The film and book are about something else entirely. The pope suddenly and dramatically dies. But before a new pope can be elected the Vatican is informed that a secret anti-Roman Catholic group of scientists, known as the Illuminati, has obtained the newly created anti-matter (the God particle) and plans to destroy the Vatican before midnight. But before that happens, they will kill the four candidates for the papacy, one every hour. Enter Indiana Jones, I mean Robert Langdon, to save the day. Langdon teams up with the co-creator of anti-matter Vittoria Vetra to stop the Illuminati before all hell breaks lose. But this hell won’t involve any demons, at least not literally.
Fascinating story—and a good film in fact, though it can be gruesome at times. But what about the historicity of the story? Well, the Illuminati were anything but the way they are described in most of the film. And actually, St. Peter wasn’t the first pope like the film and catholic tradition suggests. Peter was never a pope -- he was just a dominant Christian leader -- and it wasn’t even until late second century AD that popes started to have power over more than just their own city. I say popes (plural) because there was a pope in Rome, one in Alexandria, and several others in various cities.
Much of the movie is about how Christians have resisted science, which indeed has happened. But in many ways, this is beginning to change. There are several great lines in the film in this regard, perhaps the best being, “Science is so young and has so much to learn. If the world could see our tradition [the Catholic tradition] like it really is, they would be astonished and call it nothing short of a miracle” (paraphrasing here). Christians can learn from science, but science can learn from us as well.
At the end of the day, though, I am left wondering why name a book and a movie Angels and Demons when there are no angels or demons in it? Simple reason: To sell more novels and movie tickets. Slightly more complicated reason: The angels and demons are people in this story and they will elude you just like the actual beings. But let’s not forget for all of Brown’s novel ideas, he is an illusionist. Enjoy the book and movie, but just don’t take it too seriously.