Friday, February 8, 2008

Quantum of Solace

It has been clearly established that I am a die-hard James Bond fan. I do not need to bother with the links.

That said, I am (as I noted in an earlier post) deeply ambivalent about the next James Bond film, Quantum of Solace (2008).

But with my essay on Casino Royale now out of the way, I did want to offer my tentative thoughts about the next film.

So, why am I leery of the next Bond film--especially when I have literally, intensely, anticipated every single James Bond film since Licence to Kill (1989), having been obsessed with The Living Daylights (1987) when I first saw it, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus at the age of nine?

(for those keeping score at home--that anticipation includes Licence to Kill, Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002) and Casino Royale).

I do not get leery of forthcoming Bond films easily (I do not get leery of Bond films, period).

My reservations about Quantum of Solace:

  • The title--if you are going to steal another Ian Fleming title, at least make some attempt at interogating the origins of said title. And "Solace" . . . there's a fine line between a darker, even more emotional, Bond and a Bond who just feels sorry for himself. I have no interest in the latter. The emotional pay-off at the end of Royale was well earned, but I do not want to see a whole Bond film wallowing in self-pity. This may not be the plan, but the lame title does not give me "a measure of comfort."
  • Producer Michael Wilson (longtime co-producer of the franchise) is on record as saying there will be twice as much action in the next film. This bothers me for some reason. I think its almost the apologetic tone of it--the idea that, don't worry, there will be plenty of action (i.e., not all that plot stuff we saw in Casino Royale).
  • Director Marc Forster--plainly put, I think the guy's a hack. I think Monster's Ball (2002), Finding Neverland (2004), and Stranger than Fiction (2006) are not just overrated--there are out-right bad. Moreover, his body of work annoys me because every film of his strikes me as the work of a would-be auteur who is trying to guess which type of film will win him an Oscar. Some might see his work as electic--I see it as indecisive, slightly desperate. I always felt Forster was picking projects based on what he guessed was the trendy project. Post-Craig, post-Casino Royale, James Bond is trendy again, and I worry that that's why Forster agreed to do Quantum of Solace.
  • Besides, even if you like Forster's work--great directors do not automatically make great Bond directors. Case in point--Michael Apted and The World is Not Enough. That film, too, tried to be darker and more serious, but the result was just a narrative and thematic mess (I would argue that the film was clearly the worst of the Brosnan Bond films, even if it was trying so hard).
  • On the other hand, Martin Campbell is a completely uneventful action director--and yet he is responsible for two outstanding--two very different--Bond films--the two best Bond films in the last twenty years (Goldeneye and Royale--one, a textbook-perfect epitomy of the classic formula, and, another, that formula's thrilling reinvention).
  • Lastly, I confess, I know that Quantum just cannot live up to the standard set by Casino Royale. The only thing more enjoyable than the anticipation of Casino was that the film somehow surpassed even those expectations. It might be my all-time favorite Bond film, and I'm smart enough to know that the sequel is doomed to fail. Am I just trying to set the bar low?
Anway, that's why I am concerned about the next one. Of course, I am still anticipating it. I like that Quantum picks up right when Casino leaves off, making it the first direct Bond sequel in history (no small deal). I like the fact that it will develop the plot of the unseen organization further, picking up the pieces of Bond's chase of Mr. White and Vesper's past. I like that fact that the hiring of Forster at least aspires to a certain degree of legitimacy and credibility.

And, of course, I will follow Daniel Craig and his version of Bond to the ends of the Earth.

But I just cannot quite give myself to Solace [. . .] just yet.



Scott Balcerzak said...

While I am not a Bond fan, I agree with your point on Marc Forester. All three of those films you listed were intensely unoriginal cinematic visions masked as original cinematic visions. I guess the question is, who would've been a more inspired choice?
I kind of wish I had a popular series of films that caused as much excitement in me as Bond does for you. Though, I did get a tinge of childlike excitement hearing that Johnny Depp bought the rights to play Barnabas Collins in the film adaptation of the cult TV series Dark Shadows. Being a horror movie and DS nut as a child, I cannot help but anticipate the eventual letdown.
Which, in reference to your previous post, reminds me that I once convinced you to drive an hour into OKC with me to see Freddy vs. Jason on the "bigger" screen. You went out of boredom, but told me you were looking more forward to Alien vs. Predator. It was at that moment that I realized you and I are very different people and questioned the friendship. To this day, we still don't discuss which "vs." warrants more excitement.

dave_mcavoy said...

I'm looking forward to the Bond movie, even if the title is lame and if Forster is very hit or miss. (I like Stranger than Fiction and Stay. He seems like a Tony Scott kind of director to me: not without a few ideas in his head, but this could lead to the weird brilliance of something like Deja Vu or a mind and eye-deadening fiasco like Domino, from which I don't think I've ever recovered.)

If we're switching gears to hotly anticipated serials, I've gotta go with The Dark Knight on this one....

dave_mcavoy said...

Cinematical just reported that Al Pacino may be playing the big baddie at the end of Quantum of Solace....


jason sperb said...

Yeah, I just saw that on Aintitcool, too.

While I like the idea of slowing introducing the "main" villian of the new franchise, building an interesting anticipation across several possible films, and while I like casting a significant actor for a significant part . . .

Pacino wouldn't be my first choice. For one, he's too hammy to be threatening at this point. For another, I fear his persona would not only overwhelm his part, but also the entire franchise.

Maybe five years ago, I would have been more intrigued by this rumor. But, especially after the letdown of Ocean's 13, I have a real hard time taking Pacino seriously, and the casting could cause more damage than its worth.

BTW--I do believe the rumor. They are going to have to get somebody big for the "Blofeld" role here, and one thing about Forster is that he consistently recruits big talent to his films.

dave_mcavoy said...

Agreed on the hamminess and persona getting in the way. I liked Ocean's 13 (especially after the craptitude of 12), but I think that's because the hamminess contributed to the 1970s heist movie chic. These Bond movies are post-Bourne, and I feel like watching Pacino here would be the equivalent of giving the role to someone like Mike Myers, punching massive holes through the gritty 4th wall.

If they want high profile, why can't they ask some classy older guys like Dennis Quaid or Harrison Ford to do it (instead of letting them run around in GI Joe and Indiana Jones in a manner unbefitting their age)? Hell, even the Jonathan Pryce of Tomorrow Never Dies (still hammy) would fit better into this franchise.