“Angels & Demons” premieres — Will Catholics mind?

May 5, 2009

The movie sequel to “The Da Vinci Code”, called “Angels & Demons”, premiered in Rome this week ahead of its worldwide release on May 15. It is largely set in Rome and at the Vatican, and, without giving anything away about the film, involves an attempt to hijack a papal election.

Director Ron Howard was repeatedly asked questions like whether the film was “anti-Vatican”. He insisted it wasn’t and, on the red carpet, added it was respectful to Catholics.

“If I really thought it was anti-Vatican, in my heart of hearts, I doubt I would take on the subject, because I don’t feel that way,” he said.
“And I hope that the movie is also very respectful to people of faith. And we went out of our way to make sure that there are characters that make very valid arguments for all the good that the Church also accomplishes.”

Senior Church officials have been careful to avoid commenting on “Angels & Demons”, sidestepping the kind of public confrontation that critics said gave “The Da Vinci Code” free publicity.

Asked about the more muted Church reaction, Howard noted that “Angels & Demons” doesn’t really hit on the same fundamental issues related to the Christian faith that “The Da Vinci Code” did by arguing Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, creating a secret bloodline of descendants.

Christianity teaches that Jesus never married, was crucified and rose from the dead.

“The hot-button issues of The Da Vinci Code spoke to some of the really fundamental principles of the faith. I think it was much more provocative. I think that with Angels & Demons there are still some things being said, some circumstances being dramatised, even though they are fictional, they (the Vatican) would really rather we wouldn’t have, and they certainly didn’t want to cooperate with it,” he said.

Tom Hanks, who returns in the leading role of symbologist Robert Langdon, is very funny — even off camera — and used humour to respond to potentially sticky questions about the Church. One reporter asked if he was religious and what he thought about the Pope Benedict’s recent comments about condoms.

“I am a spiritual man, and because I’m happily married for 21 years, I don’t even know what a condom is anymore,” Hanks replied at a news conference.

It will be interesting to see the public reaction to “Angels & Demons”, particularly by Catholic viewers. What do you think the response will be? Is any fictional plot dealing with the Vatican too sensitive for the big screen?

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