As the white spotlight flashed across the screen, I was suddenly reminded of the appeal to the James Bond movies. It's not the same as other great series, such as Star Wars
, because... well, there's no Episode 20
. (The way Lucas is running things, it's hard to find reason to make a sixth.) No, watching a new Bond movie is just something some of us must do. Just like watching A Christmas Story
a dozen times on cable this time of year. No one can really explain why we do these things, but we do. It's tradition.
So there I was, looking through the barrel of a gun at the good ol' stiff-ass Brit. My expectations were low, after the flop that was The World is not Enough
, and after finding comfort in newer, fresher spies like Jack Ryan and Xander Cage. But I sat and watched and saw Bond, and I was reasonably delighted by the film.
Ahh... Start popping, because this Bond does deliver a fair amount of entertainment. Cars, guns, girls, giant "lasers" or something to that effect... This is why we watch 007
movies. I'm not extremely fond of Halle Berry, but she is more than watchable as Jinx in this film. Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is another nice addition to the film. This is probably the best pair of Bond girls since Brosnan has donned the tux.
Most of the gadgets in this film are cool. My major complaint in the gear department is in reference to the surfboards in the opening scene. I'm sure Q could develop boards that carry a half-ton of gear and still float, but that's not my point. I don't really wanna see Bond surfing. I know Scuba has been overdone in this franchise, but still... This is Bond, give me the Scuba! The visibly-challenged Austen Martin is a nice addition to the film and makes for some interesting action scenes as well as some moments of suspense. Bond makes good use of his watch as well.
There are tons of action in Die Another Day
. Some scenes, such as the land mine chase, are rather intriguing, but there are a few such as the windsurfing scene that are just plain silly.
There's not much to say as far as artistic merit goes on a Bond film. Certainly the term "British Intelligence" isn't a fitting descriptor for the writing or dialogue. Indeed, the better 007
films are the ones that don't try to be too
intelligent. They must simply find the right blend: lots of gadgets, lots of girls, dose after dose of double-entendre, and a semi-interesting but not-too-complex villian. That's where Not Enough
went wrong, and also why this film, Die Another Day
, is more successful than some of the recent Bond films.
Throughout the first half of the film, we find Bond abandoned by MI6--a twist reminiscent of the hard-knock Timothy Dalton Bond films. My first hopes were that they would carry the rogue agent story further, but I realize now that it wouldn't be Bond if they had. It's nice to get a taste of Bond down on his luck, but by the end, we want to see him blowing things up and making quips to Moneypenny.
I still think they're having problems finding suitable villians for the Bond films. Perhaps they're trying too hard to give the villians the correct level of depth. Gustav Graves, the villian in Die Another Day
, is better than the villians in the past two, but is still pushed a little farther than the character needed to go. "Daddy Didn't Love Me:" sure. "I'll prove his love by destroying a major landmass:" understandable, in a psychotic sort of way. But why must you give the guy armor that makes him look like RoboCop
And could we please think of a secret weapon that isn't a little-known satellite orbiting the Earth? The nuclear space platform scare is so... 1950s.
The direction was good, in my opinion... I've heard some say the editing was sloppy, but I happen to like the camera tricks I believe they're referring to.
I miss Desmond Llewelyn, but I must admit John Cleese is fitting in nicely as the new Q. Judi Dench, whose 'M' character was completely overdone in Not Enough
, is right where she should be: Watching from a distance and keeping a lookout.
Sure, you could bother yourself with questions like "Why does the villian build his fortress on a blanket of ice?" or "How could the villian accomplish what he has in a mere fourteen months of time?" But you'd be missing a point. The plot isn't a driving force in a Bond movie; it's merely an excuse. An excuse to deliver all the classic Bond elements. And Die Another Day
does a fair job. If you're tired of Bond, don't bother. If you're still a Bond fan--who am I kidding, you've probably already gone and seen it--but you should if you haven't. (Be forewarned, however, that different Bond fans may react differently.) If you're out on the town and looking for a fun flick, don't count it out. Otherwise, Die Another Day
will make a good rental.