6 August 2012

BlogalongaBond- DIE ANOTHER DAY Review

I wish I could make this film vanish.
Back in 2001, around the time I was first getting interested in reading news about movies online and following productions that interested me, largely due to the release of the first Harry Potter movie, I remember hearing about Final Assignment, which would apparently be the 20th James Bond movie. The fan-written script conned various media outlets, including newspapers, and posited that Sean Connery would star as Bond's father, who has been missing-presumed-dead for some time.

That's fan fiction for you, and there was never really a chance of that happening, but I'm still trying to figure out how something as insular, ineptly-written and poorly executed as Die Another Day made it to the screen. The film starts strong, with Bond being sold out to North Korea by an unknown Western mole, resulting in 14 months of torture in captivity. Fearful that he's cracked under interrogation, MI6 trades Zao, the war criminal that he apprehended, to set him free, and Bond immediately follows him to the shady workings of a British entrepreneur known as Gustav Graves.

Here is a film that so desperately wants to evoke the good parts of the previous 19 films at once, and yet it barely has anything that made those films so special. Even Brosnan, grunting and running and wearing sunglasses for his fourth and final turn as 007, can't rise above the crushing tedium of it all. This is a film about a giant outer space sun-gun, an implausible ice-palace and a fucking invisible car, and the convoluted stacking of such bizarre and over-the-top elements being so paradoxically tedious actually hearkens back to only one particular Bond film- Moonraker.

Elsewhere, Halle Berry's casting as Jinx is mutually reductive to the titles of "Bond girl" and "Oscar winner". She seems lost at sea here, unsure of much except pulling the occasional tough face and trying too hard to be sexy. The dialogue is risible, and the typical lack of chemistry between Brosnan's Bond and his female leads is more cringy than ever. Rosamund Pike, in an early role for her, basically has to retread Sophie Marceau's Elektra King in the previous film, in the role of Graves' publicist/MI6 turncoat Miranda Frost, which shows the immediate problem with meticulously referencing all 19 previous films.

It doesn't help that the Bond girls are written even easier than usual. Jinx falls into bed with Bond after some dreadful banter about birds and Bond's "mouthful", but Frost's tumble into Bond's arms is so egregious as to give away the twist with her character. After talking about what a dangerous arsehole he is in every single scene in which she mentions him, she then macks on him in order to simultaneously get him out of trouble and trap him later on. And the interactions between Bond and the antagonists are just as rote and predictable. While character has never been the strong point of this series, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's truly awful script has the characters doing nothing but what the terrible story dictates.

It's tempting to lay the blame at Madonna's door, for her multiple crimes relating specifically to this film. Her theme for the film is The Worst Ever- there's nothing like the demented warblings of a Cyberman, to undermine a terrific opening credits sequence that otherwise might have done a good job of advancing the story of Bond in captivity. She makes The Worst Cameo Ever later on, too, but before you can properly declare her as the film's albatross, you need only look at how crap the rest of that scene is- without any aptitude for banter or tension, Purvis and Wade make a couple of knob gags and then have Bond and Graves trying to chop the shit out of each other with big fucking swords on their very first encounter.

It feels churlish to complain about anything that was achieved practically, in this movie, because the rest of it is an early-2000s CGI nightmare. It starts with the invisible Aston Martin Vanquish, which now languishes in movie hell with such plot devices as midichlorians, nuked fridges and John Turturro's thong, synonymous with "jump the shark" moments in movie franchise history, and that's in a series that includes A View To A Kill. But then it gets even worse, with people being electrocuted like they're in a cartoon, a shonky ice palace exterior, and the ultimate embarrassment of Bond's kite surfing escape from a crumbling ice shelf- physically stupid, digitally retarded.

Worse than that, director Lee Tamahori insists on the idiotic and incongruous speed ramping of shots, either slowing down dramatic scenes that aren't quite good enough to have an impact without the assist, or ruining interesting shots of Icelandic vistas or icy car chases by speeding them up. It's distinctive from other Bond movies, sure, but that's because the majority of them don't look as crap. Together with the crap CGI, it divests the film of the main reason that bad or weaker Bond movies usually slide by- the execution of grand, visually impressive action sequences, which here feel as uninspired as the script.

I hadn't expected that Die Another Day would be the new low point of BlogalongaBond, but it's at number 20 with a bullet, purely because I hadn't remembered how terrible it really is. To start with a strong plot for the character and decline so steeply is entirely unforgivable. It feels like a movie of endings. Aside from being the last film before the series' biggest ever reboot, it's the end of an era for Brosnan, a generally good Bond who deserved better films to match, and he knew it too. After this one came out, he was excited by the prospect of a darker film, based on Fleming's Casino Royale, to be directed by Quentin Tarantino. That never came to pass, but happily, next month's BlogalongaBond marks a move from the ridiculous to the sublime.

#20- Like Roger Moore before him, Pierce Brosnan had more dignity when he appeared alongside the Muppets than he did in half of his Bond films.

For a full list of everyone's work on BlogalongaBond so far, click here.  

The Mad Prophet Will Return, With Casino Royale... in September.

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