A Deep Analysis of Angels and Demons
Originally Posted to firesofcreation.gaia.com on Jul 27th, 2009
* Warning! Major Movie Spoilers! *
I recently saw Angels and Demons in theaters this summer and was not disappointed. It was much better than The Da Vinci Code which is supposed to be the second installment after Angels and Demons the novel. Ron Howard the director took artistic license to switch them around and make Angels and Demons the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Since I've never read either book, I don't know how far Howard has veered away from the original story crafted by Dan Brown, but I have heard from folks that the books are better than the movies.
One connection I couldn't avoid in making in Angels and Demons were the strange parallels it had with Star Wars. It may not be well known to everyone that Ron Howard got his start working with George Lucas as an actor in his successful movie American Graffiti which appeared in theaters before the TV premiere of Happy Days, both of which helped launch Howard's and Lucas's career. I still don't know though if these parallels are something that unconsciously made there way in or were coincidences already in the books. Not to mention that one of the leading roles of the movie was played by Ewan McGregor who also happened to star as the young Jedi knight Obi Wan Kenobi in episodes I, II and III. I'll bring attention to these parallels throughout the course of this analysis and connect them to my thesis which centers around the conflict of good vs. evil.
One way in which Angels and Demons differs from the plot arch of Star Wars is that it tells the story of how the good guys are able to thwart evil. This is a major contrast to Star Wars in which, the good guys try to thwart evil but fail. Evil then goes on to take control and rule over the galaxy until good rises again like a phoenix from the ashes. It makes one wonder how Angels and Demons would have been different if the good guys failed. Would the charisma and popularity of the new Pope help him lead a war between religion and science in the West, ultimately leading to some kind of fascist regime taking power and merging with the Vatican to form a theocracy? Is this the Beast we are warned of in Revelation, paving the way for the Anti-Christ and battle of Armageddon? Luckily we don't find this out.
From the beginning of Angels and Demons, we are drawn into the story by an amazing score composed by Hans Zimmer along with beautiful violin solos by Joshua Bell. The movie opens during Sede vacante, time of the empty throne. The progressive and beloved pope (perhaps evoking Pope John Paul II) has suddenly died and the faithful march the body through St. Peter's square. According to the announcer, the church finds itself and its billion Catholics "...at a crossroads, its ancient traditions threatened by a modern world."
Our view moves to the hadron supercollider where it has just been activated. One of the main characters of the story, Vittoria Vetra played by Ayelet Zurer, asks a scientist nearby to "wait". He replies, "We can't wait any longer." Vittoria counters, "...even with proper calibration, we might not be prepared. Just call the director. Stop this." The scientist responds with a statement that describes the threat we will see the main characters face at the end of the movie; "This will not blast us to the other side, so, please."
After powering up, we witness the molecular collisions in a dizzying journey through the hadron collider at the subatomic level. Antimatter has been created and it appears in three small canisters inside the office of Father Silvano Bentivoglio, who is both a scientist and a Catholic priest. He then declares; "the unknown has been created. We are now in God's hands, Vittoria."
This statement from the mouth of Vittoria's superior echoes the sentimental expression throughout the holy scriptures of Christianity that attest that we have been "...in God's hands..." ever since the beginning of Creation where God brought light into darkness and the anti-thesis of (good) himself in the form of (evil) Satan. This "good" contrasting with "evil" has lead the faithful to feel trapped between powers beyond their control with their fate resting entirely in "God's hands." Creating something "unknown" is also an apt description of the nature of evil. People are often frightened by the "unknown" and what they don't understand. Evil is a word that describes darkness until the light illuminates it to reveal what was once hidden and feared. And as we will see illustrated later in this film, once the light penetrates the darkness of the "unknown", evil has no place to hide.
The next moment we see Vittoria rushing to Bentivoglio's office, most likely to congratulate him. But just as anti-matter, the anti-thesis of matter has just been created, we are introduced to the anti-thesis of all the so called good the scientists have been working towards. This begs the question though; can anti-matter exist without matter? Can the Christ exist without the anti-Christ? The anti-hero of this film appears in the form of a man carrying a briefcase passing Vittoria on her way to see her colleague.
Vittoria comes to a retina scanner and rests her chin on a stand until her identity is confirmed. After she has been cleared to enter, her attention is drawn to blood dripping off her chin. Sitting on the floor in front of her is a human eyeball, ripped out of the socket. Her response; "Oh God." She then finds her Catholic colleague dead on the floor, mutilated by an intruder who has stolen one of the canisters containing the newly created anti-matter.
