Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace : A Film That Couldn't Be Understood By Rocket Scientists

Yes, he's dishy alright.

I never met a Bond plot I understood. I have seen probably 90% of all the Bond films, slacking off on the most recent ones. I don’t think I can recount a single plot. Oh, sure, I remember the Bond girls (for their names, certainly: Pussy Galore, Xenia Onatopp, Plenty O'Toole) and I remember the baddies and their desires. Take over the world is a dominant theme. The means to do so vary – nuclear warheads, for example, and in the present case, hogging resources and installing puppet dictators. However, ask me the plot of any Bond movie and hmmmm... I can’t remember it. Big opening sequence. Bond back at Head Quarters. Travel to lots of exotic destinations with adventures that include a seduction, a chase scene, and the death of a much loved colleague from the spy world. The conclusion is inevitably a big blowout with the baddie and Bond with a one-liner.

I suppose that’s the point. Bond movies are to spy films like the Quarter Pounder is to hamburgers. There’s no surprises, but you love seeing exactly what you expect to see happen. But you love it anyway, because its funny and fun and mostly, because Bond uses his brain, his wits, and his charisma to make it happen.

In his current incarnation, Bond is up against a mysterious network, Qunatum. They have infiltrated the upper echelons of government and even spy networks and seem to make business their business. They profit from misery by providing solutions to misery that they have engineered. Sounds familiar (did anyone say Haliburton?). In this case, Quantum is taking over Bolivia by installing a puppet dictator and damming up the water supply in some remote location.

In theory, this could be a good plot. After all, most Bond movies play on our most current definition of evil. Multi-national companies that have their hands in war-profiteering are our current incarnation of the devil. We like seeing this crafty individual figure out the situation and take action against all odds. That’s fun. But in the real world, though, nothing is quite so black and white. Okay, so dumbing down is the bread and butter of the Bond franchise and golden child Bond brings down brutal, inhumane bad people. It’s so simple, an eco-savvy 10 year old could write it! So, in order to give the plot depth and maturity, the writers make it complicated and add lots of action scenes. This is a mistake. I would like to see a Bond movie that is smart, rather than confusing. I miss the snappy dialogue. I miss seeing Bond be... Bond. Instead, in this film, Bond could have been played by Sly Stallone a la Rambo.

For all the stupidity of the plot and the emphasis on the action, I admit that the movie is enjoyable. One expects this much. Bond is no longer a metrosexual who is in touch with the politically correct issues of the day. This Bond is an animal. He probably would tear flesh off the bone with his teeth given the opportunity. Bond has been recreated as a primal and wild character. I like this new Bond (played by the dishy Daniel Craig), mainly because he is like a boxed tornado, destructive and unstoppable once unleashed. Only sometimes will he sit at the side of his master, played by the ever on her game Judi Dench.

I regret that I don’t think the newer Bonds match the older ones. The potential is always there, but it seems lost to CGI and expectations. It is really too bad, because Bond is a fantastic character and the situations he faces could be more three dimensional and meaningful. It wouldn’t require psychology or a history of the past to create something with a little more brain.