Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Lack Of Permutations

In which the mission of the new Bond films is made clear: remake all the shit ones but make them interesting.

This time round, it's Goldeneye combined with The World Is Not Enough; former agent turns traitor (the former) and goes after M (the latter).  It's got imagination to spare in the set pieces (though the fortuitous placement of a bulletproof JCB was a little too much to swallow), which is good.  On the other hand, there's nothing in the plot that isn't blindingly obvious, or even outright lazy (thank God only three men in the world use that type of bullet!  How fortunate that assassin carried a embossed gambling chip whilst out on a job!).  Indeed, the most surprising thing in the whole film is there is the obvious plot twist they decided not to bother with.

Without saying too much, though, that's largely because of another aim of the film, which is to bring in some of the more familiar elements of the series.  It's not entirely successful in this regard, mainly because the Craig Bond films are already deeply confused as to whether or not they want to have any thematic association with it's forebears, and with this film the uncertainty reaches the point where it's introducing Bond to characters already familiar from the previous series, whilst porting over artifacts from those films implying this Bond was the one who used them.  I'm also not sure what's up with all the references to how long Bond's been at the job, given it was only two films ago that he earned his double-0 rating.

Of course, maybe once Judi Dench was ported over from the Brosnan era, they figured that continuity was irredeemably fucked in any case (it's explicitly made clear here that James Bond is the characters real name and not, as could previously have been argued, no less transferable an identity than 007).  Speaking of Dench, her central role in the proceedings means that to all intents and purposes she's this film's Bond girl, which is a wonderful development, even if it does mean Naomi Harris and (particularly) Berenice Lim Marlohe get somewhat wasted.  Not that there's absolutely no rumpy-pumpy; it wouldn't be a Bond film without sexytimes, though it's rather unfortunate that there's one scene in here that's easily as stalkerish/rapey as anything Bond did back in the day.  Maybe that's the price you have to pay for Bond's first dalliance in homoerotic flirtation, which was a nice surprise (mind you, the last time he was tied to a chair by a villain he got a club to the blokeberries; I'd imagine just being cracked on to must be a significant relief).

So, bonus points: action sequences, Judi Dench, gay flirting.  Minus marks: lazy plotting, too little for non-Dench women, and a shower scene that would frighten any sane woman.  Looks like a draw.  Except; who's this arriving to break the tie?

That would be Javier motherfucking Bardem.  And thus is victory declared.


Gooder said...

Having now seen it thought I'd drop a comment.

I think you can still argue the Bond's are different people. Esp. if you interpret Silva's reaction to the gravestone as amusment at the irony of Craig's Bond actually being called Bond. (This in particular works if you factor in Silva demanding to be called by his real name)

And I took it has Craig's Bond new the story of the car rather than being it's actual sole owner.

Some suggest that the other films effectivily happen in between Casino Royale/QoS and this one. But the differing Ms means that doeesn't work.

Also think of the way Dench's 'M' appears to just tolerate Brosnan's Bond but seems to have genuine affection for Craig's Bond.

I think it's a bit unfair to criticise it for a straightforward plot. It's much more about Bond's loyalty to 'M' and reaction to her situation alongside 'Ms' feelings of facing the end of her career. (In fact it's almost sins of the fathers in some respect.) rather than the 'mystery' of the villian's scheme.

That is to say the plot supports the themes rather than the other way round.

One thing I would say though is that as much as I liked it overall it didn't really feel like a Bond film. Not quite sure why it just didn't really. (Too much of Mendes in it maybe?)

SpaceSquid said...

I guess you could go that way with the name issue; the problem there though is rather than being forced to assume these are all the same Bond, we now have to believe that a man called James Bond ended up taking the established identity of James Bond 007, which isn't really any more helpful, though I grant it's problematic in a very different way (though yes, it explains the car).

I don't think it is unfair to criticise the plot. It's not that it's straightforward (though I reserve the right to not like something even if it's thematically appropriate), it's that it's glaringly obvious to the point of making M and Bond look rather stupid.

I agree that this didn't feel like Bond; I felt the same way about Casino Royale, actually (I've not seen Quantum of Solace). I'm having trouble pinning down the reasons too, but I think it's at least partly because the earlier films were so campy and implausible. In the best films they made that work for them, but it was rare that it wasn't there, and the Bond era which most obviously tried to rein that in - the two Dalton films - didn't really feel particularly like Bond either.