26 August 2009

Quantum of Solace

This entry really ought to be subtitled Get Your Hate On! because oh boy did I ever hate this movie. Apparently I never wrote an entry for Casino Royale - which I also despised - so I can't just tell you that Quantum of Solace took all the things that I hated about the last movie and raised them to the 10th degree. We'll have to start from scratch.

Look, if you want to make a James Bond movie, make one. It's a distinct genre, unlike other action movies. There are certain key features that we know and love, namely, gadgets, ridiculous plots, cheesy puns, Miss Moneypenny, hot chicks, and of course, James Bond himself, the super smooth, ultra masculine, badass ladies man.

I didn't particularly like Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, because I find him sort of bizarrely repugnant in a strange, slimy sort of way. But I have to admit he did a pretty good turn as Bond, even if the movies weren't all that great. To be honest, re-watching some of the old Bond films, they're not nearly as good as you remember. You love them because they're so familiar and similar.**

Now, Casino Royale, I didn't like, because while it had some of the necessary Bond elements - especially the cheesy puns! - I thought it was lacking in a certain kind of masculine vigor. To state it plainly, Bond was way too emo. When he started explaining that he has problems with commitment, my jaw dropped. What?!? Since when is James Bond's lack of commitment a PROBLEM? Since when does he have feelings? And why in the fuck should I give a shit about them? Thus, I thought it was strangely appropriate that 20 minutes of the film were devoted to him being repeatedly hit in the balls, because on a metaphorical level, that had been happening for the entire film***.

I think Daniel Craig could potentially be a convincing Bond (his role in Layer Cake certainly suggests as much). Unfortunately, somebody got it into their head that James Bond needed a more human dimension, which they apparently took to mean angsty and emo as fuck. They worked it in Casino Royale, and apparently decided they hadn't really done enough. So in Quantum of Solace, EVERYONE is angsty. It's kind of a running competition really between Bond and M as to who can have more soul searching scenes. Craig spends most of the movie in exquisite torment, looking for all the world like a man who could use a big hug and maybe a teddy bear. There's another component too, which is that jesus christ, he kept getting clobbered. I suppose some people had complained that he never seems to get hurt and is always spotless and suave. Yes, that's the point. Here, he looks beaten to shit for most of the film. What's especially ridiculous is that it seems like they wanted him to get battered and bloody, but without compromising his general badassness, so rather than have him get beaten up by villains, he just has one mishap after another, where he swings into walls, falls from great heights and hits every blessed protruding thing on the way down, etc. It verged on slapstick at times. I turned to my boyfriend and was like "Is it just me, or does he have the worst luck ever?" Interestingly, my boyfriend, who had complained that Captain Kirk got beaten up too much in Star Trek, didn't think that James Bond's apparent clumsiness reflected poorly on his overall skills. Personally I think it's far more impressive to show that you can take a hit as well as dish one out than to run into shit every five minutes.

So that was my main objection - Bond sucked. Of course, there were others - the dialogue, for instance, was atrociously written. Also, the villain was almost absurdly evil. This was actually kind of interesting. Bond villains are generally bizarre caricatures, and they're generally connected to various political dynamics (especially the Cold War). This time, the villain symbolizes the evil of multinational corporations. So that was kind of intriguing. He still had all these weird personal neuroses and general creepy bad guy traits, but ok. And then they just start making him more and more evil. It starts to get kind of ridiculous. They cement it, though, by making his partner in crime, the Bolivian general, really really really evil, and they make that especially clear with a really disturbing rape scene that's just sort of casually thrown into the film. I'm a pansy when it comes to rape scenes. I don't like them. They really disturb me. I don't wanna watch them unless they're really necessary to the plot. This one was pretty effin' gratuitous, and I resented being made to sit through it - especially because it cuts away from it to something else, then back again, then away, then back. It's like PLEASE ENOUGH ALREADY.

So I had worked myself up into a proper froth of hateration fairly quickly in this movie, and this is probably why I found the action sequences incredibly irritating as well. Why? Because they were unbelievably pretentious. There's a long scene that takes place during an opera, and the movie cuts between the shoot-out and the action onstage. Now, aside from the fact that this was already done in The 5th Element, my main feeling was - give me a fucking break guys. This is not high art you're making here. Get off your high horse and gimme some 'splosions. In fact, the cinematography is the movie is generally quite fancy and high brow. Unfortunately, given the plot and dialogue it's working with, it comes across as clunking and ridiculous. On a better day, I might even have appreciated it, but as it was, I hated it all the more.

So yeah, basically, I hated this movie. That's probably more to do with me than it is with the movie, but still, man, I really, really hated it.

** I have heard the argument that the point is to modernize the James Bond franchise and make it more like today's action films. Again - if I wanna watch today's action films, I will. But when I'm watching a James Bond film, the only modernizing I really want is more cooler special effects and bad-assitude. And even those, I don't want too over the top. There's a reason there are a zillion James Bond movies that are all very similar - because people like them. They will continue to watch new ones. They will be perfectly happy if they are just like the old ones. If you dilute them so much with other general action stuff, they will become just like all other action films, and then they will be less, not more, compelling.

***I had a similar reaction watching XXX, the movie that was supposed to make Vin Diesel the hottest thing in action movies. When he tells his new lady that he's gonna try to get her American citizenship, his action career ended in my eyes. Look, I'm all for falling in love and having relationships. But that's just not what an international man of mystery does. It's not that I whole-heartedly approved of Bond's womanizing ways, it's just that they were given as a fact not to be questioned or contemplated. If you start getting into the psychology of it, then, well, he just comes across looking like an asshole who treats women like shit.

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