Monday, November 17, 2008

Bland, James Bland: The full report

Before anyone points out just how quixotic it is to rail against a movie that's already raked in more than $70 million domestic or call me some kind of elitist, don't bother. I love Bond movies and especially "Casino Royale," but this one simply didn't measure up on almost any front.

Since the movie clearly did, let's start with the theme song, which would be instantly forgettable if it weren't simply so awful. As someone who has just about every minute of "Icky Thump" seared onto my brain, I just can't imagine how Jack White, with vocals from Alicia Keys, could manage to come up with something so generic. Given the worldly appeal of the Bond franchise, I have to wonder if they even gave consideration to someone like M.I.A., a little rough for sure but much more interesting.

And after that, from the outset, you know there's gonna be problems with the action in "Quantum of Solace." I'm OK with the grand introductory set pieces being a thing of the past, especially since this one picks up immediately where "Casino Royale" left off and starts with a nifty enough car chase. But from there it just gets muddier and muddier, and giving full credit to my friend Chris Stanford for this line, I sure wish it hadn't delivered its camera work "shaken, not stirred."

Worst of all, it's just Bond imitating Bourne, and more specifically director Marc Forster imitating the apparently seizure-ridden camera antics of Paul Greengrass, and for such an iconic franchise that's just sad. Before I let this rant go, a challenge to anyone who liked this more than me (and I'm sure there a lot of you out there): Name one action sequence in "Solace" that sticks in your mind two days later (the opera house take was indeed pretty cool, but not enough to satisfy.)

All of which could be forgiven if the story from Paul Haggis and two others or the direction of Mr. Forster gave this latest Bond tale much urgency at all. I mean, we all know that Bond is out for revenge this time for the death of Vesper Lynd (the sorely missed Eva Green), but by the second (and not last) time we see Daniel Craig's Bond drop a body for no productive reason and Dame Judi Dench's M. chide him for it, it quickly gets little but old.

Much worse, the sinister plot being hatched by billionaire Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is as ludicrous as anything ever cooked up in a Bond flick, but with all the fun drained out it's also just extremely monotonous. I don't want to give anything away, but like just about every story nowadays it's "green." I'm all for saving the planet, but is putting eco-plots in movies (and on NBC all week, apparently just to annoy me as I try to watch my new favorite spy "Chuck") really gonna make any difference?

And the by-the-numbers approach of this Bond installment is hardly helped by director Forster, who has the distinction of making easily one of my least favorite movies ever in "Monster's Ball" but also one I really like quite a bit in "Stranger than Fiction." Here, however, he's clearly overmatched, and not just in the action scenes. At least twice early on - I guess in an effort to move the story along - he has M. simply mention a new lead, and the immediate next image is that new cityscape, with it name plastered on it in case we viewers are, like Robert Downey Jr. explained in "Tropic Thunder," "full retard."

OK, I've certainly gone on long enough about what's wrong with "Quantum of Solace," so was there anything good? Of course. Daniel Craig clearly has the soul to pull off the new Bond we saw unveiled in "Casino Royale," even if his character here is almost completely devoid of it. And what little wit there is in "Solace" - formerly a very welcome attribute of Bond himself - comes almost exclusively from Dench, who can just be wickedly funny in any circumstance (watch "Notes on a Scandal" if you're somehow still not convinced.)

Finally, what about the babes, a key component of any Bond movie? Well, Olga Kurlyenko is certainly leggy and pouty enough to make me at least consider destroying the world. But what she isn't, and I fault the rather poor excuse for a story here again, is particularly sultry, removing almost all the potential sparks from her encounter with Bond. And the secondary babe would have been much more memorable had she been played by Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" - as I mistakenly thought when I saw the first pics of "Quantum of Solace" - instead of the rather forgettable Gemma Arterton.

So, almost a complete miss for me, but with more than $70 million in the U.S. vault alone, Daniel Craig and James Bond will certainly live (not "die," as that awful theme song says; sorry to harp on it, but it's really just tremendously bad) to see a 22nd (I think I have that right) installment, and I'll certainly give him another chance. Peace out.


Mercurie said...

Since it is a Bond film, I will probably still go see it (I've seen nearly all of them since the early Eighties in the theatre). Still, it is depressing to think it could be mediocre at best.

Reel Fanatic said...

Almost all my co-workers who love movies disagreed with my assessment of this one today, Mercurie, so don't let my opinion stop you from taking a chance on it

Yih said...

23rd would be the next one -- but anyway, you're right on about this film.

as a regular action film, it's simply forgettable.

but as a bond film, it's one of the worse.

Chris said...

Yeah, this one was disappointing.

This has been the decade where Jamie Kennedy's rant in Scream 2 about sequels sucking has been completely erased by movies like Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight.

I would also mention the Bourne sequels, especially Supremacy, but I know you're a little down (maybe a little more than that) about Greengrass.

But all in all, the "sequels suck" thing has been turned around this decade. So it doesn't make sense why Quantum didn't quite deliver...although I would blame Forster more than anything, or rather the choice of Forster for this kind of movie. Martin Campbell should have taken on this one, then allowed someone else to take the reins when the story was more stand-alone.

I'm definitely with you on this one.

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