The Illuminati (originally called the "Bavarian Illuminati") was a secret society that first appeared in 1776. It was an aggregation of free-thinkers, at odds with the Catholic church and its dogma. They were accused of, among other things, plotting to overthrow the pope and being bent upon world domination (you couldn't fault them for setting their sights too low!) Many believe the Illuminati--in one form or another--exists today, and is the guiding hand behind numerous conspiracies.
In Angels and Demons, the screenplay adapted from Dan Brown's bestselling novel, the Illuminati has apparently resurfaced--in the wake of the current pope's death--and plans to wreak havoc in the Vatican by executing four prominent cardinals--and, for an encore, blow the whole area to kingdom come with some stolen anti-matter. (Look up how anti-matter works...I ain't explaining all that physics razmatazz here!)
Tom Hanks reprises his role (from The Da Vinci Code) as symbologist Robert Langdon, who's summoned by the Vatican to intrepret what the evil-doers next moves are in hopes of preventing a calamity of monumental proportions. Vittoria Vetra, (Ayelet Zurer) a physicist who was experimenting with the anti-matter before it was hijacked, serves as a sidekick--of sorts--to Langdon as he furiously tries to keep pace in a battle of wits with the dastardly dude who is carrying out some decidedly dirty deeds.
Angels and Demons is totally plot driven--nonstop balls-to-the-wall with no real character development, save for that of Langdon. We get some insight into his ambivalence about faith and religion--reflecting the film's ethos as well, as it tries to be even-handed in pointing out the shortcomings of both science and organized religion. But the mystery/thriller genre IS typically plot centered, which isn't all bad as it keeps you on your toes trying to comprehend the significance and meaning of each new development and how it fits into the puzzle, which is an intricate one indeed.
Having said that, I was disappointed that there wasn't ONE scene where Langdon and the comely Vittoria take a breather, reflect on what's happening, and maybe do some subtle flirting with each other. But it ain't happening. She's just window dressing for the plot--a totally wasted and undeveloped character, (in the FILM, at least) inserted only because they had to have a female presence SOMEWHERE in this movie (other than crowd shots, she's the only woman who even APPEARS in this two hour and then some production...and steel yourselves, you lechers, cuz she ain't showing any skin ).
Oft-times the true villain is the one you least suspect. But then, when it's not the one you NOW suspect--formerly the one you DIDN'T suspect--and turns out to be ANOTHER one you didn't suspect, it gives you a giddy feeling of having been ticklishly hoodwinked--even though you realize you're not that smart because you didn't figure it out on your own.
Angels and Demons stretches taut the bounds of believability, but so what else is new? I think the only flick I've seen in recent months that didn't was Last Chance Harvey (see review under the March archive).