywood glitz. Mayor Veltroni dined with Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes on the eve of their Italian wedding, and was primarily responsible for creating the Rome Film Festival, which took place for the first time in October. On the business front, his administration has streamlined the process for getting filming permits, and authorizes more than 2,000 shoots in the city each year.”

To make Jumper happen, the crew was required to keep equipment off the ground by using harnesses and to rely only on natural light for filming the Colosseum’s scenes.