Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Quantum of Solace Brought None

Almost exactly a year ago, I reviewed Casino Royale, the first of three James Bond films to star Daniel Craig, the latest actor to play Agent 007.

I loved that film, which moved 180 degrees away from the silliness that had characterized the last ten or twelve Bond movies. I thought Ian Fleming would be pleased with the Craig portrayal, which showed Bond as the ruthless hitman Fleming had envisioned.

Now, twelve months later, along comes Quantum of Solace, a movie inspired by a Fleming short story although the story’s title is all that is used.

This is the 25th James Bond movie, and all I found myself thinking was how the filmmakers had been influenced (read here: completely intimidated) by the Bourne franchise. Quantum is obviously trying to live up to Bourne. It uses those same frenetic action scenes in which you can hardly tell what is going on.

The film is intended to be a sequel of Casino Royale, and it begins immediately after the end of the first film with a heart-stopping car race. The action scenes are distracting, but not enough to cover the fact that there is no plot to speak of.

Craig is the best thing in the film. He manages to convey Bond’s grief and rage over Vesper’s death (at the conclusion of Casino Royale). He is even more brutal than in the first film.

The problem for me was that this movie lacked the heart, the intelligence and the humor of Casino Royale. I have no doubt teenage boys will enjoy it. However, Quantum had nothing to offer me. Where the former Bond films irritated me with their silliness, this movie irritated me with its pointlessness.

The latest Bond Girl is Olga Kurylenko, whom I found wooden and uninteresting. Far more intriguing to me was Gemma Arterton, who reminded me of a young Geena Davis and who was saddled with the improbable name of Strawberry Fields.

Thankfully, it was short--the shortest Bond film ever. Where I saw Casino Royale more than once, I walked out of the theatre without a glance back at Quantum of Solace.


David Roth said...

I have to say, Maya, that I’m unimpressed by the so-called Bourne Franchise. Matt Daymon if fluff compared to Bond, James Bond – all of them, including pretty boy Bond, Roger Moore. But, I may be the only one on the planet with this opinion. I thought Richard Chamberlain’s Jason Bourne was far more convincing…and far more true to Ludlam’s character, than Daymon could ever hope to be. And as for the book bit, The Daymon films had little more in common with Ludlam’s novels than the titles. I know because I’ve read all of them – several times.

It’s a common enough thing. Look at Jurassic Park – Lost World. Not much in common with Creighton’s book, and even opens with a scene from the first book.

But, here’s what really bugs me about the new Bond films. ‘M’, artfully played by Dame Judith Dench, is introduced in GoldenEye, as the new kid on the block to Pierce’s Brosnan’s seasoned double-oh. Much is made of this. “I hear the new ‘M’ is a lady” – Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky– a former Bond nemesis (“I gave him the limp”).

This pithy exchange between the new boss and her experienced underling emphasizes all this:

“M: You don't like me, Bond. You don't like my methods. You think I'm an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts.
James Bond: The thought had occurred to me.
M: Good, because I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.”

Suddenly in Casino Royale – an otherwise magnificent Bond offering, we’re supposed to accept the role reversal. Dench as the seasoned, experienced manager who gives new kid Bond his double-oh status.

I’m not saying I don’t like the concept, or that Dench should be dumped, only that someone else should have been ‘M’ for the sake of continuity.

Yeah, I know – it’s just a movie.

Maya Reynolds said...

David!!! It is so good to hear from you.

But I gotta say, I am not a purist when it comes to James Bond. I LOVED Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is the first Bond since Connery who made my heart go pit-ta-pat. And, brother, does he!

But then I am a sucker for blue eyes and a brooding expression [grin].

David Roth said...

I always thought Adrian Paul would make a good Bond, and he even looks a little like Connery.