Now we move to Robert Langdon swimming laps at a Harvard swimming pool. Walking stroke by stroke with him is a man with a black leather bag and a Papal symbol on its side. He is Vatican Police officer Claudio Vincenzi. Now walking together to Langdon's office, Vincenzi reveals an ambigram, the Illuminati symbol representing the secret society that disappeared hundreds of years ago. Considered a myth for 400 years, Langdon explains that they planned to resurface once they had amassed enough power to carry out their final goal; the destruction of Vatican City.
Like the Sith in Star Wars who disappeared for a thousand years only to resurface and infiltrate the Jedi order, we find out from Vincenzi that the Illuminati are believed to be back and responsible for kidnapping 4 preferiti cardinals in running for Pope, who they threaten to systematically murder one by one. Langdon however doesn't buy it. "Someone is trying to make you believe the Illuminati themselves have returned to Rome..."
Vincenzi reveals that Langdon was being sought to uncover their true identity and stop "this abomination."
Langdon asks, "Why me?" "Your recent involvement with certain church, shall we say, mysteries..." "I wasn't under the impression that that episode endeared me to the Vatican.” (referring to events from The Da Vinci Code) Even if this was the case, Vincenzi reveals that a Vatican jet was standing by.
Now we fly with Langdon and Vincenzi over Vatican City in a helicopter. Vincenzi - "If the Illuminati have returned and are in Rome, we will hunt them down and kill them." "The Illuminati did not become violent until the 17th century. Their name means the "Enlightened Ones". They were physicists, mathematicians and astronomers. they were concerned with the church's inaccurate teachings and they were dedicated to scientific truth. But the vatican didn't like that, so the church began to, how did you say it? Oh, hunt them down and kill them. Drove them underground into a secret society."
This line echoes the story of the Sith in Star Wars in which their knowledge of the dark side of the Force led the Jedi to hunt down and seek to destroy them. Like the Sith, the Illuminati had knowledge of the world that the Catholic church considered "the Dark Side" or heretical, counter to the story told in the Bible concerning the nature of truth. And like the Sith, according to Langdon, they sought to amass great power and then reveal themselves in their quest for revenge on the Catholic church.
In Vatican City, Catholic priests exit something like a tour bus. Some of them smoke, talk on cell phones, shoot video footage of the architecture, and wear expensive jewelry. (Not a very flattering image of Catholicism's respected leaders.) Although Angels and Demons seems a bit kinder to the Catholic religion than The Da Vinci Code, there is still some more instances where the church is portrayed as a negative force in the world. Langdon's helicopter has landed and he is introduced to Olivetti, inspector general of the Vatican Police force. He is responsible for everything inside Vatican walls, with the exception of the security of his Holiness and the Apostolic palace which is under jurisdiction of the Swiss Guard.
As Inspector Olivetti leads Langdon to the Swiss Guard headquarters, they move through a vast passageway lined with male statues. Langdon - "Oh yes, Pope Pius the IX's great castration." Official - "I beg your pardon?" Langdon - "1857, Pope Pius the IX felt the male form would inspire lust, so he took a hammer and chisel and unmanned hundreds of these statues. The plaster fig leaves were added later." Inspector Olivetti - "Are you anti-Catholic Professor Langdon?" Langdon - "No, I'm anti-vandalism" Inspector Olivetti - "I urge you to guard your tone here."
Angels and Demons is riddled with lines like this where Robert Langdon brings attention to the shortcomings in the Catholic Church's past while upset officials take offense. It is at the beginning of the movie and in the next few scenes to come in which we get a more clear picture of Langdon's orientation as in relation to the church.
Langdon enters the Swiss Guard office and sits down next to Vittoria Vetra. We meet the head of the Swiss Guard, Commander Richter, who makes a snide remark when he sees Robert Langdon. "Oh, professor Langdon, what a relief the symbologist is here. " Ms. Vetra fills the inspector in on what happened at the supercollider. Then we see footage from a stolen security camera showing the missing anti-matter canister which will create an explosion once the internal battery dies just before midnight, causing the containment field to collapse.
When Commander Richter inquires about anti-matter, Ms. Vetra explains how it will help uncover origins of the universe and "...isolate what some people call the “God particle.”" Commander Richter seems to be upset by this concept. Then Ms. Vetra explains to Commander Richter what would happen if the battery dies and the anti-matter goes out of suspension to come into contact with matter. "The two opposing forces would annihilate one another violently." We are again reminded of the metaphor matter and anti-matter have become for good and evil, who similarly are two opposing forces that annihilate one another violently when they come into contact.
