Better luck next time?
That is to say, “something” about Casino Royale elevated that Bond movie out of the recession of the Pierce Brosnan years. I mean, we all know what elevated it. Completely revamped writing style (finally getting rid of those jokes that were funny in the 60s but in the Nows just seem like Austin Powers references), a hot, angry Bond who leaps around like Indiana Jones and gets bruised and battered in the process (unlike the guy who used to sit in the corner, smirking, with a silenced gun), and an overall gritty quality that the previous Bond films didn’t have (and didn’t want to have).
But those blue trunks…here is a Bond who isn’t afraid to be objectified.* What does he care? He’s got kicking and punching to do and M to exasperate and steely expressions to make. In essence, he’s not trying to smoothly go about his business with one of those devil-may-care attitudes. No way, man. Daniel Craig‘s James Bond is working hard at his job. So hard that occasionally he has to take off his shirt and let us survey the damage.**
Anyway, those who made batrillions of dollars with Casino Royale clearly got together and said something like “OK, give them a well-crafted, serious film and they will go crazy!! If a=b, then 2a=2b, right?? They will go double crazy! Let’s GIVE THEM MORE!!”
As a result, you get a hotly anticipated film that ends up wearing the same outfit it did four years ago, only with way, way too many accessories. Confused? Me too! Quantum of Solace‘s plot was convoluted and unclear, probably because the (my) brain was too busy trying desperately to sort through the overly choppy Bourne-ish editing to figure out who was fighting who. There are some spots that appear to be purposefully vague, as if we aren’t quite on Bond’s level enough to get an explanation of his actions. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the upgrade, but it’s a BOND movie! Things don’t need to be all crazy, plot-wise. We’re accustomed to villains with dark, sinister names, often descriptive of their favorite Gruesome Thing. Guys whose intention it is to control this pipeline/industry/naval fleet/atom bomb so that they may, obviously, take over the world.
In Quantum of Solace, the enemy is…well, we’re not sure exactly. Some sort of conglomeration that has something mysterious to do with Bond’s previous girlfriend’s untimely demise. We finish the movie knowing literally nothing more about this group of ne’er-do-wells other than that they meet at the opera. We don’t even know their objective. Hey, maybe I didn’t get it because there’s nothing to get! Bad guy equals anyone who isn’t James Bond or M. Too complicated or too simple…at any rate, it didn’t satisfy, and the action scenes might have been able to carry it if director Marc Forster had been able to just take a step back and allow some space between us and the action. I know the idea is to make it seem like the viewer is within the fight, but it’s possible that some of us might want to observe the fight and its impressive surroundings. Otherwise, a bunch of quickly edited shots of elbows and fists doesn’t really impress.
I get that this is prequel number two (a la The Dark Knight, which clearly proves that a feverishly awaited prequel sequel can indeed stun and impress), and that we’re supposed to be seeing Bond’s transition into a lean, mean, sexing/killing/drinking machine, but one of the major reasons Casino Royale was so refreshing is that it showed us a new Bond – a Bond that changes his facial expression from time to time. Maybe we’re not ready to give up that Bond just yet.
In sum, I have come up with a brief list of things that could have been removed from Quantum of Solace, things that weigh the film down and prevent it from hitting the bar that Casino Royale raised. Without these things, the beauty of the rest of the film would have been able to shine on through:
- About 100 hours of editing
- The handheld cameraman
- The last scene
And some things that could have been added:
- Dialogue that isn’t just M saying “Damn him!! Yet…I trust him.”
- Q!!!!!!! (??)
- Facial expressions
But, there were many, many things that I wouldn’t change for the world. Namely, the opening credits, Judi Dench’s bathroom, the fact that Bond didn’t nail every chick in sight, the plane sequence, the Tosca sequence, Fields covered in oil, everything Bond wears, everything Bond doesn’t wear, and the part where he tells Fields that he can’t find the hotel stationery.
I have a feeling they’ll learn from their mistakes and next time head down a different path. I have of course penned a very long letter re: this subject to Judi Dench, assuming she has some stake in the process, being a Dame and all. We’ll see what happens.
*Which is lucky for me because I’m not afraid to objectify!
**Verdict, not too damaged.