In his first adventure, Robert Langdon gets called late at night by the head of CERN over an urgent matter - and is faxed the picture of a mangled corpse, what used to be the facility's most prominent scientist, branded with the word "Illuminati" on his chest.Being an expert on the Illuminati signage, this lights a fire under his ass. The Head of CERN, Maximilian Kohler, arranges for a plane to pick him up to investigate. Once at the CERN facility and joined by the late scientist's daughter, they find that a quarter gram (it's a lot, trust us) of Anti-Matter has been stolen, using the dead man's biometrics.At the same time, a Swiss Guard member finds said canister, stuck somewhere in Vatican City - during the elections for a new pope to replace the previous one, who had died rather suddenly.Cue mad rush to find the Anti-Matter canister before it annihilates Vatican City.
Provides examples of:
Apathetic Citizens: Averted in the film; Langdon can't get help to save the final victim (who's Strapped to an Operating Table attached to weights and then dumped in water) because he's shouting in English. Just as it appears all is lost, some bystanders leap into the water and help drag them out.
Art Imitates Art: In the film, the explosion of the helicopter carrying the antimatter illuminates the sky above the Vatican into something resembling ceiling frescos depicting the Apotheosis. Which is kind of fitting as the Carmelego was believed to have sacrificed himself in the explosion to save Rome in a somewhat Messianic manner.
Ancient Conspiracy - Averted. The Illuminati no longer exist. The real conspiracy is far more sinister (but is entirely orchestrated by one rather unhinged priest and his hired gun.)
Badass Longcoat: The Camerlengo in the movie, those are some banging priestly robes.
The Bad Guy Wins: Sure, he didn't plan on dying in the process, but the Camerlengo does manage to achieve pretty much all his primary objectives. He successfully jump-starts a worldwide renewal of faith in Christianity's power, while simultaneously causing popular distrust of the scientific community. In the book, as far as the masses are concerned, he even goes down in history as miraculously ascending to Heaven. And Langdon and Vittoria can never tell the world the Illuminati were a sham and the entire drama was a dog-and-pony show by the Camerlengo, because disllusioning the people just as they've had their faith restored would do more harm than good.
The movie sidesteps this one, Langdon manages to save Baggia, who later becomes pope under the name Luke (after the physician and evangelist). The movie manages to have it both ways, a pro-science pope and the renewal of faith.
Batman Gambit - The camerlengo had killed the Pope after finding out he had a child, and hired the Hassassin to steal the Anti-Matter canister and kill the Preferiti so he can "find" the canister via "divine inspiration" to get him as Pope. Why? To restore the world's faith in Judeo-Christian religions and make them much more hardline on science.
Better Manhandle The Murder Weapon: In the film, after the Camerlengo brands himself, Richter obligingly picks up the branding iron, thereby making it look as if he was the person who did it, and resulting in him being shot dead as soon as the guards enter the room.
Richter doesn't touch the branding iron. He has his pistol in his hand, and his colleagues shoot him as he turns slightly towards them. The cardinal whom Richter told about the Camerlengo's treachery then picks up the branding iron and takes an enraged swing at him, only to be shot dead too.
Bilingual Bonus: Rudimentary knowledge of Italian fills in a couple of gaps in dialogue.
Bookshelf Dominoes: In the film, how Langdon escapes the Vatican Archives. Though it takes emptying a pistol into the glass, and Langdon passing out on top of the bookshelf, before it breaks.
Cat Scare: In the film when the protagonists are searching for the first victim, they're startled by radios and plastic sheeting crackling.
Chekhovs Classroom: While at CERN, Langdon sees someone sky-diving in a wind tunnel and learns about how fabric creates wind resistance and slows one's fall. At the end of the book, when he falls from the helicopter, he uses his jacket to do just that and survive the Soft Water of the Tiber river. A Little Did I Know is also provided by the author.
Calling Card: Each of the Preferiti are to be slayed in a manner corresponding to the Illuminati's elements - For example, the first, who is branded with Earth, is killed by having soil stuffed down his throat and thrown into a burial ground. In addition, the mastermind specifically instructed the Hassassin to steal the Anti-Matter to show that Science destroys religion. Literally. And subverted in that despite the whole things that are supposed to be divine intervention in the book, the only thing come closest to this is Langdon survived falling from helicopter, and even that was helped by science.