Richter - "What kind of anhiliation? How violent?" Ms. Vetra - "A cataclysmic event. A blinding explosion equivalent to about five kilotons." Langdon chimes in, "Vatican City will be consumed by light." We find out that these are the exact words the kidnapper uses. "We will destroy your four pillars. We will brand your preferiti and sacrifice them on the alters of science. Then bring your church down upon you. Vatican city will be consumed by light. A shining star at the end of the path of illumination."
Langdon - "It's the ancient Illuminati threat, destruction of Vatican City through light." "...revenge for the Purga." Official - "The Purga?" Langdon - "Jeez, you guys don't even read your own history, do you. 1668, the church kidnapped four Illuminati scientists and branded each one of them on the chest with the symbol of the cross, purged them of their sins and executed them. Threw their bodies out on the street as a warning to others to stop questioning church rulings on scientific matters. They radicalized them. The Purga created a darker more violent Illuminati. One bent on retribution, and look how they intend to finally get it. Using anti-matter. Technology to destroy the church. Science obliterates religion."
The way in which Langdon uses his words and artfully brings attention to the faults in Catholicism's past without flat out condemning it, shows that he walks a thin line between being anti-religious among the religious.
At first Langdon has resistance from the police when he requests access to the Vatican archives but after he explains how he may be able to find the trail and stop the murders, they decide to bring him before Camerlengo, Patrick McKenna, the only one aside from the Pope himself who can grant access to such a place. When in Camerlengo's presence he reveals that he is aware of the Illuminati; "I'm familiar with the Illuminati lore and the legend of the brandings. The Purga is a dark stain on this church's history. I'm not surprised this ghost has returned to haunt us."
Then Camerlengo calls Langdon to his private quarters. "Christianity's most sacred codices are in that archive. Given your recent entanglement with the church, (The Da Vinci Code) there is a question I'd like to ask you here in the office of his Holiness. Do you believe in God sir?" "Father, I simply believe that religion..." "I did not ask you if you believe what man says about God. I asked if you believe in God." "I'm an academic. My mind tells me I will never understand God." "And your heart?" "Tells me I'm not meant to. Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive." Camerlengo nods. "Be delicate with our treasures."
The way in which Robert Langdon responds to Camerlengo's question makes one wonder if his artful answer was authentic or if he was just trying to assure he'd be allowed into view the archives. Identifying himself as an academic, and his willingness to entertain ideas considered to be heretical by the church reveals Langdon's pagan orientation. But what separates someone like Langdon from the fanatics of The Da Vinci Code and this film, is his refusal to be stuck in identification towards only one side of the duality.
Although Langdon has more in common with Atheists and Pagans, he is able to empathize with and be of service to those theists, who aren't themselves so stuck in identification towards their own side, that they fail in empathizing with their opposite. It is an opposite attraction, (illustrated by Langdon's profession; a non religious man whose career is centered around study of the religious) that unlike matter and anti-matter, good and evil, doesn't lead two opposing forces to annihilate one another violently.
The same thing might be said about the ideal relationship between men and women. When brought together in marriage, the two opposing energies of yin and yang can complement each other. But in relationships where men don't empathize with their opposite or vice versa, the contrast of this duality can and often does end violently.
Inspector Olivetti leads Langdon and Ms. Vetra towards the archives where they are in search of Galileo's bound volume, Diagramma Della Verita. We find out that Galileo was an Illuminati and obedient Catholic who didn't think church and science were enemies, "...but just a different language telling the same story."
Meanwhile, Camerlengo and Cardinal Strauss speak. From their conversation, we get the impression that Camerlengo is a practical and level headed man and that Strauss is a bit naive and uncaring. Camerlengo - "We must evacuate Vatican City." "That is exactly what they want. Publicity and panic. No, we must not give them oxygen for the media fire." "But the people in St. Peter's square." "Care deeply about their church as we do. Their faith will sustain them." "Their faith will not protect them from an explosion." "We are all bound for heaven eventually, are we not?" "Spoken like one who has enjoyed the blessings of a long and full life." Camerlengo is unable to move his superior into action.
As Langdon and Ms. Vetra are escorted into the Vatican archive by police officer Chartrand, I couldn't help but think of the Jedi archives from Star Wars Episode II where Jedi master Obi Wan Kanobi (played by Ewan McGregor) uses the archives to search for the map of the planet Kamino; the location of the clone army factory that has been removed from archive star charts by Sith infiltrating the Jedi order.
