10 January 2008

Guest: Bond, James Bond (1999-2002)

1999 - The World is Not Enough - Who would have thought that the guy who directed Nell would be a marginally better bet for the series than the guy who directed Turner & Hooch.

Only a one film gap and I sorely missed me some pissed off Bond. Not only that, it’s refreshing to see him doing actual legwork, figuring out the plot for us all. Nice chap. And it feels like it’s been forever since Bond has been tortured to the edge of madness.

I think this film where my ruing of Q-Branch gadgets came from. Seeing how InstaBall jacket works before it is utilized in the field doesn’t work too well. It’s Brosnan’s Goldfinger - a lot of ridiculousness that is more or less all in good fun, balanced out with some sudden serious moments.

Carlyle as villain was a good choice, but where’s the payoff of his master torture techniques? Sure, his right-hand man knows all about it, but when the main threat does nothing but throw punches at Bond, I am a bit disappointed. Bored. Bored is the word. The simultaneous strength and weakness is in the dynamic between the characters and not so much the action set pieces or the dialogue. It is cute that the film tries so hard - it is a shame that it fails.

The movie misses the boat on some opportunities to exploit their villain’s state of mind. The revelation that he can longer feel should have come right as we saw his inability to live up to Bond’s standards of sex with his partner in crime. The film also seems to forget this information during the climactic battle, having him flinch constantly with each punch. And then Wet Shirt (or whatever her real name is, who cares) says another poorly delivered line about nuclear stuff and then they save the goddamn day, only to have images of them having sex patched in to the British government. JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. Easy money.

This was the first Bond film I ever saw, and I do remember hating it a lot more. The chalk line gets pushed back with every hundred films. Uh, hooray?

“Welcome to my nuclear family.” (5.5/10)
d. Michael Apted

2002 - Die Another Day - After about ten million shots of Bond and his expendable partners surfing to the shoreline filmed on a studio backlot, we get to Brosnan’s last outing as 007, which would preferably be his opus, 20th film on the 40th anniversary and all, but keeping with tradition of actors sticking with the series one film too far, it befalls this one to be the soul-sucking entry.

Perhaps the biggest sign that the series is going downhill: diamond smuggling. Honestly with the diamond smuggling. It has never worked in the series, ever, and yet the writers keep revisiting it because they hate us. Coolest villain scar ever, though.

What a squandered story idea, 007 captured and tortured (to the edge of madness) for over a year, only to return to the outside world where everyone hates him and nobody will sleep with him. Why didn’t this work? Well, the short answer is that the torture scene is more effective in the Madonna music video. The longer answer becomes clear very soon, after it is revealed that Bond can stop and start his heart-rate at will, and then there’s a character with the actual name of Peaceful Fountains of Desire. I thought I had taken that ninja knife out…

Really, more time needed to pass, given M’s line “The world has changed while you were away.” A kind of broad statement there. Bond should have probably been captured for five years at least. Twenty would have been much better. You could have cast Connery in the role, he loves acting! Why aren’t I watching that hypothetical film?!

Bond has well-earned the right for his superiors to believe him, especially after the previous film. Hating him doesn’t make for compelling drama, it only makes for a useless side-note on a quest for revenge he is going to take anyway, and it also predicts the idea that he is being double-crossed by the most obvious character not played by the Oscar winner.

“First, we kill off your bone marrow.” You lost me. I get to be beautiful… with no bone marrow? Don’t I need that to, um, live? Is that what you guys did to Walken in A View to a Kill? Shouldn’t this have been over a half hour ago? Michael Madsen, what’s with you never helping the situation with your presence? You were great in Free Willy, why can’t you be good anymore?

Maybe it was the overly extensive use of special effects as opposed to real locations and real stunt-work, but perhaps Tamahori could try pulling the camera out of his ass. That could improve his “technique.” Except for Q-Branch’s scene, there are no cool moments in this entry. Even the chase in the ice palace, falling under neat set-piece category, fails to illicit any feeling of danger. The movie did have a cool glass-destroying ring, I’ll give it that.

Well, g’bye, Brosny. On your commentary, you sounded gung-ho for another outing, but sadly, your time is done. At least you managed to swing on a rope in every one of your Bond films.

“An hour in the Dream Machine keeps me sane.” (4.0/10)
d. Lee Tamahori

[Addendum: feeling a bit depressed that Brosnan wasn’t awesome more often, I fired up the ol’ Gamecube machine and played a bit of Everything or Nothing, a great emulation of the Bond series complete with highly impressive opening credits. You get to train in a virtual reality matrix superior to the one in Die Another Day, free-fall off of a cliff, pilot a mini-copter, get Bond Points, and save Shannon Elizabeth. And Jaws is back! What more could you want?! WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!]