The Death of James Bond: Quantum of Solace

Posted: November 1, 2008 in Musings
Tags: , ,

James Bond 1962 – 2002

Firstly, let me stress that I am a huge Bond fan.

Secondly, let me say that Quantum of Solace actually makes me angry to think about.

The film picks up minutes after Casino Royale limped to its climax – finally, a sequel to a story. Fleming wrote each novel as a direct sequel to the one before – it’s just taken over forty years for the films to catch on to this trick.

The problems become obvious mere seconds into the film – the directing and editing are both awful and conspire to produce the most migraine-inducing, poorly viewed car chase ever filmed. But by the end, Bond has escaped (somehow – it’s difficult to tell) and presented Mr White to M.
Then, in the most obvious see-it-coming twist ever, one of the Mi6 agents turns rogue and goes gun happy before fleeing, leaving it up to Bond to do more bloody free running and chase him down.

He does, eventually. Then things go all CGI as they fall through a glass roof and somehow get tangled up in a rope pulley system (that’s how it appears anyway – the camera’s refusal to show us what’s happening leaves it all up in the air as to what’s actually going on.)

The core of the film sees Bond tracking down the mysterious Quantum group, who have managed to infiltrate every major organisation across the world, somehow. Ignoring the fact that overthrowing governments from within is the CIA’s job, Bond tasks himself with finding out what they’re up to.

Unfortunately, as everyone around keeps CONSTANTLY reminding us, Bond is still in love with Vesper and really pissed off that she died. Is anyone else? No? Huh.

This is the main crux of whether or not you’ll like Quantum. If you truly believed that Bond fell in love with Vesper in Royale, then you will have no problem believing that he’d want vengeance for her death. If, however, you thought that their romance was the most contrived out of all the Bond films to date, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

This is where the film truly begins, as Bond trots the globe and kills people and gets into lots of barely-visible scraps with various goons, gradually getting closer to Dominic Green, who has A Very Evil Plan ™ involving stealing water. Yes – it’s sunk that low.

One of the worst parts about this ‘new’ Bond is how little both movies feel like a Bond film. This one is especially awful on the action stakes – each chase scene feels forced into place just for the sake of it. And at no point do they feel breathtakingly original, like good Bond action ought to feel. There’s a strange sense that we’ve seen it all before – sometimes, we have. Many moments are cribbed right out of other Bond movies, with a few borrowed from other, better action movies.

Crashing cargo plane. The Living Daylights. Bond throwing bad guy off roof. The Spy Who Loved Me. Aerial fight between planes. Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond out for revenge. Licence To Kill. Bond fighting enemy armed with fire axe. A View To A Kill. Girl dead on bed covered in something. Goldfinger. Bond takes out two cops with no trouble. The Bourne Identity. Bond fights his way out of arrest in a lift. Mission: Impossible III.

It doesn’t even visually look like a Bond movie. At one point, when Bond is sitting on a boat in an exotic location – the constant title cards tell all here, for no good reason – it is impossible to not think what a smug shit he really is. Everything is either slightly too luxurious, slightly too clinical or slightly too gritty. Part of this can be blamed on Dan Bradley, former stunt co-ordinator and second unit director for the Bourne movies.

And here we have to raise to issue of the other super spy with initials ‘JB’. If anything, it feels like a rejected Bourne movie. Bond has an arc that feels completely contrived beyond all reason, while the incredibly bad editing feel like outtakes from The Bourne Supremacy (the one where you can’t see anything). Hell, the ending is basically the finale of Supremacy, right down to the Russian apartment it takes place in. Bond has basically become Bourne in a tuxedo, and in doing so, he’s shed everything that made him so unique for so long.