In an archive reading room, Langdon opens Galileos, Diagram of Truth. Inside, Galileo laid out his theories about the Earth revolving around the sun. Langdon - "It said Earth was not the center of some universe with heaven above and hell below as the church had said it was." Ms. Vetra - "So they forced him to recant?" "This is how he got the word out. It was made out of papyrus so any scientist caught with a copy, could throw it in water and Galileo's heresy would dissolve and disappear."
On the document's pages, Langdon and Ms. Vetra find a watermark and line of text in English, which was a language that "...wasn't used in the Vatican. It was too polluted. Free thinking. It was a language of radicals like Shakespeare and Chaucer." Ms. Vetra rips out the page to Langdon's surprise.
In a race against time, Langdon, Ms. Vetra and Inspector Olivetti shoot through the streets of Vatican City towards a church implicated in a poem on the stolen page. Upon arrival, Commander Richter is dismayed by Langdon basing his decisions on interpretations from a 400 year old poem. He abruptly calls all his police forces back to the Vatican. Langdon - "Comadante, if you care at all about your church, you'll listen to me." "...my church comforts the sick and dying, my church feeds the hungry. What does your church do Mr. Langdon? That's right. You don't have one."
Inspector Olivetti, Claudio Vincenzi, Langdon and Ms. Vetra race to the correct church which appears to be under renovation. It is here that they find the body of the first preferiti killed. It is a grizzly crime scene revealing how much of a monster the Assassin is. The next marker seems to point towards St. Peter’s square where our characters find thousands of people and a massive protest towards Stem Cell research. Among the fighting, we can hear some of the words from the protestors. "Stem cell research is murder!" "They force sick people to sin" "Man is not God!"
Langdon finds the west wind bas-relief statue and determines they are in the right place. Now a fight breaks out among the protestors. A little girl drops her doll and picks it up to discover it's covered in blood. She screams as she looks up to see the second preferiti laying dying on some steps nearby. Not far away we see the assassin slipping away through the crowds.
Meanwhile, in the holy office, it is discovered that the pope may have been poisoned by the Illuminati through his medication. Langdon heads back to the Vatican archives with Chartrand to search for "church assets." Langdon - "Corporations tend to keep track of their holdings." Chartrand - "The Catholic church is not a corporation. It's a beacon. A source of inspiration for one billion lost and frightened souls." "sure I get that. It's also a bank." Langdon says this after passing by a room full of paintings, a carriage and an old Mercedes along with some other antique car in mint condition.
Ms. Vetra has remained at the Vatican with Camerlengo to study the journals of Father Silvano Bentivoglio in the hopes of finding a reference to the one in the Catholic church he spoke to concerning the anti-matter canisters. Camerlengo convinces Ms. Vetra to go with him to exhume the body of the Pope in order to determine any signs of poisoning even after 14 days of being dead. Camerlengo leads Ms. Vetra and some others to the Pope's resting spot of mourning. We learn Camerlengo was adopted and brought up in the church. He did military service in some unknown war as a pilot of helicopters.
Meanwhile, in the archive, someone has disabled the building's power which has stopped the flow of oxygen to their room. Chartrand is lucky to escape with Langdon who knocks a bookshelf down in order to break the bullet proof windows.
Back at the Holy Father's tomb, Camerlengo kneels down and says a prayer in front of the casket. "My holy father, when I was young, you taught me the voice in my heart was God's voice. You said I should follow it no matter how painful. What I do, I do in the name of everything you believe." We will come back to this statement later in this analysis. After prying open the casket, we see the Pope's body with signs of poisoning. The implications of this murder indicate that the Illuminati have infiltrated the Vatican.
Langdon meanwhile races to the next church. We learn that the power cut from the archives may have been carried out by the Illuminati who have infiltrated the Swiss Guard. After the grisly discovery from the Pope's tomb, Ms. Vetra returns to her desk to find the journals missing, who we later find out were confiscated by Commander Richter. When Ms. Vetra tries to retrieve them, he tells her they will be returned after the investigation.
Camerlengo opens the doors interrupting conclave to warn the college of cardinals through a rousing speech, of the grave threat they are now up against.
