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.
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.