Anyway... QUANTUM OF SOLACE is the best damn Bond movie in years, decades even. It may even be the best Bond movie ever. Yet for some reason, the critics panned it, audiences turned away from it and nearly everyone acted as if it were a blight on the franchise. Are all these people nuts? Finally, we've seen how future James Bond movies could be and it was awesome... and now, because of strange audience reactions, we might not see its like again.
Now, is it flawed? Yes. It has huge flaws. I'm not going to turn a blind eye to them. In fact I will address them in this very post, because that's the kind of unbiased even-handed reviewer that I am. However, find me a Bond film that doesn't have flaws.
The classic favourite - and really the only respectable choice for a favourite from the first two decades of the series - From Russia With Love has plenty of flaws. The gypsy camp, while it gives the audience a chance to ogle some beautiful women, doesn't serve the story in any way. Neither does the follow up scene where Kerim Bey takes out that Bulgarian assassin. Then the movie comes to a climax with the thrilling finale on board the Orient Express where Bond battles it out with Red Grant and then the movie... doesn't end, but drags on with a series of dull anti-climaxes, culminating in Bond fighting an old woman with a poisonous shoe.
Then there's the new favourite Casino Royale. That's got heaps of flaws! It's a good forty minutes too long. It's pacing is off and it manages to have too much action and not enough action at the same time. No, that's not a typo. You read that right. If the story revolves around Bond's mission in the casino and the consequences thereafter, then there are far too many action sequences. If it's an action movie, then it's got problems - because the action comes to a grinding halt and stays there for a good forty minutes or more, and there's a clip from a romance movie near the end. It needed serious trimming. Bond doesn't even get to the casino until the hour mark has passed, when he should have been sitting down at the card table thirty minutes into the movie or forty at the max. Prologues are not supposed to be an hour long. And don't get me started on that awful torture scene. That was put in there for one reason and one reason alone - the filmmakers wanted to seem daring and out there. Well, let me tell you, if their film had been slapped with the R-rating that scene should have earned it, they wouldn't have felt half so clever.
So go easy on Quantum of Solace. The other films aren't exactly spotless either.
Now that we've covered that, let's have a look at these flaws first. Then I'll talk about the positives afterwards, which I feel outweigh these. I'm not excusing these flaws by the way - they're inexcusable. However, I think that after a shaky start (literally, as you'll see in a moment), the movie finds its feet and generally moves from strength to strength.
The very start itself is fantastic actually - not the car chase, mind you, but the way it was established with the camera panning over the water towards the mountainous shoreline. It was very scenic, a little mysterious and then once the cutaways to Bond, cars, bad guys and guns established what we were going to see, it was very effective. Unfortunately, the chase itself was marred by the bane of the cinema going experience - I am talking of course about the shaky cam and the fast cuts between shots. The sooner this is taken out of movies and filmmakers sign agreements with studios never to use it again, the better. It doesn't make you feel like you're in the action to see a camera moving wildly about. If you were in the action, you'd be controlling the way your head moved. You'd also have directional sound and other physical sensations to help keep you oriented. This can't be recreated on film - unless the audience is allowed to control the camera movements directly. As it stands, the shaky cam just makes people disoriented, dizzy and angry.
Now, the sequence was somewhat easier to follow on DVD but in the cinema, I literally couldn't watch it. So this is a huge flaw. Make no mistake. It's also a shame because if audiences could have seen the chase more clearly, they could have appreciated it far more. The section in the quarry, with Bond driving under the crane, is a beautiful homage to Dr. No - but I doubt anyone would have noticed that in the cinema because they'd be looking away from the screen to avoid getting headaches.