"Our church is at war. We are under attack from an old enemy. The illuminati. They have struck us from within, murdering our holy father and threatening us all with destruction at the hands of their new God, science. They call it retribution. They think it's justified because of the church's attacks on men of science in the distant past, and it's true. Since the days of Galileo, this church has tried to slow the relentless march of progress, sometimes with misguided means. But science and religion are not enemies. There are simply some things that science is just too young to understand. So the church pleads; stop, slow down, think, wait. And for this they call us backward. But who is more ignorant? The man who cannot define lightning or the man who does not respect its natural awesome power. The battle is well under way. We must defend ourselves. But what if this time we fight their stealth with openness. Combat their wicked scheme with simple truth and end this brutish battle once and for all. If the outside world could see this church as I do, looking beyond the ritual of these walls, they would see a modern miracle. A brotherhood of imperfect simple souls who want nothing more than to be voices of compassion in a world spinning out of control. Senori. I ask, I pray that you break this conclave. Open the doors, evacuate St. Peters square and tell the world the truth."
Although his efforts seem to rouse some of the cardinals, head Cardinal Strauss isn't moved. He denies the college from breaking conclave and asks Camerlengo to assist the Swiss Guard in finding the explosive device.
At this point in the story, one may wonder about the motives behind an Illuminati that leaves a coded message pointing to their plans as well as a trail for their enemies to follow. If they really wanted revenge, wouldn't they just immediately detonate the anti-matter to destroy Vatican City and then broadcast a recorded message to the world? It would seem in this case that the Illuminati want to be caught and their plans thwarted. But why?
Now hot on the trail of the Illuminati at the third church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Langdon and police enter to find the third preferiti hanging over a burning fire. As the police try to rescue him, the assassin appears from the rear of the chapel, taking them out with his gun one by one. before the assassin can get Langdon, he narrowly escapes down a shaft into a crypt at the front of the church. More police eventually show up and rescue Langdon from below but are unable to save the preferiti.
The police want to take Langdon back to the Vatican but he convinces them that three dead Cardinals is enough; they must save the 4th before it is too late. They show up at the last church of the "Water" alter where a van pulls up. The two officers go to investigate but are both shot by the assassin. The 4th preferiti, Cardinal Baggia, is thrown into the Fountain of the Four Rivers with weights attached to his body. With the help of some pedestrians near by, Langdon is able to rescue and save him. Cardinal Baggia then tells Langdon the location of the Illuminati's lair: Castel Sant' Angelo.
Langdon, Ms. Vetra and the police race off to find the antimatter. The police are lead astray in another direction while Langdon and Ms. Vetra find a secret passage into the assassin's lair. There they find the empty holding cells of the kidnapped preferiti as well as another door and stair case to a chamber above. Langdon and Ms. Vetra frantically search the room for antimatter as the assassin watches them from a distance. Langdon finds a chest with the four brands. A final 5th brand, a cross and keys; symbol for the Papacy, is missing. Since there is no Pope to kill, they both agree Camerlengo will be the next target.
The assassin steps out from the shadows and tells Ms. Vetra to throw her cell phone into the fire place. Ms. Vetra - "Murderer." Assassin - "You know when they call me, and they all call me. It is so important to them that I know that what they ask is the Lord's will, or Allah's or Yaweh's. And I suppose they're right. Because if he was not vengeful, I would not exist, now would I? I've had several chances to eliminate you tonight. You're still alive because you have no weapon and they didn't ask me to kill you. But if you pursue me, it is another matter. Be careful. These are men of God."
This line of the movie opens up a lot to discuss concerning the nature of God, the universe, good and evil. We are told in the ancient scriptures of the Bible that God is love but conversely someone to be feared. And from a scientific perspective, the universe is governed by impersonal and harsh laws, that if not feared, will lead to your destruction. We are reminded of this in the news. A couple years ago, a small toddler fell to her death in the Grand Canyon.
Perhaps the fear of God or gravity had not yet taken hold in this child's mind. She may have moved to the edge attracted to the exhilaration of looking straight down to imagine flying off the ledge. But the harsh reality of the laws of gravity trumped the fantasy of imagination, sending her several hundred feet straight to a violent death. Events like this are often linked to the religious losing their faith. "How could such a loving God send an innocent child to such a cruel and traumatic death?”
It is this schism or paradox that splits yin and yang down the middle. (yin and yang being symbols of the duality dividing the theist and atheist minds.) To someone like a Robert Langdon, God isn't to blame because God doesn't exist. Paradox is resolved by seeing the universe as impersonal and unconscious about the cruelty it may inflict on its creatures. God is only found as a level of consciousness, personality or awareness that might evolve within a particular creature.
But in some theist's minds, this perspective leads to a view of life that is meaningless and void of any direction. If God isn't directing the creation, what is the point of living in a coldhearted universe that may go nowhere and end without any resolution or reward? It is this emptiness that creates the need for God who must be reconciled to both fear and love.
