Saturday, December 13, 2014

Die Another Day


  The 20th James Bond movie should've been better than this. An all time low for the franchise, Die Another Day was an artificial farce. Full of fake looking CGI and some of the cheesiest moments since Moonraker. Halle Berry was awful, Brosnan wasn't given any good material to work with, and the villain looks like he wrapped himself in Nintendos by the end of the movie. I hardly know where to start, but I guess I'll start with the positives. The opening is... mostly great actually. Aside from the fact that Bond basically shows up as a surf ninja, surfing into enemy territory somewhere in Korea. He has a typical showdown with some bad guys. Stuff blows up. A hovercraft chase ensues over a minefield. Bond wins, bad guys die, he cracks a joke... and then the unthinkable happens. Instead of strutting away into the sunset, he gets captured by enemy troops. Then the opening credits start.

  Woah.

  Bond spends the next year and some odd months in a Korean military prison camp. 14 months of torture and near-death. All over the sizzling opening credits. Which are actually really neat. Even the pop song by Madonna is sorta catchy. The opening credits show Bond's torture and pain complimented quite nicely with in-your-face 'fire and ice' graphics, and scorpions. There's lots of scorpions too. Then he gets shoved in front of a firing squad... only to realize he's being traded for a war criminal named Zhao. No gadgets. No flash escape sequence. No one-liner. Bond is broken, defeated, and looks like hell. This was a fantastic way to introduce us to him again. He could've been a changed man, but no. He sets out to find Zhao and break the world record for most one liners and innuendos per minute. I haven't counted because I value my sanity, but I'm pretty certain he holds the title.

  The movie is relatively fine until Bond goes to Cuba and Halle Berry shows up, playing a character named Jinx? Jynx? Who knows. Who cares. Instantly she manages to be the most annoying person ever seen in a James Bond movie since Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Her lines are poorly written, and her delivery doesn't help. She tries to sound hip and cool but she just sounds like she's reading from a script written by a teenager who's idea of witty innuendo is something like...

Miranda Frost: "-I take it Mr. Bond's been explaining his Big Bang theory?"
Jinx: "Oh yeah, I think I got the thrust of it."

  It's dismal and ridiculous. The movie doesn't go more than a couple seconds without lines like this. But yes, I forgot, positives. Well, the first half an hour or so feels really solid. I was ready to revise my opinion of the movie. It's snappy and enjoyable. Bond grapples with those pesky things called 'feelings' but not for long. It's easier to make puns and whisper about 'getting even'. Which is fine but then Halle Berry shows up and it's all downhill from there. Bad music cues, terrible dialog, and laughable villains are just the tip of the iceberg, and I'm not even trying to make these jokes. Ice, as you might've noticed, plays a big theme in the movie. They seem to have taken a page from Diamonds are Forever, because the villain really has another diamond powered space laser. At one point, everyone is staying in an ice castle. Eventually the space laser slices a chunk of the ice shelf off... leaving Bond to improvise, and surf down some waves. Cue global warming pun. Ugggggh.

  The surfing scene has some of the most groan-worthy CGI ever. It's distracting and silly looking. Video games of the era were looking better than this. It's so hard to take anything seriously in this movie. People get in fights, Bond drives an invisible car- which looks ridiculous. There's lots of lasers and more bad puns and just... I could go on and on. But the sad fact of it, this doesn't even feel like James Bond anymore. It feels like any CGI-filled mid 2000's action movie. Charlie's Angels, xXx, et cetera. It feels generic and flashy. Camera movements snap and zoom and the movie blitz from slow motion into super fast motion. It's such an annoying gimmick, it feels like it belongs in a music video- not a 007 movie.

  Bond is finally a superman. Which is shocking because he's never been more grounded and more human than he was in the beginning of the movie. With no arc whatsoever, he's instantly back to being a wise-cracking ladies man with a martini in his hand. Whoever wrote this one had a serious boner for the Roger Moore era. So much of it is tongue in cheek that the previous movies, asking us to take Bond seriously again have been rendered moot. There's awkward fight scenes that start and end nowhere, lame jokes galore, and the boyish anti-charm of Halle Berry making everything that much more unbearable.  The whole point of revisiting the Bond movies, or any movie for that point, is to reevaluate it. Give it a second chance. Trust me, Die Another Day doesn't deserve that chance. Nor did it deserve to be Pierce Brosnan's last movie.

  I don't think Brosnan ever hit his stride as Bond. He came incredibly close with The World is Not Enough, but it was no cigar. Die Another Day misses the mark by more than a mile. It's occasionally fun, but in a very artificial feeling way. You're very aware of the movie itself and that it's all an elaborately orchestrated mess. You stop caring about the characters, about the plot, and by the time we're at the climax, and the villain is wielding dual Nintendo power gloves... and you just wish it was over. It isn't about to let you off the hook so soon either. The climax goes on and on and on and it's just... so overblown it circles right back around to being boring. Too flashy, too sci-fi, and too bad. It could've been better if they had an iota of restraint and grounded the movie. It's not one I'll ever be watching again so long as I have a say in it. Casino Royale can't come fast enough...

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