Mini-Review: Die Another Day

Okay, so I finally saw and finished Die Another Day (DAD).  Why is this so moments, you might add in the light of movies such as Thor Ragnarok Justice League releasing this month?  Well, it means that I have see ALL James Bond movies that have been released so far.  And, as expected, it was a slog–that was the reason why I missed this in the theaters and why I didn’t watch it all the other times it had previously been on streaming–it isn’t very good.

00Camp
It is way too campy, but played with a straight face.  It almost wants the audience to laugh AT it rather than WITH it.  Most of the blame for this comes from the story and script.  James Bond, particularly under the Roger Moore era, has some really corny and goofy things happen, but as I mentioned in a previous post, that was reflected in other movies of the era.  Much of the “campiness” of Bond during Roger Moore was a desire to appeal to American audiences who were far more likely to have seen/enjoyed a movie like Smokey and the Bandit–which is mostly campiness with a few places of seriousness.  However, DAD hit all the wrong notes.  Audiences in America  wanted a more realistic treatment of the spy genre–which is where Bourne (Jason Bourne) fits into this equation.  He was hyper resourceful and hyper capable, like Bond, but he was serious–no double-entendre, quips, or gadgets.  The honest-to-goodness down-home appeal and brutal/lethal moves when necessary.

00BadScript
As mentioned before, the script is really what hurt DAD.  From paper then characterization, to dialogue that didn’t work, to relationships that were unnecessarily muddled, etc., this is truly what kept this movie from shining–not necessarily the acting.  This wasn’t new Hollywood with its eye on the future and fingers on the pulse of the movie-goer, this was old Hollywood–you’ll like this movie because it is the next iteration of James Bond, darn it, and we know how much you like James Bond.

00Completionist
Still, for all my griping about the movie, it does feel good to have a complete repertoire of James Bond movies under my belt.  Until now, I’ve always had to put in that except or but when speaking about the franchise.  I really wish this could have been a stronger entry, but even successful teams don’t always get it right: Spectre for James Bond and the appropriately titled Jason Bourne for Jason Bourne.  Neither of these two movies did a great job in returning their characters to audiences in their last outings.  Both seemed to lose the thread of the character based on thrilling, climatic, and revelatory the previous outings before their respective latest movies arrived.

Implications for my own Work
I’m learning that character and story (plot) go hand-in-hand.  You can’t divorce the two.  For my writing, plot is what comes in first (99% of the time), but it is the characters that people fall in love with and invest with and I’m learning that I need to spend as much time developing the characters as I do the plot.  For the makers of Bond and Bourne, they perhaps need to do what I’m doing, but on plot rather than characters, as it is there plots that are hindering their characters.

Overall Grade: D (Below Average)

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Die Another Day (The Farce is Strong With this One)

Having watched half of Die Another Day, I now know why 1) I’ve been so resistant to seeing it and 2) why it is considered such weak entry into the Bond franchise.  I will be honest and say that I haven’t completed it as of yet (I’m about half way through), but even halfway is enough to start to figure out where it went wrong.

Story
To say that the story doesn’t make any sense would be disingenuous because there is sense to be had if you really take the time to follow the convoluted logic of the story, but none of the story scenes really resonate.  There is a tenuous tie through out the first half of the movie of uncovering the identity of spy/source who gave up Bond’s identity and helped to “burn” him (in spy parlance).  Yet, Bond goes from scene to scene without the audience clearly knowing what is driving him.  For instance, a short time after escaping from what we assume is a MI-6 recovery room after being tortured for 14 months in captivity, James is back to his normal “antics” with Jinx.  He is supposed to be consumed with a desire for revenge on the unknown “person” who set him up and a desire to clear his name, but he is back to his old “self” and is as right as rain, even back to the clever quips and ridiculous sword fight that would have (at the very least) sent members of the supposed fencing club running for their phones to call the police or running for their lives..