Fake Brit: Gunther Glick, the so-called "British" journalist, has speech and thoughts riddled with Americanisms such as "gas" and "anchormen" (a real Brit would say "petrol" and "presenters" respectively); at one point he even likens himself to Dan Rather, who is almost unknown in Britain. (Again, if he were really British he would have likened himself to Trevor McDonald, though there's a vague handwave about him hanging around American news media for too long.)
Fun With Palindromes: A variant — it uses ambigrams instead, which read the same when turned upside-down.
Gambit Roulette: It also depends on him being NOT seen by Langdon and getting to the Anti-Matter, which he placed on Saint Peter's catacomb, on time. Needless to say, he's spotted by Langdon, and was interrogated by Kohler (who caught the whole thing on tape) before Kohler was shot.
Even less plausible in The Film of the Book, where the plan is for Langdon to find the antimatter mere minutes before it detonates. A few minutes too soon, and the bomb is easily defused. A minute too late, and St. Peter's is destroyed, along with the Camerlengo. And that's just the most obvious flaw in the Xanatos' hilariously roundabout plan. Spotting the rest makes for one Hell of a drinking game.
Hollywood Atheist: Kohler's reason for being atheist was that his parents, instead of getting him the right medicine for a crippling, life-threatening illness when was young, decided to pray over him. He only survived because a doctor injected him with the medicine without his parents' knowledge. The whole ordeal left Kohler paraplegic. To top it all off, when his parents took him to a Priest to ask why their son is crippled, the priest berates him for not having enough faith. He became very bitter, to say the least.
Hope Spot: The third Preferiti in the book, who Langdon manages to reach - but cannot save.
Kill 'em All: In the book, Landgon fails to save any of the Preferiti. Averted in the movie, where he saved the last one.
I Have You Now, My Pretty: In the book, the Hassassin plans to rape and kill Vittoria as a "reward" for his hard work. However, he gets no further than tying her up and groping her before Langdon arrives to save her.
Religion Versus Science - The Illuminati vs the Church, and it's even mentioned that by destroying Vatican City with an anti-matter explosion, it will be the ultimate triumph of science over religion. Subverted with some of the bishops seen, who express the opinion that the two do not need to be opposed and there is room for both in the world, and Vittora's father, who was a priest. The book itself takes this stance overall.
Manly Tears - In the book when Langdon failed to save prefereti Baggia's life.
Meaningful Background Event: In the film at St. Peter's Square, the Assassin can be seen leading the second of the Preferiti to the western wind marker while the camera is focused on the police.
Moon Logic Puzzle - Following the Path of Illumination requires you to not only be an expert on science, Christianity, and various pagan belief systems, but also the train of thought used by Bernini at the time.
Never Trust a Trailer - the teaser trailer for the film features a sinister voice talking about how the Illuminati are about to take their revenge. But it turns out that the Big Bad just used the Illuminati as scapegoats for his plot, and they probably no longer even exist.
"You know, when they call me — and they all call me — it is so important to them that I know that what they ask is the Lord's will. Or Allah's or Yahweh's."
Not That Kind of Doctor - Dr. Vittoria Vetra (a physicist) seems to know all the medical symptoms of the pope's poisoning.
But she must be a pretty poor physicist, because Langdon has to explain to her that a low-oxygen environment can cause light-headedness.
Ever so slightly justified in the book because she's worked with whales in the past who have been poisoned with the same drug as the Pope had been poisoned with and both exhibited the same symptoms.
Obviously Evil: The Cardinals and at least some of the Preferati in the movie don't look anything other than sinister, conniving old men. Subverted when it's revealed that none of them are evil at all. Rather it's the seemingly angelic Carmelengo who's the Big Bad.
Planar Shockwave - averted in the movie, the antimatter detonation produced a invisible and expanding sphere of energy. Also averted in the book, where the antimatter bomb (a bomb that was supposed to clock in at about 5 kilotons) blew up with out even ruffling anyone's tie. It did, however, shake things up.
Poor Communication Kills: If the poor Camerlengo had really listened to the Pope's full story, all of this wouldn't have happened.
Police Are Useless: The movie has a really bad case of this. Albeit this was supposed to be a more or less rational thriller, a single assassin manages to kill the entire Italian and Papal police presence at a top-priority crime scene, using little more than a Silencer Pistol.
Shortly after, Langdon only manages to convince no more than two Carabinieri to accompany him to the soon-to-be crime scene, to stop the killer in time. When the van with the assassin and the next victim drives up to them boldly, the policemen immediately try to sneak up to them, one by one, and in full view of the assassin on the driver's seat.They are also sniped by the killer one by one as a result, who then goes pushing his fourth victim into the water unhindered. They would have had better chances had they simply ordered him out of the vehicle at gunpoint.
Later in the movie, Langdon and the Italian special units storm the presumed criminal hideout. But instead of listening to Langdon, they run off into the other direction for no obvious reason, abandoning him in the killer's layer, even as Langdon begs them to stay with him. A few minutes later, he finds himself face-to-face with the armed assassin.
It's probably not used here deliberately, but there is something of a running gag in Italian culture revolving around the supposed inferior intelligence of the Carabinieri (but not all police) in particular.
Pragmatic Adaptation - The film version at least in some respects. While it retains the basic plot and many of the key points, it's a rather different creature from the novel. For starters, it's shown as a sequel to The Da Vinci Code.
Pretty Little Headshots - At one point in the film version, a policeman with a neat forehead entry wound can be clearly seen.
Punch Clock Villain - The hit man in the film. With one exception, he tries to avoid harming anybody except his contracted targets and people directly trying to stop him. In one scene, he has Langdon and Vittoria at gunpoint and tells them that he won't kill them unless they keep interfering.
Race Lift - To avoid offense in the current political climate, the Assassin is changed from a suave and sophisticated Arabic Hassassin with an addiction to sadism, killing, and rape into a European professional with some mercy and honor who is only in it for the money.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Hassassin isn't just a murderer, he's also a sexual sadist who beats up all the prostitutes he sleeps with, and takes a very special interest in Vetra - wanting to rape her, then kill her at the point of orgasm.
Rare Guns - The Swiss Guard arms its snipers with $10,000-a-unit Heckler & Koch PSG-1s, probably because it's one of the few snipers that doesn't look like an American-made deer rifle.
Ripped From The Phone Book: Vittoria Vetra rips the page from a priceless document by Galileo (likely the only one left in the entire world) to the shock of Dr Langdon, rather than waste time copying it.
Self Stitching: The hitman treats a gunshot wound in the back of a van, while monologuing to a victim he's got trussed up in a sack.
Sherlock Scan: Langdon does it in the movies when it determines that the man who comes to see him is jetlagged because a) he has bags under his eyes, b) it's 5am, and c) he's from the Vatican.
Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke - A quarter-gram of positrons mixed with another quarter gram of electrons yields enough photons to cook Nagasaki and at medium altitude should have blinded every naked eye in Rome (including the onlooking crowd in Piazza San Pietro), scorched every non-reflective surface in line of sight and set ablaze every dark surface. Not so much.*
Note that this is just the flash-burn (light energy) from a Fat-Man-sized nuclear blast, not the other exciting effects that usually come from a nuke, thanks to this being a pure energy conversion of positronic antimatter and matter.
Perhaps a much smaller quantity of electrons were bottled than the CERN scientists thought. An instrumentation error, to be sure.
Soft Water: Langdon survives a fall from the helicopter into the Tiber river thanks to a tip he learned from a Chekhovs Classroom. It's noted by the emergency personnel who save him that he didn't break his bones.
Spanner in the Works - Langdon and Kohler. If Kohler didn't film the whole thing, and Langdon didn't survive the fall from the helicopter and get the video camera for the cardinals to view, Carlo's plan would have succeeded. And the whole Langdon get on helicopter was out of Carlo's plan.
Those Two Guys - Two BBC journalists start following Robert during his chase to save the kidnapped Preferiti in hopes of a better story and an award.
Wham Line: Arguably for the narrative, definitely in-story, for the Camerlengo:
"The pope fathered a son."
Wall of Weapons: An Anachronism Stew version in the film with the Swiss Guard armoury, where modern assault rifles are racked next to medieval halberds and crossbows.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit - Pulled off by the Camerlengo in the film and the book. In the latter at least it's successful enough to get two people shot dead on the spot.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Indicated in the movie when the Camerlengo says to Richter "I was planning on doing this alone, but perhaps it's better that you're here." Just before branding himself with the upside down papal symbol.