Quantum Of Solace

November 28, 2012

Double-ovember: License To Kill

LACKLUSTER

What is it about James Bond films that set them apart from other action/adventure films?  That question could be debated for years.  Personally, I think they transcend the norm by adding an air of mythos & magic.  Creating a universe where a governmental operative can exist alongside a metal toothed giant, a homicidal imp and a woman named Pussy.  There are bigger stakes to deal with usually, or at least bigger antagonists.  License To Kill forgets that formula and subjects us to a 007 film that just feels false. 
In License To Kill, James Bond goes rogue due to his quest for vengeance.  And though this is a similar set up to films like Quantum Of Solace and…(GROAN)…Die Another Day, Craig was at least battling a mysterious organization while Brosnan was tracking a Diamond Faced baddy bent on global destruction.  Dalton is fighting a drug dealer named Franz Sanchez.  That’s it.  A LACKLUSTER adversary for the world’s greatest secret agent to put it lightly.  Even Kananga in Live And Let Die was more interesting than Sanchez.  With as many megalomaniac, eccentric, psychopaths Bond has defeated before, a drug dealer who harmed his friend seems like a lame reason to quit MI6.  And seeing that the friend is fellow government agent Felix Leiter, I don’t see how things could logically escalate to that.  The CIA and MI6 could eradicate this poor Scarface rip-off from the face of the planet in less than two seconds.  Now, I don’t want to reenact my Brave review and rewrite the entire story.  But, if they had a more scary, untouchable threat and had Bond and Leiter teaming up to get him while both on the run from their respective governments, that would be a film I’d want to see.  We don’t really get that here.  Leiter has been a walking talking missed opportunity of a character for the entire franchise’s run.  You finally set him up with some semblance of a story, but then sideline him for a majority of the film.  Even head henchman Dario’s most interesting quality is that he’s played by Benicio Del Toro.  He sits out a majority of the film as well.  These aren’t big stakes or big antagonists.

The only character that positively stands out is Pam Bouvier, played by Carey Lowell.  She is strong willed, able to handle herself, and serves a purpose to the story.  She has very good chemistry with Dalton, and even though her character’s affinity for Bond feels rushed, the payoff for their romance isn’t.  I can’t say any of those things for her Bond girl co-star Talisa Soto.  Lupa Lamora is easily my least favorite Bond girl of all time.  She is just a put upon, abused, weakling of a character.  Does Bond try and rescue her from Sanchez’s clutches?  No, not really.  Does Bond try and rescue at all?  No, not really.  So, why does she love Bond?  Um…because.  Does she have a defining moment in the film?  Lying to cover Bond’s ass.  Well, does she ever stand up to Sanchez and get revenge for his earlier beatings of her?  If you don’t count the lying then…um..HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!

License To Kill is one of the most LACKLUSTER Bond films ever made.  It is a shame that this would be Dalton’s final Bond.  To go out on this note sullies all the great work he put in with the character.  Sing along with Gladysor even Patti…and if you watch it…and disagree…please tell me where the hell I’m wrong.

November 24, 2012

Double-ovember: Casino Royale (DJ’s Take)

REAL

Lets face it.  Die Another Day sucked.  I haven’t reviewed it yet, but in case I don’t get a chance to, let me save you the suspense.  Die Another Day sucked.  James Bond deserved better than that.  At the time, 007 was hit by a perfect storm.  Pierce Brosnan was getting too old for the role, producers thought Bond should compete with and emulate the extreme sports sci-fi spy film xXx, while they underestimated the the rise of Jason Bourne.  It didn’t take them long to rectify those mistakes.  Eon Productions decided to not only recast Bond, but reboot the series with a more gritty and REALISTIC feel.  Bond’s beginnings is Casino Royale.  And it is f*#king awesome.  Wait, that isn’t a very professional review of it.  So, let me just say that Casino Royale reinvents the James Bond formula and world with an amazing flourish that extends the franchise’s cinematic life for decades to come.  But honestly, it is f*#king awesome.

So, who do you recast Bond with?  You have to give it to the producers of the franchise.  They are not afraid to shake things up a bit.  Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan are as similar to each other as members of The Muppets.  But no other Bond in history has been criticized and scrutinized more than Daniel Craig.  Even to this day.  People lost their minds over his hair, his thin acting resume, and his rugged looks.  So much so, there were online petitions to have him removed.  In retrospect, these critics of Craig were not understanding the central point of Casino Royale.  Casino Royale is essentially the origin story of James Bond.  He isn’t suave yet.  He isn’t debonair.  He isn’t the man who always has a plan.  He is just a cold-blooded killing machine.  If I can’t capture my target, I’ll kill him instead.  I might beat you in a fight, but not without receiving my fair share of damage.  I’d rather just skip the secret identity crap and get right to the bad guy confrontation.  Craig fits that role to a tee, in my opinion.  Craig is what a REAL secret agent would probably look like.  Not some pretty boy underwear model who uses as much skin moisturizer as he does bullets.  A man who has been in a few scrapes and survived.  A man who has just qualified to be a double-0, but not a seasoned one.  Oh, and despite his, then, thin resume, Daniel Craig had acting chops that were on par with or better than any other Bond before him.  He has plenty of range, and shows it off in this film.

