Rewatching the James Bond films chronologically. Have you folks watched 2002’s Die Another Day recently? Because yee-ikes. Blond blurb: Bond is undercover in North Korea when the mission goes bad. He’s abducted and tortured for 14 months (!), and then is let go in a prisoner exchange. Bond (of course) goes rogue in pursuit of his former abductors. The trail leads not to Korea, but to billionaire Gustov Graves, and his palace in Iceland, where he made a fortune discovering diamonds a year earlier. Graves is close (very close) to the North Koreans, and is secretly planning to launch a deadly satellite weapon into orbit.
Bond background: After his months-long torture marathon, all Bond wants is to go back on the job, hunting down his enemies not so much for revenge, but because that’s just what he does. As the movie gets lighter and funnier as it goes along, it seems to forget the torture stuff, but, if we’re to view these movies as a series, I wonder if this isn’t a turning point for some of the more intense, personal places we’re about to go with Daniel Craig.
Bond baddies: Plot twist! Turns out the North Korean colonel and Graves are… the same person! The colonel got radical genetic therapy, by using a weird glowing neon mask, to turn himself into a white guy. That’s pretty much horrible. Henchmen include Zao, who has diamonds embedded in his face for a cool look, and Mr. Kill, a name that shows the writers weren’t even trying.
Bond babes: Along comes Halle Barry as NSA agent Jinx. She’s very much a self-aware Bond girl, and her whole performance is all, “tee hee, I’m in a Bond movie!” In a smaller but much more alluring role is Miranda Frost. She’s played by Rosamund Pike, who would later rejoin Pierce Brosnan in Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. (Do you suppose she and Bond did it in the disableds?)
Bond best brains: These movies have always had one foot in the sci-fi genre, but none moreso than this one. Bond drives an invisible car! He has a glass-shattering sonic ring! The new Q (John Cleese) even runs Bond through a training exercise in a freakin’ holodeck! It’s even worse with the villain. Along with the genetic switcheroo, he also bemoans how computers are merely “a suitcase,” so instead he controls his satellite with a special computer suit he wears, which looks like something out of Tron. There are deadly laser beams, electro-shock gloves, a heat-blasting satellite, and surfing on a ridiculous CGI tidal wave. Does this even take place on Earth?
Bond bash-ups: We begin with an elaborate hoverboat chase, complete with flamethrowers. There’s a brawl and shootout in the gene clinic in Cuba. Later, in Iceland, a rocket sled and the invisible car both get a workout in a big chase out on the ice. The finale isn’t inside a base, but on board Graves’ high tech jet, with everyone fighting as it’s crashing.
If this movie has any saving grace, it’s the swordfight. Bond and Graves go at it while at a fencing school, first with fencing swords, and then with katanas. Just the fact that it’s a James Bond swordfight is awesome, but the way these two furiously hack and slash at each other make it the one great scene in an otherwise muddled movie.
Bond bygones: While in Q’s workshop, Bond horses around with gadgets from past movies, most noticeably the jetpack from Thunderball.
Bond bewilderment: Yes, Madonna has a one scene as a fencing instructor who has some sort of history with Bond. Fans always get worked up over the Madonna cameo, but it’s a whole lot of nothing, really.
Bond baggage: Tensions between North Korea and South Korea are in the forefront, though not handled with any sort of realism.
Bond babble: What a mess. The first 30 minutes or so are incredibly dark, and then it becomes a whole other movie, a sci-fi/B-movie/cartoon. It’s one “What were they thinking?” moment, after another, after another. This was tough to get through.
Next week: Ante up.
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