“The idea at the centre of The Da Vinci Code was so provocative and such a hot button issue it really lived at the centre of popular culture for almost two years,” he said this week in Rome before the premiere of Angels & Demons, the follow-up to the record-breaking Da Vinci Code.
“Angels & Demons is a popular novel,” the director says, although he acknowledges that it isn’t as notorious as the other book. “What I’m finding, however, is if you like The Da Vinci Code you’re going to really like Angels & Demons. I feel like it could be a thrilling and exciting experience for audiences in of itself; separating itself from The Da Vinci Code movie or the novel.”
The new film, starring Tom Hanks in a reprise of his Da Vinci role as symbologist Robert Langdon, sees the Harvard professor work to solve a murder, unravel the mystery of an ancient secret brotherhood called the Illuminati and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.
The mix of intrigue and religious may sound familiar to Da Vinci Code fans but Howard maintains Angels & Demons is a different beast. “If I felt like it was a cookie cutter situation and I was being asked to repeat myself then it wouldn’t interest me,” he said, “but I just didn’t want to miss this next Robert Langdon adventure.
“I like the uniqueness of these Dan Brown stories. Sure they use the murder mystery genre, but in a way that is so fresh that these films stand on their own as something brand new.”
Something that certainly is new in Angels & Demons is the setting. Shot on location in Rome, the movie is a love letter to the Eternal City.
“For scheduling reasons we had to shoot in June,” Howard says.
“Everyone in Italy kept saying that we couldn’t have chosen a worse month but I’m very glad in a way it was so hectic and intense because it energized everything.”
• Angels & Demons opens across Canada next Friday.