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Published: Friday, 5/22/2009

'Angels & Demons': The devil is in the details

Welcome to the new Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

As expected, the latest movie to spring from a Dan Brown novel, Angels & Demons, is coming under fire. Only it s not being attacked for what it is, but what it isn t.

Angels & Demons is a summer popcorn thriller. In my review

for The Blade, I said I found it to be less serious and less fun than its predecessor, 2006 s The Da Vinci Code.

But that s not why Angels & Demons is drawing heat.

There are some religious groups concerned the film s less-than-accurate presentation of religious history will be taken as gospel by some theatergoers. And, in a worst-case scenario, those theologians are afraid the inaccuracies may sway the beliefs of some audience members. It s the same argument they made against The Da Vinci Code. Never mind that both films are based on a works of fiction.

Others, though, hope to use the movie as a starting point for honest dialogue about their faith and how it's portrayed in the film. (Read the story by David Yonke, The Blade s religion editor, on Saturday.)

Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code are by no means the first movies to be criticized for playing loose with the facts. Hollywood has a long history of altering the past in the name of entertainment.

Sometimes the changes are politically motivated, as in last year s W. by director Oliver Stone, who s well known for his skewed viewpoint of history. (See JFK, Nixon). But more often than not, changes to historical retellings are done to make a movie more commercial. For example, a fictional movie character may be added to a movie about a real-life war hero to create a romantic subplot and attract a larger female audience. Often, minor characters are added to heighten the drama, or even to add laughs. Remember, Hollywood exists to make money, not chronicle our past. That s why we have Ken Burns and PBS.

As for audiences believing what they see well, don t people have some responsibility to be informed? After all, we live in the information age, and access to the facts is only a few clicks away. At the very least, there s always a trip to the library.

Bottom line: Give people credit that they re smart enough to figure out that Angels & Demonsis a big-budget movie and not a lesson in history or religion. If you have faith enough to be religious, then it shouldn t be too difficult to have faith in people as well.

I ll be on a break for a week and a half. Culture Shock will resume Wednesday, June 3. Meanwhile, check out Sunday s interview with Terminator Salvation director McG in The Blade. And for those of you who read my May 18 blog on the culture of lying and wondered what happened when I met McG almost immediately after McG and I were introduced, he asked me what I thought of his movie. And yes, I told him, It was good.

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734.



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