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'Da Vinci' team back with 'Angels & Demons'

After exposing a Church cover-up in "The Da Vinci Code," symbologist Robert Langdon returns to the big screen as an unlikely Vatican ally in the latest movie adaptation of a novel by author Dan Brown.

"Angels & Demons," again starring Tom Hanks as Langdon and directed by Ron Howard, premieres in Rome on Monday.

In the film, Langdon is recruited by the Vatican after the pope dies and four cardinals who are favorites to succeed him are kidnapped.

Langdon races through the "Eternal City" deciphering clues linked to a centuries-old secret society, the Illuminati. "He is not the man the Vatican trusts - he is the man the Vatican needs," Howard said in production notes for the movie.

Ewan McGregor plays the central role of the "Camerlengo," or chamberlain, who runs the Vatican between the time of the pope's death and the election of his successor. "He sees himself as a man who will do whatever it takes to save the Church from the Illuminati and everything they represent," McGregor said.

"Angels & Demons" has so far avoided the kind of broadside the Vatican aimed at "The Da Vinci Code" film in 2005 and 2006 and the following year at "The Golden Compass" starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

"Dramatizing the issue involuntarily gives publicity to Angels & Demons," said Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, in Italy's La Stampa newspaper. "Be careful not to play their game."

"The Da Vinci Code" upset the Vatican and some Catholics because of its storyline, in which Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, creating a royal bloodline that Church officials kept secret for centuries. Christians are taught that Jesus never married, was crucified and rose from the dead.

Despite the controversy, and a critical mauling at the Cannes film festival where it was launched, "The Da Vinci Code" went on to gross more than US$750 million worldwide, supporting the theory that no publicity is bad publicity.


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