It is this dichotomy that must go hand in hand within the mind of every believer. And in the case of the Assassin, he was an expression of one side of this God, showing the face of wrath and fear to all who would not yield to his will. And those who hired him, did so because they must keep up their appearance of God's other face; forgiveness and love. When the assassin describes the men hiring him as “men of God,” he refers to their willingness to blend paradox within themselves and reconcile what seems irreconcilable without burden on their conscience, freeing them up to commit some of the most heinous crimes.
After the assassin leaves Ms. Vetra and Langdon, we find out he has been given a car by his boss or bosses and money in payment for what he has done. But the warning to "...be careful." he gave Ms. Vetra and Langdon is a warning he should have taken to heart. In the next scene, we see him find the keys to the car which he gets in and starts the engine. But he will never be able to enjoy his payment because the vehicle has been rigged with a bomb which explodes with him inside. Perhaps this was a way for whoever inside the church who was orchestrating events, to wash their hands of innocent blood.
Now Commander Richter shows up in Camerlengo's quarters. He stands by an open fire and speaks to Richter; "Have you come to make me a martyr?" Commander Richter locks the door. Ms. Vetra and Langdon race back to the holy office in an attempt to save Camerlengo. Father Simione comes to the door and demands the guards standing there to let him in and see Camerlengo, but they forbid it. "I'll see about that."
Ms. Vetra and Langdon beat on a locked door that guards hear and open. "Camerlengo is in danger." They race back to Camerlengo's quarters and break the door open. Camerlengo is sitting on the floor with the Papal seal branded into his chest and the glowing brand on the floor. Now Camerlengo points to Richter, "He's the one. He's got a gun." The guards shoot and kill Richter whose last gesture is to hold his hand open revealing a key which Langdon takes. Then Father Simione storms in and picks up the brand to hit Camerlengo with it. Camerlengo - "Illuminatus!" "You bastard!" "Illuminatus!" They shoot Father Simione before he can strike Camerlengo.
In watching this scene, I couldn't help but be reminded of Star Wars Episode III where Anakin storms into Palpatine's office to find him being brutalized by Mace Windu. In a sense, Camerlengo was impersonating something similar. He wanted those who found him in his quarters to think that Richter was the monster murdering cardinals and branding him on the chest. In this case it works in a similar fashion that it played out in Revenge of the Sith; the monster becomes the helpless victim.
Camerlengo is branded on the chest with the Papal seal of the crossed keys but upside down which was done in reference to St. Peter, the first Pope who was crucified upside down. Camerlengo - "Upon this rock I will build my church." Langdon - "Or bring it down upon itself." Camerlengo - "The bomb. It's in St. Peter's tomb."
Outside, a helicopter comes down to rest over the crowds in St. Peter's square. Now that they know where to look for the anti-matter, Camerlengo, Ms. Vetra and Langdon race through the chambers of St. Peter's tomb. Along with some of the police, they find the bomb in an area that looks like it's undergoing renovation. Ms. Vetra picks up the canister and tries to replace the battery. But it is determined that the cold temperature decreases the battery life.
Ms. Vetra - "We may have less than five minutes. If I pull the power with less than five minutes, the residual charge won't hold suspension. We should leave it here, and get clear if we can. At least down here the damage..." "No!" Camerlengo grabs the canister and rushes out with it up to the St. Peters square, where he runs over and tells the pilot that he will take the helicopter up alone.
The helicopter rises off the ground and takes off straight up with the canister having only minutes left before detonation. Camerlengo crosses his heart and looks like he is reciting a prayer.
A tear falls from the eyes of Ms. Vetra below, obviously touched by Camerlengo's selfless act, as are the astonished crowds looking up to heaven. Now the anti-matter explodes in the sky creating a blinding light. The shock wave from the explosion sends people flying around St. Peter’s Square like bowling pins. Priceless treasures topple from the ceiling of a cathedral. In the heavens is a beautiful view of the explosion which reveals a stunning cloud formation that is reminiscent of famous art depicting the return or ascent of Christ.
This scene brings us back to the philosophical quandary between good’s dependency on evil and vice versa. When matter and anti-matter come together, a blinding flash creates a spectacular and breathtaking form in the clouds considered by all on the ground to be beautiful.
This contrast of opposites in the sky is the same recipe in our movies that assures a successful film. If we observe the top twenty-one highest grossing movies world wide of all time, all but four of them involve epic battles between good and evil.
