People have had a difficult time separating “The Da Vinci Code” movie and now “Angels & Demons” from their books. Try to compare either film with the best-selling written story, and you’ll come up short both times. The movies just haven’t done justice to the literature. Movies rarely do.

Taking Dan Brown out of the picture as best we can, we’re left with Ron Howard’s directing and some useful names in the acting world — Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and perennial meanie Stellan Skarsgard.

The film, like its predecessor, is chock full of Catholic mystery, intrigue, and symbology. There’s also quite a bit of action, including a church fire sequence that reminded me of Schwarzenegger’s “End of Days” — though “Demons” isn’t trying to be the action flick that “Days” was. But if you can forget that “Angels and Demons” is the sequel to “Da Vinci Code,” you might enjoy this whirlwind tour of The Vatican.

What you won’t enjoy, however, is the lack of any decent acting. And unless you’re a big fan of video game cheat codes, you’re not going to appreciate the thin, clear plastic wrap plot with twists you can see coming even if you’re watching “Star Trek” in the next theater.

Directed by: Ron Howard

Written by: Dan Brown (book) and David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard

Rating: PG-13

Seen at: AMC Loews Boston Common 19

It starts out promisingly enough with the intersection of two utterly cool objects in the film: the Large Hadron Collider and the Roman Catholic Church. The movie weaves a web of science and religion around an age old revenge plot by the Illuminati, a banished secret society, to destroy the church and allow science and knowledge to reign.

But it’s all too transparent. Maybe Howard assumes everyone read the book? Without issuing too many spoilers here, there’s a scene where McGregor’s character, a Catholic priest and orphan who was raised by the pope, is being attacked, and the way he reacts and calls out, it’s very obvious what’s actually going on.

There were a few bits of comic relief in the film that add value, especially a truly less is more performance by Danish actor Thure Lindhardt, who plays a Swiss Guardsman charged with keeping an eye on Dr. Langdon (Hanks).

Hanks got a few good shots in as he usually does. There were some scenes where he sparkled, but many more where his performance felt flat, particularly toward the end of the movie where Dr. Langdon seemed to just be along for the ride.

Stellan Skarsgard, who just about always gives a superb performance, felt well under utilized. We might not even be able to blame the acting here. What we saw was good, but his character, the head of the Swiss Guard, never really developed into anything.

Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer looked like she needed a cup of coffee to get through each scene.

The acting performances were flat and uninspired. The camera motions, while interesting and revealing, often make the viewer close on the verge of dizziness.

We also don’t know until it’s too late whether or not “Demons” is going to indeed be a demonic, enthralling religious film on the scale of either it’s book or the film genre’s 1970s predecessors. Spoiler: it’s not.

Howard, along with screenplay writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman were handed gold, and they turned it into a 2:18 identity crisis, mixing in feel good moments with horrible murders. After the cameras stop spinning, the actors wake up, and the film editors come off the crack, we’re left with a movie that doesn’t know if it wants to be a religious thriller or a Lifetime Original Movie.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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