I don’t usually indulge in summer movies, but I’ve splurged on a trip to see Angels & Demons twice in the past two weeks. Okay, so I’ll confess that
There are no spoilers in this post, for anyone who might want to see the movie. Zurer’s character, Vittoria Vetra, is a brilliant scientist who is an expert in combustibles, and is called in to help find a stolen canister of antimatter that may be used to blow up the Vatican. (Suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for watching this film.) She tags along with the protagonist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) for a good chunk of the movie, and there’s actually some appealing characterization of Vittoria. Nonetheless, she is also running around in a sleekly tailored black suit and heeled boots through the cobblestones of Rome. So, do the pros cancel out the cons? I weigh the evidence after the jump.
Pro: She’s a brilliant scientist who never has to defer to a man professionally.
Con: The aforementioned heels over cobblestones.
Pro: She not only assists Langdon with scientific knowledge but with some religious and translation knowledge. (Improbable? Uh, yeah. But the whole movie is.)
Con: She’s conventionally beautiful. This is not to say that I blame Zurer for taking the role, but it’s like the filmmakers thought the audience wouldn’t truly engage in the character if she was played by someone who doesn’t fit into the narrow box of what’s considered beautiful.
Pro: She’s a much more lively character than anyone in the film.
Con: Her actions in moving the plot forward almost completely fall by the wayside in the last third of the film and even doesn’t participate in what would be considered her most important moment with the bomb.
The most interesting element in all this — at least to me — is the lack of romantic or sexual interest between Vittoria and Robert. For those who have not seen The DaVinci Code, it’s worth noting that this is not new. In the first movie, Hanks’ character is paired with that of Audrey Tautou’s, but not in a romantic way. It was incredibly refreshing, as well as unusual for such a big-budget blockbuster to have an absence of romance when two random people are thrown together. Given that both Zurer and Tautou are beautiful (and 15 and 20 years younger, respectively, than Hanks), it is even more notable that the films never take pains to present them as objects for the male lead to be attracted to.
If Professor Langdon has a personal life, it is never mentioned in either film. Again, I have not read the book, but if there were any personal details in Dan Brown’s book then director Ron Howard clearly did not see fit to include it in the movie, or to adjust the plot so Langdon could have a fling with the female characters. The movies are, above all, action films. The only character in Angels & Demons whose personal life seems to play any part in the plot is actually McGregor’s character, and even that does not have a romantic or sexual component.
I suppose the reason for this post was how remarkable I found it that such a huge Hollywood movie just chose not to concern itself with the familiar romantic/sexual elements that are often used to try and lure audiences. I’m thinking here of other movies in the genre, such as the Indiana Jones movies, where the hero always gets the girl. And while I viewed Angels & Demons as good popcorn entertainment and nothing more, I also give credit to the filmmakers for not following the by-the-numbers romantic interludes of other action films. Now, let’s try to make sure that if there is a sequel, Vittoria wears sensible shoes for a mad dash through Rome.