Too Much Farce
Which brings me to another point.  In DaD, there’s just simply too much farce to take seriously.  In one scene, Bond strolls into a ritzy and glamorous hotel (5 star) in his pajamas completely unshaven.  Now, let’s be real, even the local McDonalds has a no shirt, no shoes, no service policy.  If you or I tried to do what Bond did in real life, we would be turned away.  If we insisted, the police would be called.  Yet none of this happens in this movie.  Bond turns heads, but it is meant to be humorous/funny, but the writers forgot that humor doesn’t come from ignoring the way things work in reality, but highlighting them and pointing out the absurdity.  Guardians of the Galaxy‘s humor works because Rocket the Raccoon knows he is a Raccoon and comments on the fact (& takes umbrage when others belittle him for his origins).  Groot’s humor works because the audience only hears “I am Groot,” but we know based on the others’ responses that he is expressing himself in some manner that we are not privy to and that’s funny.  And so on with each of the characters.  DaD, on the other hand, expects us to laugh when they break the rules of how the world really works, when in fact, they are calling attention to the fact that this is unreal, that this is a “movie.”

Changing Tastes in Realism
M: The world changed while you were away.
B: I didn’t.
This is exchange was meant to emphasize Bond’s dedication to the mission, but what it really did was emphasize how Bond refused to change to be relevant to the change in audience tastes and expectations.  While Goldeneye still maintained much of the Bond tropes, it was actually a “forward-looking” Bond movie that was more realistic in a fun way than the dour realism of the Bond movies under Timothy Dalton’s reign.  Obviously, Ge’s realism was nothing compared to the gritty realism Casino Royal and Skyfall under Daniel Craig’s stewardship, but at the time, and for its time, Ge was fairly well received as a return to form for the Bond franchise.  DaD, so far at least, undermines this.  Yes, I know I like Roger Moore’s Bond and those Bond movies are often as silly as this one, but in the mid to late 70s and very early 80s, you could still get away with that.  Movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, Silver Streak and even as late as Superman III with Richard Pryor were a lot of what the Roger Moore Bond movies were taping into with their campiness.  However, with the introduction of the Bourne movies with Matt Damon, the world’s taste in spy movies changed, and DaD didn’t change with them.  Audiences craved a more realistic depiction of the clandestine spy hero, but DaD regressed at the very time it should have been more like its more realistic sibling, Ge.

So, I’m going to wrap this up for this week.  If all goes well, I will either finish this up piecemeal over the coming week while I wait for my phone to be repaired or I will finish it next weekend, but unless something major changes, this one is very much neck and neck with the George Lazenby Bond movie for the one I currently dislike the most.  I will, however, reserve judgment until I finish it completely.

The Bonds are Back (in Town)

So, this won’t be a long blog post today as I have a lot of work to do over the next few days–reading (Sister Carrie), grading (Rhetorical Analysis papers), classes (working on an informal paper proposal for 19th Century Lit. class) and writing (Character Sketch Plot Outline for Project Skye–yes, I’ve dusted off that old chestnut of a project and am going to try to revive it just in time for NaNoWriMo).

However, I felt compelled to note that Amazon (I believe) is getting all the Bonds back together.  They are streaming quite a few James Bond movies in the month of November.  After writing the post where I listed my favorite James Bond actors, I actually had a fairly large regret of not being able to say that I’ve seen all the James Bond movies and that I had to qualify them by saying all EXCEPT for Die Another Day.  Well, this movie is one of the ones that is coming back so I am going to make a special effort to see this movie.   They have quite a few of the Bond movies from all 4 of the recent Bonds if I remember correctly looking at the list, but it isn’t a complete back catalog.

Still, for someone who is a completionist such as myself, I need to make myself watch Die Another Day–even if it is only for half an hour a day so that I can have a complete grasp of the character through all his incarnations and hey, who knows, I might be able to use Bond in some way in an academic setting or paper in some way And I just know that “Shaken, not stirred,” would make a GREAT paper title! 😉

 

My Favorite Bonds (James Bond)

BondActors_45-magazine_com

So, James Bond as a character was very much influential to me growing up.  My uncle was a James Bond fan and had seen all of the Bond films and introduced them to me whenever they were on network TV and I enjoyed the action of the films–though I was too young at the time to get the more risqué elements of Bond’s nature. Whatculture.com did a feature listing their favorite Bond actors and I thought I do the same since the character was one of my favorites growing up.  I will not include every actor who played the role, just the ones most known for playing the iconic role.