Director Martin Campbell knocked GoldenEye out of the park.  But the odds were in his favor.  Craig casting controversy made this film an underdog from the start.  On top of that, Casino Royale did not have as many action beats as his previous outing.  So, it would have been easy for the film to feel flat and tedious.  However, Campbell makes Royale anything but.  A scene where six guys are sitting around a table feels as compelling as a car chase or a shootout.  He directs the Paul Haggis script with perfection and gives the movie the ‘Almost Bond’ feel it needs.  I just love how we start to get hints of a typical Bond feel in scenes, but are suddenly pulled back because we aren’t there yet.  You see, James isn’t James until the last five minutes.  Campbell, Craig, Haggis and even composer David Arnold all knew that.  Critics didn’t grasp it until now.

In every Bond review I’ve done so far, I have talked about the validity of the Bond girls in each film.   I’ve differentiated them by how weak they are as characters.  How much of a pawn they are for the villain or Bond or both.  I’ve said that the stronger the Bond girl, the brighter 007 shines.  And, for me, there is no stronger Bond girl in the entire series than Vesper Lynd.  She is my ultimate Bond girl, hands down.  She is beautiful, she is smart, she is witty, and most importantly, she is the one Bond girl 007 can’t read, can’t play, can’t impress.  At every point where you think Bond has figured her out, Vesper throws him for a loop.  And SPOILER ALERT…this is probably the only instance where the Bond girl makes Bond a pawn in the plot of the story.  She is not the typical, “I just met you five minutes ago, but I love you James” weakling most Bond girls are.  James and Vesper’s relationship feels REAL.  It feels earned.  Eva Green is amazing in this film.  Her chemistry with Craig is perfect and the range of emotions she displays throughout this film always floors me.  You can actually see her fall in love with James and instantly regret it.

If there is a weakness Casino Royale has, it is the villain.  Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre isn’t bad by any means.  The plot just doesn’t allow for a satisfying final confrontation between Bond and Le Chiffre.  Casino Royale is thinking bigger than that.  It is setting up a more dangerous organization along the lines of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. during Connery’s run.  And because the reveal of this mysterious organization has not been immediate, Royale’s set up for it feels unfulfilled.  Again, this is a small weakness seeing as the main focus of Casino Royale is Bond.  Everything else falls to the wayside.

Casino Royale is not just a successful reboot of a franchise.  It is a well made, well acted, Bond film that set the bar high for every Bond film to come.  I’m especially thankful to it because it completely washed the taste of Die Another Day out of my mouth.  Seriously, that movie sucks.  Sing along with Chris Cornellstop touching your ear…go all in…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 22, 2012

Quantum Of Solace

MISUNDERSTOOD

Now I think Dark Knight Rises is a good film.  But the real highlight for me when I saw it was the IMAX Special Skyfall trailer that played right before it.  Now I love James Bond films.  I especially love ‘Daniel Craig as James Bond’ films.  His stint as Bond, Skyfall seemingly included, shares a particular theme as Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  They are both exercises in the tearing down and rebuilding of iconic characters in a different form than the preconceived notions of the mass fan base.  Much like Dark Knight Rises will be panned in the coming days by critics who didn’t see it as a satisfying display of their expectations, Quantum was panned for that very reason.

Casino Royale is amazing.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Adjective after adjective synonymous with good.  I loved how Craig portrayed Bond.  His attitude.  His wit.  His determination.  He really got to the meat of the character.  A good man.  A man who wants to do whats right.  A man who will not accept defeat.  And a man who’s feelings about resorting to extreme violence to accomplish his goals rival that of even Dexter himself.  The film gave you everything.  Great action.  Great acting.  Great villains.  Great set pieces.  Bond girls.  Mystery.  I could go on.  The film, however, ends on a cliffhanger.  An acceptable one, but a cliffhanger none the less.  That fact is where Quantum of Solace comes in.  That fact is why I think Quantum of Solace is MISUNDERSTOOD.

Dark Knight Rises is not a stand alone film.  It is the culmination of an arc.  Its a cog in a giant machine.  Accept it for that and any negative opinion you have may sway a bit.  That said, Rises takes place YEARS after The Dark Knight.  It at least has that bit of a buffer between stories to start fresh as a film.  Quantum gets similar criticism because people say it doesn’t feel like a complete story.  And I don’t blame people for thinking that.  They are right.  Quantum of Solace is not a stand alone film either.  It is just the very long final act of Casino Royale.  Quantum is a direct sequel.  Its the ONLY direct sequel in the Bond franchise.  And the damn thing takes place mere MINUTES….MINUTES after Casino Royale.  If you view it in that light, it makes more sense as to why it is the way it is.

I wish they would do a version where they stick Quantum at the end of Casino and play it out, much like what Quentin did with Kill Bill.  The movie would be Lord Of The Rings long but it would be one grand arc of Bond’s origin story.  Quantum is about Bond’s rage.  Its the result of what happened to Vesper at the end of Casino.  That is not a stand alone theme for a movie.  It is a great theme for a final act.  I watch it with that in mind and always enjoy the hell out of it.  I mean, its not like it has horrible acting…its still Craig as Bond…and he’s perfect.  Its still Dame Judy Dench as M.  Still Jeffrey Wright as Felix.  The cinematography is beautiful.  The action is still crazy good.  And I love the lurking idea of some evil organization controlling everything.

For as good as Skyfall looks, it owes whatever ease of making it and success it has to Quantum Of Solace.  Quantum did the dirty work of finishing off a storyline that Skyfall can choose or not choose to hint back to.  By the end of Quantum, Bond is finally a complete character.  He is finally the Bond we remember.  Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace just showed us how that transformation happened.  Watch it again…then tell me I’m wrong.  

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top