If the most popular movies among the masses deemed the most attractive to watch are films that involve this contrast of extremes, what does this say about what human beings also like to create for themselves and watch unfold in the real world through the super high definition camera of their eyes? If good and evil’s need for each other was removed from the drama of our political lives and designated solely to the big screen, would there be the same religious expectancy among Christians that Jesus must return to save us from ourselves?
Now a figure falling from the sky with a parachute seems to come out of the cloud formation and land in St. Peter's square, knocking out several people along the way. The crowds clap and then break into cheering. A miracle has saved their beloved city and Camerlengo; the new hero who returns to Earth from heaven like their Lord and savior.
In conclave, Chartrand comes in and tells the college of Cardinals about Camerlengo's heroism. "He sacrificed himself to save Vatican city." Meanwhile, Ms. Vetra and Langdon share coffee in Richter's office. Ms. Vetra - "The worst thing we thought would happen, is that our work would fall into the hands of the energy companies. We thought we could change the world. So naive." Langdon - "No, not naive. Innocent maybe. But it's not a crime." "I'm not so sure." "Go back to work. Change the world."
Langdon expresses here the optimism of science. Rather than wait for the rewards of heaven, science has always sought to bring these rewards here and now to Earth. It is this attitude which has been changing our world for thousands of years.
In conclave, the cardinals are debating how to make Camerlengo new pope. One of the excited cardinals explains, "They are singing in St. Peter's square. What happened here tonight transcends our laws." The other cardinals agree that they need not throw out their old laws but simply make convocation by admiration. "If the holy spirit speaks through us and we call a man's name out loud, that is election by adoration. That is God's choice." Inside Vatican hospital, Camerlengo is being treated for his wounds. He is then summoned to conclave.
Ms. Vetra and Langdon are still in Commander Richter's office, but now alone. Ms. Vetra finds the trap door and takes her confiscated journals back. Then a video screen pops up. Langdon pulls out the key he took from Richter's hand and finds the key hole near a monitor and puts it in to activate the screen. It reveals footage from cameras shooting inside Camerlengo's quarters before and after Richter's death. We hear and see the truth unfold:
"I read the journals Patrick." "The scientists kept journals, so?" "You figure prominently in them." "Really." "Bentivoglio wasn't only a physicist, he was also a Catholic priest. And he was deeply conflicted about the implications of his work and in need of spiritual guidance like Galileo. About a month ago he requested an audience with the Pope but you know that, because you granted the audience and you were also present during it." "The God particle! To actually claim an act of creation. The blasephemy! The arrogance!" "The holy father didn't see it like that. He urged him to go public, his holiness thought the discovery could actually scientifically prove the existence of a divine power and begin to bridge the gap between science and religion." "His work was not religious, it was sac-religious." "But you, you saw the pope's position as a softening of church law, as an old man's weakness, your father's weakness. You murdered the vicar of Christ." "He raised me to protect the church, even from within." "Then you conjured up an old enemy from the past, the Illuminati. You found the ancient brands in the papal vaults and put them to use. To spread fear." "The cardinals are men of belief. Right now their belief in evil is uniting them. The entire Catholic world will be united by this attack." "There is no attack. You are trying to convince the cardinals they're in a war so they will choose a warrior to lead them." "We are at war. We're weak when we should be strong. If science is allowed to claim the power of creation, what is left for God?" "It didn't work Patrick." "It isn't finished." "Oh yes it's finished. It's finished. I've shown the journals to father Simione. The moment the doors to conclave open, he will tell the cardinals what you've done."
Camerlengo grabs the fifth brand, glowing hot off the fire. Camerlengo - "I was planning on doing this alone." "Put it down." "Perhaps it's better you're here." "Put it down! Put it away!" Richter takes out his gun. Now Camerlengo turns the brand on himself and burns it to his chest. He screams and falls to the floor in writhing pain. Now the guards storm the room and shoot Richter as father Simione storms in, picks up the brand and tries to strike Camerlengo, but he is shot too.
We zoom away from the screen where three cardinals watch the video in disbelief. Ms. Vetra and Langdon stand nearby. Now Camerlengo goes into conclave, summoned by the college of cardinals. He opens the door and all of them are standing in front of him, but instead of being greeted by warm faces, they stare at him with icy scorn, having full knowledge of all that he has done. Several guards approach him at the front and from behind. Camerlengo backs up in fear and walks out. The guards follow him through the halls of St. Peter's Basilica. He continues but is surrounded by more guards.
