Quantum Of Awesome

>> Saturday, November 15, 2008

I went to see Quantum Of Solace this morning, the 11:15 a.m. matinée show, and I'm happy. It really is awesome, and the real question for me may be whether it was better than Casino Royale (maaaaaybeeee...).

I have to admit I was a little worried going in: Quantum has been getting mixed reviews. The best explanation I can come up with, really, is that the reviews have been some sort of backlash after Casino Royale did so well critically and commercially. I mean, I think the reviewer in Slate, or maybe it was NPR, actually criticized the bad guy's scheme in Quantum as if villainous schemes in a Bond movie were ever anything more than a McGuffin to start with; suffice it to say the villainous scheme, while it is a little over-the-top, actually makes a bit of sense when you compare it to a scheme like irradiating all of Fort Knox's gold or attempting to poison all human life on Earth with decorative flower displays, and more than suffices as an excuse to send Bond on a worldwide rampage.

Another possibility for the lukewarm reception for Quantum is that the new bond movie in many ways continues Casino's leaning-down of Bond: this is a Bond who is grittier, lower-tech, one who doesn't have the quippy one-liners that helped ruin action movies and who actually has a little bit of psychological complexity (one reviewer complained that Bond is focused on avenging a woman he thinks betrayed him; I fail to see why somebody can't be enraged at somebody he loves and in denial about how much he's in pain over it, but gosh, I guess that's pretty unrealistic and stupid). Personally, I think it's kind of neat that one of the highest-tech devices in the whole movie is a device Microsoft officially unveiled this past April. (Okay, so there's also a bit involving some facial recognition software that's pretty goofy tech, but, you know, I stand by my point.) I guess if your expectation of a Bond film is that it's got lots of one-liners and laser-wristwatches and cars that turn into submarines and such, you'll probably hate Quantum as much as you ought to hate the hands-down best entry in the series (at least until Casino Royale, but I could take both sides of that debate). Of course, if your issue with Quantum is that it doesn't have enough Roger Moore moments, we have your type's number and it's been dialed by the Penny-Arcade guys, thank you much.

Anyway, loved the movie.

Earlier in the week, I had dinner with my Mom, who assured me we were going to have a cold snap. Being someone who loves fall and winter more than any other portion of the year, I eagerly began to anticipate hot cocoa and getting someone to look at the pilot light on my gas fireplace so I could roast my toesies in the warm glow of dead dinosaurs (okay, probably not helping the environment with that--so I'm a bad lefty, sue me).

I mention this because while I did enjoy driving home from the movie in the low-70°s weather with my top down, it wasn't exactly the brisk day I'd expected. It was beautiful, don't get me wrong: we have strong winds today, the leaves are blowing around everywhere in glorious clouds of saffron and russet, and I took a leisurely drive home through the Myers Park neighborhood and Uptown (yeah, yeah, add the extra few miles to the bad-lefty lawsuit and stick it in yer ear). It still shocks me to see people in Uptown Charlotte on a Saturday: when I grew up here, the only people you saw downtown on a Saturday were usually homeless or maybe a few kids dragging their parents to the library main branch. Now there are restaurants and galleries and people walking around, and there are cars on the streets and traffic. I regret not bringing my camera along (hey, I was going to a movie) because the skies were dramatic (white clouds scudding across a chill bright blue) and traffic was slow enough (people!) I could have probably taken a few neat shots of the skyscrapers and relative bustle while waiting at lights. (Those of you who have spent time in really big, truly world-class cities would be justifiably unimpressed, I'm sure--but then your basis of comparison is at the far opposite end of what Charlotte was twenty years ago, and anyway, Uptown really did look cool in the sloping late-fall light, etc.).

I gave my Mom a hard time about the weather report she'd seen. She says the cold is still coming. Well, guess we'll see. I suppose I don't really need a fire for hot chocolate with Bailey's.

Hope your Saturday is going well.


Michael Rawdon Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 5:02:00 PM EST  

I haven't seen Quantum of Solace yet, but I'm not real enthusiastic about it, since I thought Casino Royale was only so-so. Its biggest problem is the character of Bond, who is basically no fun, to the point of being just plain glum. Its other problem is that it seems to want the viewer to take its plot seriously - a marked change from earlier Bond films, which are sheer fantasy - but it's still the same ridiculous Bond plot.

