Sunday, October 14, 2012

James Bond 50th Anniversary Celebration Part 3

Here in the third edition of the Kirkham A Day James Bond Fiftieth Anniversary celebration, we are going to rate the films of the current Bond, Daniel Craig. Officially. he has been in three films now, but as of yet, the third film has not been seen here or many other places. I don't want too much info about it to creep into my advance knowledge of the film, but I can admit that I am listening to the Adele theme song and I do like what I hear so far. We have been working our way up from Lazenby who got his own entry, to Dalton, who only made two. My rankings have been easy so far but now I am faced with a dilemma, how to I rank a movie that I have not even seen yet. To be honest I feel confident that I can safely say it will not be the least of the Daniel Craig Bonds. I cannot imagine that they would make the same kinds of mistakes that they made with Quantum of Solace.


This was one of the few 007 adventures I walked out of at the end and said out loud to others, "that wasn't very good was it?" I usually love Bond films, so if I am critical of the movie, then there must have been something about it that did not work. To begin with, the movie starts mid car chase without any set up of the previous film. This is supposed to be a direct sequel to Casino Royale, so I suppose the screenwriters and director felt that we would know enough to be thrown in without warning into the action. One problem was the action was so quickly cut and the shots were so tight on the vehicles, you could not tell what the hell was going on. It was difficult to make out what Bond was doing and even at times which car we were in.

The frenetic pace of the movie continues when the one link we had to the Mysterious Quantum group, Mr. White, is eliminated before we get much sense of what the scale of the group is. MI6 has holes in it, and they are so big that M might as well crawl in one and pull the dirt over her because her bodyguards cannot be trusted. This is the start of the paranoia of spycraft that was largely missing from earlier spy films. All of the John Gardner Bond novels keep relying on this trick. If you never know who you can trust then you can never trust any character and therefore never build much empathy for them. Betrayal is a theme of stories as long as stories have been around, but here the betrayals happen for convenience rather than character or plot. As the assassin leaves and Bond pursues, our attention is diverted from the story. Later, the whole American nation appears to be in betrayal because the CIA wants to do business with Quantum instead of crushing the threat. Felix Leiter, a character that in the books has been Bonds closest friend, barely manages to give him a 30 second warning and may even be hunting Bond himself.  Bond's superior wants to drag him off the case and her motives are shadowy. And none of it is ever very well explained.

The Bond girl is driven by revenge as many of his previous partners have been, so that part of the story works. The villain is an effete Euroweenie with a sadistic streak, so he ought to be more dangerous. He simply feels generic at the end of the movie. We don't know his talents, his motives and all we do know is that he will turn a blind eye to cruelty for money. I can't think of his name or the name of the actor who played him, that is how faceless this was. "Quantum" , as an idea, is a good replacement for SPECTRE, but it is so faceless and tied up with "legitimate" business, that it almost feels like Bond has stumbled into the plot of "Michael Clayton" and George Clooney will show up at any moment as his sidekick.

There are a few things about the movie that I liked. Rene Mathis gets to come out and play with Bond again, and although they have issues between them, there is a fairly good relationship developed here. It ends too quickly with another faceless betrayal by a character that is barely in the movie, simply to make the plot easier. I liked the scene at the opera, when Bond tricks all the members of Quantum into revealing themselves, although the panic seems to run contrary to everything the story has set up about the group prior to this. Still, the rats leaving the ship scenario looked good on screen and then it was followed by a pretty good fight.

I was unhappy when I first saw the movie. I have stopped disliking it but it will never be more than a C- placeholder in the Bond cannon. If it is not at the very bottom of every Bond fans list of great Bond films, it is only because it has lost a fight with the last Brosnan Bond or two of the Moore Bonds. Out of 22 films it is at best 19 and it may be 22. 


Not yet out, have not seen it. It has to be better than "Quantum Of Solace". If it turns out to be better than "Casino Royale", no one will be happier than me. I will come back here and reverse the rankings. I can say however that Javier Bardem is not going to be faceless, and that shot of 007 straightening his jacket after crashing onto the train from the shovel is cooler than anything in Quantum. Plus the Adele song makes the Jack White/Alicia Keyes theme, feel even more nondescript than it already was.  Here's proof:


I was so happy that Casino Royale turned out as well as it did that my enthusiasm may sometimes overwhelm my objectivity. The first James Bond novel, finally brought to the screen with a desire to tell a real story, this is what I had waited for since i first read the book back in 1969. The joke version of the movie irritates me constantly, although the music from it was pretty good. The idea or relaunching Bond was handled very effectively. I liked the opening sequences with the newly minted spy carrying out his first kills for her majesty's government. The fight in the bathroom was brutal and exciting. The transition to the new mission was fine.

The chase of the bomb maker is a great modern action sequence, accomplished without all the CGI stuff that makes so many contemporary scenes feel worthless. The conclusion of this scene is just exactly perfect.

The betrayal at the heart of this story fits with the plot, it does not drive the plot for no reason. After the torture that Bond endured, it feels heartbreaking. The sequence of the building crashing into the canals is an add by the film makers, and it looks spectacular, but the original novel suicide allows Bond to harden his heart for the adventures that were to come.

There were so many clever bits of business in the film that it was entertaining even when it seemed to run long. The only thing is, if Bond remains as grim as he has been in the first two Daniel Craig movies, than the series will move away from the entertainment value we have grown used to and it will simply become the next action film. We don't want Bond to lose his character, we just need to have it updated. Still, "Casino Royale" is near the top of my list of Bond films and in my opinion, at the moment at least, the best of the Daniel Craig 007s.

Laser Discs for 007. How is that for love?


ruth said...

Glad to hear you didn't like Quantum either. My fave from Craig has got to be Casino Royale, in fact that's one of my top 10 fave Bond films. I still think that Craig is very lucky that people are ready for the gritty, no-nonsense Bond as Dalton originated that style but he was way ahead of his time.

Richard Kirkham said...

I have high hopes for Skyfall, I think most Bond Fans were let down by Quantum although I still have to watch it to get ready for a new Bond. Thanks for coming by Ruth, I love reading your site, and especially the Bond posts.

Tom said...

I wonder if someday Blu-ray discs will become the equivalent of Laser dics.