Back when Casino Royale was in production, the chatter was that we were reinventing the Bond franchise. We had our new Bond, we were going back to the earliest of titles, and we were going to reboot the whole Bond movie as a general notion. Most often bandied about was the idea that we were going back to something more true to the book. There are no gadgets in the book, and Bond is more along the lines of a plain, old spy.
Quantum of Solace keeps going with our reinvention, and moves even a bit further down the lines of changing directions entirely. While Casino Royale was somewhat uncomfortable, it wasn’t a terrible movie, and it still managed to make you feel like you were watching Bond. Quantum of Solace is a Bond movie at all only by the technicality of naming a character Bond.
The reinvention of Bond is not a completely useless idea. However, the idea going on here is really just, “Hey, those Bourne movies are doing business.” As to the elimination of gadgets… that ship sailed over 15 movies ago. Bond, in the movies, has gadgets… the end.
Most importantly, the popularity of Bourne movies notwithstanding, Bond doesn’t get into a brawl every five minutes, and Bond films do not progress from one ridiculous excuse to have an action scene to the next. Bond has chase scenes with boats, because it’s a good excuse to drop mini-mines out the back and watch cool explosions. It’s an excuse to see the hang-glider pop out the top of the boat as it goes over a waterfall, and you can look at the pretty jungle. It isn’t because we want to see, let’s say, what a real boat chase might look like. Real? This is Bond!
Bond also does not engage himself with weasely villains who have grand schemes that make no sense and are never explained. He certainly doesn’t then go to blows with them for several minutes. Bond just took out three trained agents in an elevator with his hands tied behind his back, but now he’s having a lot of trouble with pasty “buck O 5” armed with a length of handrail?
The real death of Bond though is that Bond is supposed to be cool. Bond doesn’t get in prolonged knife fights, or chase baddies over rooftops (in a scene directly stolen from a Bourne film). Bond saunters into casinos, and infiltrates organizations who are perfecting their doomsday machines, the goofier the better. He drinks martinis and tidy-dressing villains with patches over one eye, and scoffs at their threats because they don’t know about his laser watch. He doesn’t go and knock the cat off their lap, and beat the hell out of them.
The Bond movies needed some reworking, because they were going a bit odd the last ten years, but what they needed was a return to the style and theory that made the earliest films great. What they didn’t need was to stop being Bond films altogether. They needed to find a new Terence Young, who directed Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball. He could film suave, and make action scenes that were as fun to watch as they were meaningless. He could also piece together a Bond who could slip on a wet floor, shoot three bad guys during the fall, and land having sex with a gorgeous girl. Instead we get Marc Forster, who directed Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction, and The Kite Runner, and delivers an action scene like someone who directed Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction and The Kite Runner. The action is boring, the plot is stupid, Bond is dull and held off in a way that makes it impossible to form any connection with him, and there isn’t one thing about the film that requires it to be put together with James Bond.
Our franchise fears have become self-fulfilling now. It started to seem like people just weren’t going to see Bond films so much anymore. People still aren’t seeing Bond films anymore, no matter how many people see Quantum of Solace.
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