Monday, November 17, 2008

Dollop Of Decent Filmness

So, the director of Monster's Ball got together with the writer of Million Dollar Baby got together to apply their Oscar winning Indie-flick sensibilities in a way that would re-imagine the character of James Bond. What should have then been the cinematic equivalent of top sirloin then got chucked into the big studio meat grinder whose concept of "re-imagine" usually ends up being "do exactly what the last big hit did" which means James Bond was morphed into Jason Bourne. Mind you, I like the Bourne movies, but I like Bond movies too and a Bond movie was what I was expecting to see. Instead, what we now have is weak hybrid of both and a grim James Bond who no longer drinks vodka martinis or plays cards and is now a math genius whose best friend is Ben Affleck.

This movie opens pretty much right where Casino Royale left off. Bond's upset that his lover from the last movie, Vesper Lynd, ended up being a traitor and dying at the hands of those for whom she worked. Fortunately, he has a way of working through his grief, that way being destroying large swaths of public property while pursuing bad guys and shooting suspects in the head. He gets to do a lot of this as he tries to track down yet another super secret evil organization. I really miss the fact that Bond once had the Russians to chase down because since the fall of the Soviet Union, Bond villains have always been drug dealers or lame corporate types. Fighting these guys lacks the style and romance of fighting the Russians who were a genuine threat to the world. In this case, the enemy is called Quantum, a group of rich guys who secretly run the world trying to become richer by secretly running even more of the world. A captured operative laughs when Bond and M (Judi Dench) try to interrogate him stating, "We have people everywhere," and then proves that by being shot by one of Bond's fellow MI6 agents, a fellow who was obviously a bad guy due to the fact that everyone kept saying his name and the camera kept cutting to him.

Bond eventually follows vague clues to Haiti and a beautiful woman named Camille (Olga Kurylenko). Camille breaks yet another Bond tradition by not having a suggestive name, maybe something like Camille Andfeelmeup, although there is a British diplomat later on in the film named Strawberry Fields who jumps into bed with Bond even though she just met him and thinks he's a jerk but that was too little, too late. Anyway, Camille, like Bond, is dark and grim and motivated by revenge which is why she's hooked herself up to some doughy English rich guy named Dominic Greene. Publicly, Greene heads an environmentally conscious company trying to save polar bears and whatnot. Privately, he's in charge of Quantum (which is why Bond wants him) and is in Haiti to make arrangements to overthrow the government of Bolivia and hand it to a stereotypical dictator type who also happened to be the fellow who killed Camille's parents.

Got all that? I hope so cause it's making my head hurt and I'd hate to have to explain it again.

There's one great scene where Bond intelligently and efficiently exposes the people behind Quantum and one decent joke where he's supposed to be undercover as a scholar on sabbatical and adds, "Also, I won the lottery," to explain why he's staying at a four star hotel. Other than that, the rest of the movie is random action and pretty explosions spliced in with Bond and Camille jabbering on about depressed they are.

In the end, it's ok but I wanted more. I wrote on Friday about how my expectations had been raised for this and today I must write that this movie did not meet my expectations, but I suppose, judging by the record setting world wide box office, that most people like what they're seeing. Like I said, it's ok-kind of good-sort of decent mindless escapism. You know, just like Monster's Ball and Million Dollar baby were. I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything else.

No comments: