Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vactican doesn't hate "Angels and Demons"

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks made another movie about intrigue at the Vatican. The first movie that they made about weird, spooky people infecting the Catholic Church, The Da Vinci Code, was not popular with the priesthood. The Vatican made it clear that they did not approve. Of course, it worked out for the movie, because you can't buy that kind of publicity. It went on to make over $750 million worldwide.

This movie is called Angels & Demons, and it is, again, based on a Dan Brown novel. But this time, the Vatican doesn't hate it!

The film offers "more than two hours of harmless entertainment, which hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity," L'Osservatore's reviewer wrote. It's "a videogame that first of all sparks curiosity and is also, maybe, a bit of fun."
"A bit of fun?!?!" Now I smell a plot. I think this review is part of a Vatican conspiracy to kill this movie with kindness. This is like the kiss of death. OK, maybe that's not a good simile.

But still. Couldn't they have generated some kind of outrage? Would it have really been all that hard for them to find something objectionable? Don't they understand that their role is to be judgmental and puritanical? If the Church approves of a movie, there will be no controversy. That means that the studio is going to have to rely on traditional means of marketing - depending on the quality of the film, the reputation of the actors and the director, whatever goodwill is left over from the first one. Sure, Ron Howard is a highly accomplished mainstream director, and Tom Hanks is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, but these people need help. This is a hugely expensive movie. Marketing it is going to cost millions. But a couple of hissy fits from guys in robes, and we're all set!

Sigh. Of course, it is the age of Obama, in which we are all trying to get along. Or at least most of us. Maybe this is a sign of old divisions crumbling. Maybe the Church really does like it. Maybe they really aren't afraid of it. Maybe they really do realize that one movie will have basically no effect on a religious tradition thousands of years old with hundreds of millions of adherents.

And maybe I will have to go see it to make up my mind about all of this. Maybe I'll just have to figure out a way to enjoy it on its own merits, without worrying about any long-term political implications. That would be weird, but I think I can do it.

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