Monday, 30 July 2012

Bond, Greek mythology and Madonna. Best not mixed.



Forty years and now twenty films and this one does it's best to kill the Bond franchise like clubbing a baby seal.  Die Another Day is Bond20 and apparently an homage to all the Bond films that have come before it.  Is Die Another Day, like Icarus, punished for it's ambition?  No.  In reality, Die Another Day is a horror show, an elongated car commercial with awful CGI and a script so clunky Brosnan almost chokes on the words.  You can't blame this all on hubris.  The director, Lee Tamahori, was well known for making commercials so was obviously right at home with $100 million worth of product placement (he has another 'George Michael' type claim to fame now).  Spotting the references to the previous Bond films is the most entertaining thing you can do and still watch Die Another Day, such is the appalling nature of the dialogue and set pieces.

Although the film drove Bond and Brosnan into a cul de sac that there was seemingly no escape from, perversely Die Another Day made an absolute fortune at the box office.  Even Roger Moore had a pop at it saying 'it just went too far'.  This really did feel like the end of Bond especially as The Bourne Identity had been released six months prior.  Maybe that's a bit harsh as Die Another Day only really falls apart when Bond gets back from Cuba.

If I curl my lip a bit they'll KNOW I'm angry
The Bond films are at their best when they have an impressive villain, see Red Grant, Goldfinger, Scaramanga, Blofeld, unfortunately, Rupert Graves is a poor mans' Stromberg equipped with some electricity.  It's when Graves becomes central to the 'plot' that Die Another Day crumbles.  It looks as though a Bond film was too big for Toby Stephens and his acting range seems to be a change in the severity of his sneer.

Die Another Day opens with a surfing skit in what is apparently North Korea.  Can you even surf in North Korea?  At least we've got a level of self awareness as there is no sign of The Beach Boys breaching the soundtrack.  Standard operating procedure resumes as Brosnan steals some sunglasses with a cheeky smile before he goes and blows some stuff up.  The twist comes after Bond drops a model hovercraft over a waterfall and delivers a half baked one liner.  He's captured and imprisoned, the story continuing over the opening credits and beneath Madonna's lame, schizoid theme tune.  Marvel at Bond's waterboarding and Kleinman's CGI fire and ice ladies.  Keep them in mind as they're the best special effects you're going to see in this film.

I'm going to hold my gut in til Ravi Shankar gets here
In between scorpion stings and beatings Bond becomes George Harrison before being traded by the Americans for the terrorist Zao.  Zao now has a shiny and probably very expensive face after the pre credits run in with Bond.  Things look promising as Michael Madsen makes his appearance.  Don't get too carried away though, Madsen agreed to do Celebrity Big Brother after all.  After Bond's return to Western hands he's informed by M that he's a liability.  A washed up excuse for an agent.  Brosnan admirably sucks his stomach in before escaping from the high tech hospital before taking a little swim to what is supposed to be Hong Kong.  This is all a ruse so Bond can have a shave before going renegade again.  Brosnan's playing the Dalton card in seek of revenge against the person who set him up in Korea or something.  It's hard to pay attention as Halle Berry's Jinx appears Andress like from
Figs. Better than Bond in bed
the sea.  This is the only homage to previous Bond films that actually works.  It's subtle compared to Graves' parachute and the scene with the new Q that just shouts 'OCTOPUSSY', 'FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE' at you.  Three minutes of hard flirting and Bond has got Jinx into bed although he seems to be losing his touch as she stops mid-coitus for a fruity snack.

A run around Scaramaga's updated funhouse is peppered with choreographed fights that would put Michael Flatley out of business and we work out that Jinx has to be CIA at least before she jumps in an atrocious CGI stunt from the top of the complex.  Bond is left behind with some diamonds that bring him back to London accompanied by The Clash.  Quite how Joe Strummer was convinced to let this happen is beyond me.  He must be spinning as British Airways have done it all over again recently.  Graves is introduced and you begin to wonder what exactly he has to do with Zao and the Koreans from earlier.  You don't wonder for too long as you are distracted by his appalling characterisation which is only overshadowed by his stealing of Blofeld's satellite idea.  What's more impressive is the scale of his Icelandic affair.  The Ice Palace is the biggest thing Bond has had to run around in since The Spy Who Loved Me.

Bond fannies around Iceland in a few scenes which are only set so that Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) can show off her body and kill time before the inevitable car chase.  Bond's 'Vanish' (I know) vs Zao's horrifically green Jaguar convertible.  Inexplicably Zao's Jag is armed to the teeth and the ice based chase looks like it was nicked from The Fast and the Furious.  Zao is dispatched in improbable circumstances yet all I can see in my mind's eye are computer generated ice bergs and Pierce Brosnan ageing before my eyes.

Brosnan; ageing and turning into McCartney
With Zao gone it's time for the removal of Graves.  By now we know that Graves isn't actually Graves and his father is none too pleased about what he's done with his face.  Graves does his Iron Man impression and removes his father from the equation.  The end of Goldfinger is rehashed and extended as Bond and Jinx battle Graves and Frost before Graves has a chance to destroy South Korea.  Graves is reduced to bird soup melange before a ridiculous escape by Bond and Jinx as the film draws to a close,  Forty years of legacy has been pissed on as the Brosnan era comes to an end.  Die Another Day creaks under the weight of an atrocious script, music video tricks and around twenty companies worth of priduct placement. I can't even be bothered to look at the laboured allusions to Madonna's character being a lesbian or the invisible car such is how cheap the shots are.

It's hard to see how Bond can recover from Die Another Day.  Although the last time there was such a ridiculous Bond film the producers came back with a serious effort in the form of For Your Eyes OnlyDie Another Day is undoubtedly Brosnan's Moonraker and he's contracted for one more.  Brosnan will officially stay as Bond until 2005 with Tarantino sniffing around to cast him in a black and white Casino Royale.  It won't happen though. All the promise of GoldenEye now seems such a long time ago as Brosnan's fall from grace is complete.

James Bond will return, this time he'll be blond and look a bit like Jason Bourne.