Friday, November 14, 2008

Bond, Bond, and More Bond!

A new Bond film always generates some hilarious articles, and I thought I’d share a few today that may be of interest:

A History of the Bond Villain
For the producers… the challenge has been to cast these villains astutely. They had to have charisma and seem plausibly evil. If they were too restrained, they risked appearing dull. If they were too extravagant in their villainy, they could teeter on the edge of kitsch.

When 007 Was Off-Target
THE RAPE OF PUSSY GALORE - Look, we know gender politics isn’t Bond’s finest point, but forcing yourself on a woman like this in the hay was surely unacceptable even in the 1964 of Goldfinger?

13 fictional spies made possible by James Bond
7. Sydney Bristow
Alias has all sorts of hip modern elements, as one might expect from its impish creator, J.J. Abrams. There's the tortured family drama, the betrayal of trust, the divided loyalties, the suppressed romantic yearnings, and the mysterious Italian prophet/inventor. Yeah, yeah. The real appeal of the show, and its ass-kicking, name-taking heroine, Sydney Bristow, is that she's James Bond for the Lost generation. The parallels are so obvious, they're painful: the mildly disapproving head man, the mildly incomprehensible gadget man, the shadowy enemy organization with impenetrable goals, the international jet-setting, the barely maintained disguises, the elaborate pre-credit action sequences: the whole show simply screams "Bond." Jennifer Garner spent a little more time crying than 007 ever did, but at least Anna Espinosa was easier on the eye than Jaws.

Cheesiest Lines from Bond Films
M: “Moneypenny, where’s 007?”
Monneypenny: “He’s on a mission sir. In Austria.”
M: “Well, tell him to pull out. Immediately.”

Six thrillers with unusually anguished heroes
The Naked Spur (1953): Think Jimmy Stewart’s all roses and sunshine? For five Westerns with director Anthony Mann, the definitive nice guy played an asshole, most memorably in this ensemble thriller as a manic bastard consumed to his very core by greed and insecurity.

5 Bond Girls Who Died After Wearing a Bikini

The Amnesiac Bond
I've been revisiting the Sean Connery Bonds lately, on widescreen projection, where the immaculate detail and lush photography of airports, country roads, mosques, and Ealing Studio interiors come alive. But what I am really noticing is the full greatness of Connery's multi-leveled performances.

20 Bond Villains You Love to Hate

James Bond trivia challenge!

The Best of the Bond Girls

James Bond Babes: Best and Worst


A Couple Reviews of Note:

Ebert’s 2-star review!
OK, I'll say it. Never again. Don't ever let this happen again to James Bond. Quantum of Solace is his 22nd film and he will survive it, but for the 23rd it is necessary to go back to the drawing board and redesign from the ground up. Please understand: James Bond is not an action hero! He is too good for that. He is an attitude. Violence for him is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette. He rarely encounters a truly evil villain. More often a comic opera buffoon with hired goons in matching jump suits… This Bond, he doesn't bring much to the party. Daniel Craig can play suave and he can be funny and Brits are born doing double entendres. Craig is a fine actor. Here they lock him down. I repeat: James Bond is not an action hero! Leave the action to your Jason Bournes. This is a swampy old world. The deeper we sink in, the more we need James Bond to stand above it.

From James Berardinelli
Sadly, there's something a little hollow about the proceedings. There's no real catharsis. In fact, the whole thing doesn't feel like a complete movie, or at least not a complete Bond movie. While there are plenty of nods to previous Bond outings (such as the Goldfinger-inspired human artwork), the missing staples leave unfilled holes. For example, there is no utterance of "Bond. James Bond." There are none of the verbal puns and one-liners we have come to relish. There's no bloody iris at the beginning. Monty Norman's "James Bond Theme" is relegated to subtle cues in David Arnold's largely generic score. At least one of the Bond girls has a typically outrageous name: Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) - but you have to sit through the credits to learn that; in the movie, she's simply called "Fields."

The film's biggest problem is its director. Marc Forster is an experienced art house filmmaker with impressive credits (most recently, The Kite Runner), but he is clueless when it comes to action sequences. His approach seems to be to shake the camera as much as possible and, to further obscure what's going on, to allow no cut to last more than about a half-second. Most of the action scenes, including a car chase, a boat chase, and a couple of fights, are so incoherent that it's necessary to wait until they're over to figure out who's still standing. (The plane chase is a little better, but not much.) We've seen this technique before, but never with Bond. And, to be frank, it's not something I ever want to see again in a 007 movie. Forster seems to have taken the phrase "shaken not stirred" too literally, applying it to every scene with a pulse.

As the film's chief nemesis, Mathieu Amalric is about as weak as one could imagine. Greene is neither frightening nor intimidating. Amalric, an excellent actor, is entirely defeated by the role - although, in fairness to him, he's not aided by the writing. Olga Kurylenko is a perfect Bond girl - sexy, capable, and bound to Bond by ties that have nothing to do with love. She's got a lot of screen presence and meshes well with Craig. Giancarlo Giannini shows up again as Mathis, although his character is treated even more shabbily here than in Casino Royale, as difficult as that may be to believe.

Derek Elley at Variety
Though references to Bond's late love, Vesper Lynd, pepper the script, and his desire for revenge provides an explanation for the plot whizzing around the world every few reels, the script by "Royale" writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (with Haggis taking a more senior role this time) never tackles Bond's grief head-on or gives him any meaningful dialogue as he aims for closure.

Duncan Shepherd at San Diego Valley Reader
The totality perhaps meets the fundamental requirements of action and pace, hurtling forward with only the briefest of pauses and coming in at a tidy hour and three-quarters, the shortest Bond film, if I’m not mistaken, in the entire series. As a likely result of that, it can seldom make time for the preparation that would give the action scenes sense and import. They are little more than turbulence. And the underlying split personality still remains: Why bother to infuse the Bond character with a greater air of reality if he’s going to continue to be allowed the acrobatics of a Jackie Chan? Surely our rougher and tougher superspy wouldn’t want us snorting in derision, or even chortling in delight, when he’s busy exacting payment for the snuffed-out life of his beloved. James Bond appears to be turning little by little into Jason Bourne. It’s not a step up.

Quantum Creep
How fascinating is it that 2008’s two most inconsolable, borderline psychotic movie heroes are Batman and James Bond...? But what lingers after Quantum of Solace, besides the urge to whack the director over the head with a rolled-up newspaper, is the sheer pitilessness of its outlook. As in The Dark Knight, there’s a deeply dismaying sense of a world without rules and nobody looking out for us save for that damaged, sadistic maniac who’s ostensibly the hero… Our childhood idols grew up and got mean.


Plus, a scene.

What were your thoughts about the screenwriting in Quantum?



Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

James Bond is so overrated, boring and needs to be retired already.

but the previews for 'Quantam' look good, the cinemateography looks really nice. but i think i'm gonna pass

Anonymous said...

I really liked Casino Royale and thought Quantum wasted a great setup. I was mostly very disappointed in it, but can't put my finger on why. This calls for a blog once you see it, MM...

Apextwin said...

Quantum of Solace was going for the tone and feel of movies like Bourne Ultimatum and The Dark Knight, but there's more to a good movie than tone and attitude - and that's where the latest Bond fell short for me.

The action sequences were very fast-paced but at times bordered on feeling frenetic, leaving me oddly detached. It probably had to do with the fast cuts and the fact that the sequences just sort of "fell" into the story out of nowhere instead of organically growing out of it. This made the rhythm of the movie somewhat choppy.

Also, while the first half of the movie was very action heavy to the point of neglecting the characters, the second half almost stalled with a lot of heavy-handed exposition and "character moments" they dropped onto the audience. I guess the use of too much action that didn't drive character development meant that the slower scenes had to take on an excessive amount of emotional content. But even though the second half of the movie had a lot of character moments they didn't really feel like they were moving Bond along a clear path toward closure or redemption. Instead they just kept hitting the same emotional note over and over. It felt like a boat taking on too much water when it's really meant to keep moving.

Another thing that I didn't particularly go for was James Bond's persistent brooding. I said this when the first "new" Bond movie (Casino Royale) came out - there's only so much time an audience wants to spend with a sullen, angry character. How are you going to spin something like that into another 20+ sequels like they did with the original Bond? My hunch is that the new Bond franchise is still trying to find its creative strike zone and that they'll probably adjust the next movie and make it about Bond healing some wounds, changing his attitude somewhat, and moving on in a less sullen direction.

Oh, and part of that new direction should also be a more threatening villain. The idea of a nebulous organization that has infiltrated the highest levels of government and the intelligence community was intriguing - but Dominic Greene's character didn't mine that idea in a very dramatic way. I also found neither him nor his evil plan to be particularly threatening. And I'm still trying to figure out if his assistant with the bad haircut was supposed to be his henchman or comic relief.

Overall I give the film a solid B. I've seen worse, but I've also seen better.

Anonymous said...

If they say character is action, then QOS had it in spades.

Unfortuantely, the choppy editing, and nausea-inducing hand held nonsense made it very hard to distinguish who was who and what they were doing.

Mystery Man said...

deaf - save it for a netflix rental.

anon - I completely agree!

apextwin - brilliant comments. Couldn't have said it better myself. The "character moments" never worked for me and did more to try to strike certain emotional chords than to focus on Bond's recovery from his emotional wounds. It was so very on-the-nose. My biggest complaint had to be lack of tension. For example, when he killed Slate and got his briefcase, we had no idea what was going on. If we knew that Slate was about to have a meeting and Bond INTENDED to intercept, then we'd be more involved in the fight because we understood his objectives and we knew what was at stake. But tension is snuffed out of that scene because we don't know. For the most part, the audience is left out of the reasoning for the action, which makes us less involved. There has to be a point to the action, something has to be at stake, and we have to be made to care before you turn up the heat. Really annoying to me.

I also thought there was quite a disconnect between how powerful this organization is and what small-time objectives they had about water in Bolivia. Who cares?

anon - couldn't agree more. Thanks for the comments.


Doughnut Queen said...

Truly the worst Bond I have seen (and as far as the cheesy ones went, at least they had some kind of decent escapist plot, even if it was a cheesy plot).

So much left unexploited here but it feels like the screenwriters basically were left to divvy up the script and then put it together without talking to each other.

Something along the lines of um okay, um Paul Haggis you do the dialogue yeah? And um Purvis & Wade, you guys do the action sequences.

The concept of Quantum taking place 24 hours or within 24 hours of the end of Casino Royale was very clever, and made it interesting and exciting. But it just ended up being one chase sequence after another after another and worst, with no tangible plot. The villain was weak, the babes were boring and the only person who stayed true was M. The emotional moments were there but barely - Craig had virtually nothing to work with and there were a couple of times when it felt like he was desperately scraping the bottom of the barrel with trying to get some hard core emotion into his role.

If there was supposed to be some kind of spectre created in Quantum about the Q organisation, the script failed. It was almost as if the director sought shelter in the action sequences, inserted some artsy shots in to remind the audience of his pedigree (how often do you see that many shots of locals, and clothes hanging in seedy hotels and giant lizards used as establishing shots?) and left it at that.

But perhaps even if they had simply strung together five action sequences and filled the middle parts with endless patter, it would still be making box office money because it's a known franchise.

Anonymous said...