'Angels & Demons' Draws Ire from Vatican

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ROME, Italy & GENEVA, Switzerland -- The makers of the highly controversial film, The Da Vinci Code, will release a new movie in theaters Friday.

Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks, centers on the struggle between science and religion. The movie is set in Rome and involves a terrorist plot to blow up the Vatican. The Catholic Church says the film is "an offense against God" and is calling for a boycott.

Stay with CBN News for more with Ted Baehr of MovieGuide.org.

Hunt For The Illuminati

In Angels & Demons, Tom Hanks' character is in the hunt for The Illuminati, a group who believes that faith can be challenged by science.

"The Illuminati were a secret society dedicated to scientific truth," central character Robert Langdon said in the film. "The Catholic Church ordered a brutal massacre to silence them forever. They've come for their revenge."

Hanks plays Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, who's in a race to uncover the clues and symbols that might help save the Vatican from an attack by The Illuminati.

"The real focus of the movie is science versus faith," Hanks said during a recent press tour in Rome and Geneva.

Science vs. Religion

The Illuminati are about to destroy the Holy See using technology stolen from a research lab that has just discovered the origins of the universe.

"An ancient and secret society. want to use the latest, most destructive, cutting-edge, scientific breakthrough to actually destroy the church," director Ron Howard said.

Ewan McGregor also stars in the film as a priest who believes 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," said Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, played by McGregor.

"There's a guy who has really strong beliefs that the church is heading in the wrong direction and is far too liberal and should be this, this, and this," McGregor told CBN News during a stop in Rome, Italy.

Evolution vs. Creation

Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer plays the role of a physicist. She discovers that evolution and creation can co-exist and the result is a theme that runs throughout much of the movie.

"That there is a very thin line between dark and light, between good and bad, evil and good," Zurer said.

A major portion of Ron Howard's movie, Angels & Demons, actually takes place at the CERN center in Geneva, Switzerland.

Secrets Of The Universe

The CERN is running one the biggest science experiments in history. Some 9,000 physicists from around the world are working on a massive supercollider they hope will one day reveal what the universe was like a few nanoseconds after it was created.

"What goes on here is exploration of the most adventuresome kind," Howard said.

Angels & Demons is a prequel of sorts to The Da Vinci Code, the controversial film based on author Dan Brown's best-seller.

Movie Draws Controversy

As with The Da Vinci Code, this new film has drawn the ire of the Vatican and the Catholic community at large.

A top Vatican official said that Dan Brown's books had "turned the Gospels upside down to poison the faith" and called Angels & Demons "an offense against God."

Reverend Thomas Reese, author and Jesuit priest, says the movie is full of baseless conspiracy theories.

"It's very much like an Indiana Jones movie except that it takes itself seriously, as if it had any historical basis for the kinds of things it is presenting on the screen. I think it would have been much better as a comedy," Reese said. 

"Let's face it, most people are not educated about history so when they see a movie like this they think it's real, they think it's history," he added.

Some have accused Ron Howard of being anti-Catholic. But Howard told CBN News that he never wants to encourage anyone to reject or abandon their faith.

"If someone wants to really think about what they believe and talk about it, take it to a pastor, take it to a priest," he said.

Vatican Ban

But that didn't stop Catholic Church officials from banning the movie's producers from entering the Vatican or any church in Rome during the filming last summer.

Stellan Skarsgard plays the role of a commander in the Swiss Guard.

"Let's put it mildly: the Vatican was not very supportive of the project," Skarsgard told CBN News.

Forcing producers to get creative when shooting key scenes.

"St. Peter's Square was built by the racetracks near Los Angeles airport, which was not so romantic," Skarsgard said.

There's mixed reaction to the movie on the streets of Rome.

"This is just another example of how Hollywood is trying to tell us that science is more important than faith and the science has all the answers," said an Italian living in Rome.

But another resident of the city said that Catholic officials need to chill out.

"The Vatican needs to stop being scared of such movies. It needs to modernize and realize the world is changing and the Church needs to change with the times."

The movie opens world-wide Friday and is rated PG-13.

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