6. George Lazenby
Not really a huge fan of his performance.  I saw him once as a child and I remember thinking that he wasn’t like the other Bonds.  His portrayal just didn’t have the same calculated “coldness” that I’ve come to associate with the character.

5. Timothy Dalton
This is one of those places where Whatculture.com and I disagree.  I believe that Timothy Dalton is a fine actor, but not a very good Bond.  They tried to do with Dalton what they tried (and ultimately succeeded with Craig) was to modernize Bond and make him more violent and move him away from the camp of Roger Moore, his predecessor.  I just don’t think it worked–his cold calculation came across on-screen more as peevishness and annoyance.

4. Pierce Brosnan
I really liked Pierce Brosan and wished I could rank him higher.  I used to watch him when he was on Remington Steele and was overjoyed when he I heard he might play Bond.  Then came word that the show wouldn’t let him out of his contract and Dalton became the next Bond (if my memory recalls correctly).  Finally, however, Brosnan got a chance to become Bond and I enjoyed his run (especially the first two movies).  The problem is that the world changed and Jason Bourne came on the scene AND the screenwriters went back to their excesses with camp–Die Another Day is STILL the ONLY Bond film I have not seen–although, if it ever comes back to streaming, I will watch it, if only for completeness sake.

3. Daniel Craig
I really like Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond.  I didn’t think I would and I resisted watching Casino Royal as long as I could.  However, I watched the Bourne movies and enjoyed them and took a chance on Royal and was pleasantly surprised. I think Craig needs both the right script and the right motivation.  He was masterful in Casino Royal and Skyfall, but Quantum of Solace and Spectre were both disappointments.  I know others will rate him higher, but to me he has very high highs as Bond, but also very low lows.

2. Roger Moore
I know I’ll get hate for this choice, but Roger Moore’s Bond was actually a great successor to his predecessor.  The problem in most people’s eyes is the campiness of the stories.  While I agree they do get silly sometimes, Roger Moore is able to summon that “cold calculatedness” of Bond even in the midst of some of the most absurd situations.  While Roger Moore is more comfortable with the amiable jokester qualities of the character, his flinty gaze can still be seen when necessary.  Besides, this is the Bond I grew up with, so nostalgia also has a lot to say in influencing my decision.

1. Sean Connery
While I don’t think that Sean Connery always played the role perfectly, the fact is that his portrayal helped to define the character on-screen.  Connery could do both dead-pan humor and “coldly calculating” with but a quirk of the lips or a tightening of the eye and that to me (not including the womanizing aspects) are the key to the character.  To me, the idea that Bond is ruthless while masquerading as charming is central to Bond’s character and without a doubt, Connery’s portrayal always gave hint to this inherent contradiction of the character.

Playing James Bond

BondActors_45-magazine_com

Bond Actors, Image Source: 45-Magazine.com

I don’t really have a ton of time today for a full fledged blog entry–in the middle of grading and trying to play catch up with my own school work this week.  It is midterms and unlike most midterms, I actually have midterm exams in both my classes this year and plus I have to get midterm grades ready for the students that I teach, so this weekend and upcoming week promises to be super stressful.

However, last night a YouTube channel did a feature on their favorite actors who have portrayed James Bond.  As a James Bond fan (I’ve seen all the James Bond movies except one–which I intend to rectify ASAP–and I disagree with their assessment of the actors.  I’m linking the video below, but later in the week, I will do my own ranking of James Bond portrayals.

Well, that’s all I have time for today–sorry, this is a shorter one, but I thought I’d better keep it short and sweet rather than not have one today.  Gotta’ run.  See you next time!