Monday, November 17, 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE -- REVIEW (AND IT AIN'T PRETTY)!

QUANTUM OF SOLACE – REVIEW (AND IT AIN'T PRETTY)!

Anticipation was high for the new James Bond film with the awkward title, Quantum of Solace (QoS) to rival the excellence of 2006’s Casino Royale – the franchise reviving film and debut of Daniel Craig as Bond.

Unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, because I really wanted to like this film, QoS sucked!

After two years of teased expectation, the blockbusting, record shattering, box office returns for debut weekends around the world prove QoS was the most anticipated Bond film ever. However, while it is not a bad film – in an obnoxious, totally forgettable, summer blockbuster kind of way – as a follow-up to Casino Royale, it pretty much a complete misstep from start to finish.

Yes, it is still a Bond film. Daniel Craig proves he owns his Double O designation. Not since Sean Connery has an actor so fully embodied Bond. Judi Dench as M again makes you forget anybody else ever had the role. The opening action scene is a doozy (if completely incomprehensible), and the other loosely – very loosely – connected action scenes are competent if forgettable. But, while many of the Bond elements are somewhat in place, the final film is far less than the sum of its parts.

Let’s start with the QoS theme created and performed by Jack White (leader of the band White Stripes) and R&B/jazz diva Alicia Keyes – what were they thinking? This has to be the weakest, most forgettable Bond theme ever. It’s so bad, I almost wish Amy Winehouse had stayed out of rehab long enough to get the gig. Whatever she sang (or slurred) couldn’t possibly be any worse than the tuneless and meaningless cacophony devised by White and Keyes.

While Vick Flick (007 Theme) and Shirley Bassie (Goldfinger etc.) may be considered irrelevant by the current generation, their prior work on Bond themes is the standard by which every new theme will be judged – QoS just doesn’t measure up. Is the current crop of singers and songwriters so lightweight that a Bond theme is totally beyond their range?

And what was with the washed out colors used in the on screen titles. The shifting sand dunes of female forms was an intriguing idea, but almost lost against the bland color scheme. Everything about the titles was muted – James Bond lite – and like the QoS theme song, were non-representative of anything in the film. There was no WOW factor of any kind.

Is this important? You bet. Each of these ingredients needs to be strong, bold, and vibrant. The theme needs to be a driving force, which can both stand alone and act as a defining feature of the film it represents – think Goldfinger, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, even Moonraker. Those were true Bond themes. The QoS theme is nothing more than a mish-mash, fatal collision, of heavy metal, rap, and R&B with an uneven backbeat and lyrics pulled from a fortune cookie.

I have to reserve my biggest complaint for QoS director Marc Forster. What kind of an action film track record does this guy have to make anyone think he could direct a Bond film? None! Okay, his past films have been quality dramas, but how does directing Finding Nerverland qualify you to direct a Bond film? Please, just kill me now and put me out of my misery.

In QoS, Forster has produced a film without warmth, heart, or humor. QoS is a naked blade – honed and deadly, but essentially functional and cold.

Forster’s biggest sin, however, is borrowing – specifically borrowing from the Bourne films. Since when do Bond films borrow from anyone? Other films are supposed to borrow from the Bond franchise, not the other way around.

And it’s not like Forster borrowed something good from the Bourne films (like a coherent story). Forster should be vilified not just for borrowing, but for what he borrowed – the frenetic action scenes, edited with spit second cuts and fractionally increased film speed, which are meant to place the audience in the middle of the action.

Even in the Bourne films, this technique has been overused to the point of overkill. The action scenes in QoS are cut so fast the audience is completely lost as to what is happening on the screen.

In Casino Royale, the opening foot chase was an amazing set piece of flashy non-stop action. Every movement and stunt was seamless, smooth, thrilling, and unbelievably believable.

By contrast, the rooftop, tile shattering, foot chase in QoS is edited so quickly and poorly there is no way to follow the action, appreciate the stunts, or connect each scene one to the other. Editing done in this manner leaves many in the audience lost at best and bored at worst.

Now let’s talk about Dominic Greene.

Who?

Exactly my point. Greene has to be the blandest most lilly white, lilly-livered, mamby-pamby, excuse of all time for a Bond villain - a petulant child not worth a heavy hitter like Bond’s attention. Greene doesn’t even register when compared to the likes of Dr. No, Goldfinger, Bloefeld, or even lesser villains such as Odd Job or Jaws.

Beside trying to control the world’s water supply by using lots of pipe and desert hot spots – oh, my, an evil utility company – is Greene even a threat? What does he have to stop anyone taking their water back after they figure out what he’s doing – a paper contract? Give me a break!

Finally, let’s get to the finale. Okay, there’s this huge rectangular hotel built in the middle of the Bolivian desert. An ugly squat box, which has a lot of vacancies because why would anyone want to stay in a shoebox in the middle of the dessert with the blazing heat, wind storms, and no amenities of any kind? This was perhaps the most awful misstep of all. Who cares? There just isn’t any reason for this place to exist.

What happened to the lairs of the great Bond villains like the volcano in You Only Live Twice, Moonraker’s space station, OHMSS’s Piz Gloria, or Dr. No’s island? Where is the fantastical– that touch of larger-than-lifeness in music, art direction, characters, and settings, which make Bond, well, Bond.

QoS is functional, passable, entertainment. It is a Bond film. It is not a great Bond film. And it certainly isn’t the Bond film it should have been.

1 comment:

David said...

Thanks for the warning.

The movie opens in Oz on Thursday, and am looking forward to seeing it – but your comments about the editing have me worried! I thought they'd have learnt their lesson after the debacle that was Die Another Day!

You're absolutely right about the theme song – I accept we can't live in the past, but is there a reason why the song can't have a melody – and what's with the ridiculous bit towards the end of the song where Alicia Keays imitates the guitar noise? To borrow a phrase from the Brosnan era, 'Who's strangling the cat?'

Cheers
D.