Now he approaches one of the ninety-nine holy lamps, takes it and pours the oil all over himself to light it on fire, immolating himself in hopes of becoming a martyr. After all, Camerlengo did what he did in the name of everything his father (previous Pope) believed. Because he was so good at lying, it is difficult to know where he stood on any of the issues present in the plot. In front of the college of cardinals, he elevates science and religion as equals while condemning science in the presence of Commander Richter.
But is it possible that Camerlengo believed everything he was doing was for good? Did he honestly believe he was doing the Catholic church a service by creating the evil needed to bring them together and unite them? If so, he was good inside his own mind and in good conscience, in compliance with the famous Bible verse, Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." And in the Bible, God's good purpose ends with Revelation where Christ must appear in the "End Times" to destroy and defeat the anti-Christ. To Camerlengo, this war was real and he was only helping God bring it into being.
Outside on St. Peter's square, crowds have called Camerlengo to be canonized as a saint. They are told he died from injuries sustained in the journey back to Earth from the heavens. We await the new Holy Father, Cardinal Baggia, who was selected the next Pope; the only surviving preferiti that Langdon is able to rescue.
Langdon appears before the new Pope and his new Camerlengo, Cardinal Strauss. He carries with him Galleleo's Diagramma Della Verita. "We are grateful you saved his life. And it is our understanding that you require this text to complete your scholarly work. We ask only that in your last will and testament, you insure that it finds it's way home." "Of course." "And when you write of us, and you will write of us, may I ask one thing. Do so gently." "I'll try." "Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed, all men, including this one." With this, Cardinal Strauss points to himself.
Now we see the new pope getting the new ring. Ms. Vetra - "He chose the name Luke." Langdon - "There's been many Marks and Johns but never a Luke." This is the last connection to Star Wars that presents itself in Angels and Demons. Luke is not only the name of the chapter in the New Testament. In the classic Trilogy It is also the name of the "chosen one," the Jedi knight who brings balance to the Force by removing evil's mask to reveal it's illusory nature. And so is the case in this story where evil's lies are exposed by shining light on them to reveal the "great war" between science and religion is and will always be an illusion to those who see themselves within their opposite.
Vittoria Vetra - "Thats quite a message, science and faith all in one." Cardinal Strauss - "The world is in need of both. Mr. Langdon. Thanks be to God for sending someone to protect his church." Robert Langdon - "I don't believe he sent me father." "Oh my son, of course he did." The new Pope smiles at Langdon and bows his head. Then he exits the deck to see the cheering crowds of St. Peter's square.
Angels and Demons ends with science and religion reconciled to each other as friends. And just as Galileo believed hundreds of years ago, they are capable of friendship because they are both “...just a different language telling the same story." When doing a search for ambigrams for this presentation, I found a very interesting perceptual shift ambigram by Douglas Hofstadter on Wikipedia that expresses the essence of this compatibility.
Light is a wonderful metaphor for the dual nature of reality which splits down the middle into religious and scientific , yin and yang, spiritual and material world views. Since light is both a particle and a wave, at times it displays wave or particle like qualities. The Western religious world-view concerns itself with the “Omega.” It’s focus is on the exterior aspect of duality and the “End Times.” As seen above in the artist renderings of Christ’s return, we notice a brilliant tunnel opening up with a bright light at the end. Isn’t this the “...shining star at the end of the path of illumination,” where we all will become enlightened at the end of our lives?
There are plenty of accounts where people discuss near death experiences in which they move into a tunnel with a bright light at the end. And in some Christian circles who believe in the Rapture, isn’t this an indirect way of speaking about death? The famous evangelist John Hagee speaks about the Rapture as being immanent and that we must be prepared to be taken away at any moment. Couldn’t this also describe what our relationship is towards death? Nobody knows for sure when it will take us away from this life.
And in the other orientation, the Eastern spiritual world view (which attracts atheists from the West who are rejected by monotheistic religions) concerns itself with the “Alpha.” Its focus is on the interior aspect of duality and the beginning. Heaven isn’t something we have to wait for to be brought to us from the outside. Heaven is something we can initiate from the inside right now. It is from this perspective that secular humanists believe we are capable of bringing heaven to Earth with the tools of science and by uniting our social institutions into a peaceful collective through the instrument of “One World Government.”
As also expressed at the ending of Angels and Demons, these two opposite orientations should never be at war because they share more in common with each other than meets the eye. Within the interior orientation, there is also the exterior and vice versa. Perhaps if the two opposing sides can see they should be at peace with each other, the transition into our destiny as a united Earth can occur without the massive war predicted between East and West, yin and yang.