Saw Quantum of Solace on Saturday night, and I don’t really have much to say about it.
That’s surprising, as I’m something of a James Bond geek. I can tell you how many official James Bond movies there have been – 22 – and can even tell you something about the unofficial ones – Sean Connery’s Never Say Never Again, which is really just a Thunderball remake, and the first Casino Royale, a really bad spoof starring David Niven and Woody Allen. I can tell you all the names of the actors and the movies off the top of my head without cheating and looking up online, although I’m sure I won’t get them in the right order.
- Sean Connery created the screen Bond character in Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, Thunderball, and Diamonds Are Forever.
- Australian George Lazenby did his one and only appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond becomes a married man and a widower in this one. Neat.
- Former Saint star Roger Moore is the most prolific Bond, having appeared in seven flicks: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View To a Kill. He was 57 years old in the last movie, and it showed.
- The underrated Timothy Dalton only got two shots at 007 – The Living Daylights, which was great, and License to Kill, which blew.
- Pierce Brosnan revived the franchise a full five years after the awful License to Kill, and put in four uneven turns as the superspy: Goldeneye, which was OK, Tomorrow Never Dies, which I quite liked, The World Is Not Enough, which stank on ice, and Die Another Day, which was odd, but fun.
- And now we have Daniel Craig, who fits Ian Fleming’s tough guy description of James Bond better than the other guys, even though he has blonde hair and blue eyes. Casino Royale was a great reboot of the series, which leads us to Quantum of Solace, which just didn’t do anything for me.
Many people have wondered about the title of the new Bond, which is pulled from an Ian Fleming short story in which Bond appears, but only as a background character. They ran out of legitimate Ian Fleming titles after Living Daylights and have been making them up for the movies ever since.
All this seems irrelevant, which it is, but it highlights the fact that Bond movies have become something of a ritual. They open with a spectacular action sequence that has nothing to do with the story of the rest of the movie, which then segues into the title sequence, featuring an elaborate theme song written around the title. (Best Bond theme: Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” Worst: “The Living Daylights” by A-Ha. There’s a reason you’ve probably never heard it.) Then Bond shows up at M’s office, and after flirting with Miss Moneypenney the receptionist, Bond receives his new assignment. At some point, Q shows up to give him all the gadgets he’s going to need, and then we’re off and running. Sexy women with risqué names a la Pussy Galore show up, and Bond takes advantage thereof. He drinks a shaken, not stirred martini at some point, and he says “Bond. James Bond” a couple of times. The villain has plans for world domination, and usually a really cool lair that rises up out of the ocean or out of the arctic or down from the moon or some other nonsense. And then Bond wins, the villain dies, and there’s some good lovin’. The end.
At least, that was the way it was pre-Daniel Craig. Casino Royale ignored this formula and was actually zealously faithful to Ian Fleming’s original novel. (They changed the Baccarat game to Texas Hold ‘em, but that’s a quibble, really.) They pulled away from the campiness and made Bond the blunt instrument that Fleming always intended him to be.
It worked. Once.
Quantum of Solace picks up just a few minutes after Casino Royale left off, and it can’t really decide what it wants to be. It forgoes the formulaic ritual or pre-Craig conventions, but it pays homage to them every once in awhile. There’s a Bond woman named Fields who refuses to give her first name, yet her “strawberry” hair gives you a clue. She ends up meeting a fate very similar to a woman in Goldfinger, only it’s black gold that’s used this time. Bond drinks several shaken, not stirred martinis for the first time, and decides he likes them. I don’t think he ever says “Bond, James Bond,” though. There’s a supersecret, world-dominating organization that makes its debut, and there’s a sort of ecologically-friendly superlair in the middle of a desert. There are a few gadgets, but real-life technology has made it harder and harder for Bond to have anything cooler than what the average consumer can already get with an iPhone.
In short, Quantum of Solace straddles the line between the silliness of the old Bonds and the hard-edged reality of Casino Royale, and it tries to mask its own indecision with relentless, non-stop action, which is exciting at first but soon becomes exhausting. Many reviewers have noted that this movie is significantly shorter than Casino Royale, but it felt much, much longer. I didn’t care what happened much. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening for a good chunk of the time. And I was pretty sure that it didn’t matter.
The Star Trek trailer they showed right before the movie was pretty cool, though.