U.S. actor Tom Hanks, left, Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer, centre, and British actor Ewan McGregor arrive for the world premiere of Angels and Demons in Rome on Monday. ((Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press))

The Vatican appears to be changing its approach to Dan Brown's thrillers.

While it launched numerous critiques of The Da Vinci Code and banned filming in Vatican City for Ron Howard's film version, it has been quiet until recently on the related film Angels & Demons.

The Da Vinci Code raised the church's ire because it postulated that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and had children, but the Vatican has not issued pronouncements about Angels & Demons, despite a story line about a murderous secret society within the church.

Angels & Demons  portrays symbologist Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, seeking to solve the kidnapping of a group of church cardinals at the hands of the bizarre cult.

On Wednesday the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano broke that silence with a review of Angels & Demons that lauded it as "gripping" with "splendid" visuals.

And in a surprising editorial, it said the success of Brown's works should make the Catholic Church rethink the way it uses the media to present itself.

The editorial said the fact that the "simplistic and partial" vision of the church portrayed in Brown's works is attracting readers should prod the church to rethink the way it presents itself to the media.

"It would probably be an exaggeration to consider the books of Dan Brown an alarm bell but maybe they should be a stimulus to rethink and refresh the way the church uses the media to explain its positions on today's burning issues," it said.

The film review in L'Osservatore Romano was not wholly positive, but recognized the film's entertainment value.

It called Angels & Demons "a videogame that first of all sparks curiosity and is also, maybe, a bit of fun."

The movie was "a gigantic and smart commercial operation" filled with historical inaccuracies and "stereotyped characters," the review said.

The Vatican's 2006 campaign against The Da Vinci Code had the effect of whipping up interest in the film, which earned more than $757 million US.