So: Same ridiculousness, much less fun Bond character. It also completely misunderstands who Bond is, that being the consummate professional who always puts the good of his country first. If Casino Royale were the start of an arc showing how he got from the dire place he started out at to where he ended up, then that might be okay, but there's no sign in that film that that's how it's going to play out, and you'd think with good writing they could have put the whole arc into a lengthy film like Casino.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of From Russia With Love, too (and also the other low-tech film, For Your Eyes Only), but the fascination with Casino Royale baffles me.

Eric Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 5:56:00 PM EST  

I suspect you wouldn't like Quantum then, although I will say that there is a character arc like the one you describe: Quantum shows him at a possible midpoint between the reckless and unprepared agent of the first film and someone who is more professional and resigned to what he does. But he's still a serious Bond, and sort of glum, and cynical.

I happen to enjoy that. The fantasy can be fun, too, but I got so sick of where that went in the Roger Moore movies (and eventually in the Brosnan movies, which started rather well and inevitably spiraled into increasingly goofy offerings that hit a spectacular low in Die Another Day, a Bond film that managed to leave me nostalgic for the terrible-except-by-comparison Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker). So there's something fresh in seeing the familiar character with a little more grit and a lot less loopiness.

But I'll also say this: I had similar feelings for the Dalton offerings, and those two films have aged really, really, really badly, especially License To Kill (which at the time looked like it was going to give the franchise a much-needed kick in the ass). I think CR and QoS look like they'll be two of the best Bond films since the first three Connerys, but it's probably prudent to wait twenty years and see if they still hold up or are "typical turn-of-the-21st action movie angst" or something.

Though that won't keep me from maybe getting these two on DVD at some point.


One thing I meant to mention in the post and didn't, and was just reminded of by Michael's comment: one obvious question after 21 movies is what can you offer that's new? A nice trick of QoS is that it steals two classic bits--an iconic scene from Goldfinger and a great stunt from the mostly-lame Moonraker, and manages to improve on them in terms of execution and effect. Nice trick, that. It might not be enough to sell anyone else on QoS, but it really sort of impressed me.

vince Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 9:08:00 PM EST  

I haven't seen Quantum of Solace yet either, but I'm looking forward to it. I have seen every James Bond film released to movie theaters, and own all the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

While there is some re-imagining in the latest movies, I don't think they're that off from the original books, although in the books Bond was always less comfortable with killing than in any of the movies. For example:

It was part of his profession to kill people. He had never liked doing it and when he had to kill he did it as well as he knew how and forgot about it. As a secret agent who held the rare Double-O prefix – the licence to kill in the Secret Service – it was his duty to be as cool about death as a surgeon. If it happened, it happened. Regret was unprofessional — worse, it was a death-watch beetle in the soul."
Goldfinger, chapter 1: "Reflections in a Double Bourbon"

And the movies have always played fast and loose with the original books, some much more so than others. In the book Goldfinger, for example, Goldfinger works for SMERSH, Pussy Galore is the head of a lesbian gang called "The Cement Mixers", and so on.

Most critics and many fans, including me, believe that Goldfinger is the best movie in the series up to Casino Royal. But the first three Connery films stand as the strongest, in my opinion. I also think On Her Majesty's Secret Service with George Lazenby is very underrated.

Random Michelle K Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 9:09:00 AM EST  

As a fan of the books (I own old pulp copies that are quite literally falling apart; I really need to replace them), I've never had an interest in watching the movies.

Part of the reason is what Vince describes. Nothing I have heard about the movies matches the Bond of the books I read.

Until Daniel Craig that is.

But since I've gone this long without watching a Bond movie, it seems a shame to break that streak now.

Jeri Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 12:55:00 PM EST  

I am a lazy and haphazard Bond fan - I enjoy the movies but I don't get worked up about it.

I've liked every Bond to some degree, although I can't remember the Moore or Lazenby movies and wouldn't probably re-watch them just to distinguish them. I will admit that the early Sean Connery's shoes are hard to fill.

I'm really enjoying Daniel Craig's Bond. I think it's a great new direction.

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