Then there was the opening song. I don't know what the producers were thinking. Hip hop? Were they serious? I cannot think of a style of music less appropriate to a Bond movie. Now, I have to say that this is just another example of an ongoing issue with the series. The producers have forgotten how to do the opening credits. They are supposed to be a joy to watch in and of themselves and part of this is having a good song playing over them. I think Goldeneye's opening song was reasonable. Tomorrow Never Dies could have been the best ever except the producers, in a moment of idiocy, relegated the fantastic K.D. Lang song to the end credits and threw in a lacklustre Sheryl Crow effort because they thought it was 'trendy' - just as I'm guessing they thought this nonsense by Alicia Keys and some dude was. The key to great music in film is to rise above what is trendy, stick to your principles and use what is good. The instrumental piece at the start of From Russia with Love with the alluring dancer still holds up. Although nothing else in You Only Live Twice can be said to do the same, the opening song there still sounds enticing and beautiful today. Also, note that many of the films from Goldfinger onwards used the same song in the titles and the credits and it was good. That's what the idiot producers should have done with Tomorrow Never Dies as well - bookend the film with K.D. Lang's incredible song. It's called Surrender if you're interested in hearing it - and you should check it out if you've never heard it. It really shows how an opening Bond song should be.
Now, I don't know if this was made for the movie or not, but there is a song doing the rounds on You-Tube called Forever, I Am All Yours by Eva Almer that captures the essence of a great Bond theme beautifully. Now, it may have been written and recorded after the fact but if it was written beforehand and turned down by the producers, then that was a big mistake.
If you're interested in what makes a great Bond theme, consider this point. Could elements of the theme be incorporated into the score for the film as motiffs? John Barry did it with the Bond themes in the old movies (except for Octopussy - but he didn't score anything for that rubbish, bless him). Actually, in The Living Daylights, John Barry not only did it with the theme song, he even did it with the song that Necros was always listening to on his walkman - that's how awesome John Barry was. With Goldeneye, Eric Serra didn't incorporate the song into the score. However, that wasn't any fault of Tina Turner's. That was just because Eric Serra is an idiot - and his score actually makes the film almost unwatchable today. David Arnold (who I will talk about more later as well) took over from Serra and his scores are brilliant. Movie goers with keen ears like myself will instantly hear how he utlises K.D. Lang's song throughout the score to Tomorrow Never Dies (not Sheryl Crow's song, which those idiot producers failed to notice). And he also used that noisy little pop number for Casino Royale to great effect as well - and like A-ha's theme song for The Living Daylights, that wasn't even much of a song. However, it was still usable. The Alicia Keys one was not - and David Arnold, to his credit, didn't use any of it for his score for Quantum of Solace.
Now, you may wonder why I've talked at length about the theme song but the fact is that the theme song is a big deal. Get it right and the audience will be primed and ready for your movie. Get it wrong and you'll put the audience off-side. Now, I'm a defender of this movie, but I was actually one of those who was put off by the theme song in the cinema (I skip it on the DVD so it doesn't bother me any more) but it made me very resistant to the rest of the movie... so resistant in fact that it wasn't until I saw it again on DVD that I could really appreciate it. So if the opening song put audiences off, that's a big deal and it's a mistake the producers should take great lengths to avoid repeating.
Next, the criticisms that this film tried to copy the Bourne films a bit are valid and they're no minor charge. The Bourne films were a fad and a fad that's already fading, thank goodness. No slight on those books by Robert Ludlum. I don't care of anything else he wrote but the Bourne books are really great entertainment. The movies however are bleak, lifeless and full of form but no substance. Take away the stunts and Bourne's telephone calls and there's not much there. They're basically like the way MacBeth views life - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The Bond movies shouldn't be imitating these things. It's another example of the producers trying to be trendy again - and it's pathetic. Also, by trying to mimic others, the producers put themselves behind trends, when surely it'd be a far better thing to be setting them.
So, where is the Bourne-ification of Bond in this movie then? I see three main offenders - the shaky cam at the start, the overly long and rather uninteresting scene where Bond chases Mitchell (again, with that obnoxious fast editing and shaky cam) and the uninspired and silly little fight Bond has with that small-time hug in Haiti.
This post has been edited by Just your average movie goer: 22 May 2011 - 07:16 AM