Gone are the double entendres, the humour, the smirks, the stiff upper lip, the quintessential Englishness. This Bond fucks shit up, and that’s about it. There is no character here – he was fully formed in the first five minutes of Royale. All the supporting characters are just as blank. Camille is basically Bond in a dress, except she gets knocked out within fifteen minutes from her introduction (score one for advancement of the sexes), while M is little more than a mother figure, appearing more times on screen here than ALL THE M’S IN EVERY BOND FILM PUT TOGETHER. Seriously, what was so hard about her giving Bond his mission and disappearing until the end?

Dominic Green is destined to be forgotten as a villain. With no motivation (he wants money! MY GOD WHAT A BASTARD!) and nothing distinctive, he will vanish into the ether of forgotten Bond villains, alongside Stromberg and Largo. He randomly changes archetypes as well – going from insane cackling villain to really strong (he breaks a stone balcony!) to really shit fighter, who manages to get one over Bond because it was contrived.

Worst offender is Agent Strawberry Fields (no, really) – she’s appalling. Not only is Gemma Arterton a terrible actress, but Bond manages to shag her with the line “I can’t find the stationary. Care to help me?”
And while we’re on the subject of Agent Fields, what in the name of fuck happened to her? She was drowned in oil. And placed back on the bed.
Just think how in the hell this was achieved. Did they take the barrel of oil to her room? Did they take her to the barrel of oil? How is the room so pristine given the nature of her death? She’s covered in OIL for god’s sake!

Here, Bond breaks the first rule. “Men want to be him, women want to be with him.” Sure, women want to be with him, but who the fuck would want to be him? He’s stroppy, sulky, moody, unable to sleep and constantly has the shit beaten out of him.

The main blame for this apparent travesty can be laid in several directions.

Firstly, to producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

Their apparent lust to drive the franchise in new directions has seemingly forgotten what it is that makes him such a memorable character.

This is the third time they’ve tried to kick-start the franchise, with Licence To Kill and GoldenEye coming before. Licence To Kill is phenomenal, probably the best of all the Bond films. You know what? It adheres to the formula and still works.

In spite of this reboot, though, it is utterly bizarre that they would keep the two writers who drove the franchise into the ground.

Secondly, to director Marc Forster.

It is incredibly obvious that he cannot handle the kind of action required by Bond – why else would there be so many edits?

His style feels stale, overdone and lame. Bond needs a better director than this man.

Thirdly, to writer Paul Haggis.

Mr Haggis gave us painfully awful Oscar winning bullshit in the shape of Crash, and as a result, his festering hand is all over the final product this time. The forced emotion, the bolted-on ‘depth’ to characters – hell, even the ending. It doesn’t make sense.

Purvis and Wade can clearly write Bond and can write action – they wrote all of the Brosnan Bonds – hence why all the emotional bollocks feels so tacked on.

Fourth, to Daniel Craig.

Even though the writers have given Bond absolutely nothing to go on, there is no excuse for his flat portrayal of the character. He pouts, looks moody and punches men. That’s it. Even when he’s asked to be charming, he can’t muster it up. It always seems like women do favours for him purely out of fear. His character is completely inconsistent – “I’m so upset about Vesper… fancy a shag?” His is a very weak Bond – Dalton still reigns supreme.

Finally, I blame myself.

I went into this expecting a Bond film. What I got was a generic action movie about a broken man out for revenge. I should have seen it coming – that Casino Royale was that start of something new.

Now Bond doesn’t get the girl, the movie doesn’t end with the base exploding and Bond never wins. What we have is a series of action scenes with Bond twisting and turning in between them. Had I been more prepared for the shift, maybe I would be more receptive to this film. Next time, perhaps.

I just miss the old days. The puns, the jokes, the humour, hell, even the gadgets.

But the way these things work is very simple – they go in cycles. Soon enough the world will grow tired of hyper-realism and aggression and Bond will once again have to change to keep up with the times. And that will take us full circle.

For now, Bond is dead. All hail Jason Bourne in a tuxedo.

No stars.

-Adam Mason

tl;dr? Film shit.

P.s, and the holo-table was shite too.

  1. ad4m22 says:

    Good one.

    I know where you sleep. Just think about that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s