The Weekly Bond Countdown: #23 – Die Another Day (2002)

Jesus Christ, where do I begin…

This film is bad – seriously and shockingly bad.

Apart from the updated gun barrel intro (which I’m not a fan of) and surfing Bond (far worse to come in this movie) the film starts off well enough. Bond is captured by the North Koreans and tortured.  I remember thinking when I saw this film for the first time, “wow, this is different.”  It’s the first time Bond hasn’t escaped from the clutches of the enemy in a pre-credit sequence! However, it’s from that moment onwards that the film goes downhill and any excitement I once had quickly evaporated.

For someone who has been tortured for fourteen months, Bond looks like he’s still in great condition!  I wonder what kind of treatment people in Guantanamo Bay had, because they should ask for the Bond treatment in Die Another Day – a few head dunks in water, beaten up a few times…but hey, at least you can grow out your beard and hair and still look fantastic!  It also makes you wonder whether Bond was really captured by the Koreans or was he just sent instead to the island in Castaway to be with Tom Hanks and Wilson.

The fact that the writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) and director Lee Tamahori blatantly failed to address Bond’s torture throughout the rest of the film was just a travesty.  Here was an opportunity to do something different with Bond.  Bond could have suffered constant flashbacks of his ordeal, inflicting emotional scars that could have affected his performance as an agent.  It would have finally given Brosnan time to flex his acting chops and fully (and emotionally) express himself, something he lacked from his previous Bond films post-Goldeneye.  But they chose to ignore all of that.  Instead, once Bond is released by the Koreans (via a prisoner trade), the film follows the business as usual option.  He’s back to sleeping with the ladies, playing with his toys from the new Q (John Cleese) and getting into trouble with the bad guys.

Painfully, the film comes off like a bad mashup of every previous Bond film rolled into one and then it was dipped in an acid hallucinating drug.  There are too many winks and nods to the past – multiple Goldfinger style lasers, the jetpack from Thunderball located in Q Branch, or how about harnessing the sun’s power for destructive purposes like from The Man with the Golden Gun.  Halle Berry’s Jinx contributes to the memory game by emerging from the ocean waters in the same fashion as Ursula Andress did in Dr. No, forty years prior.  Too bad when Jinx walks towards Bond in the very next scene, she is completely dry – continuity director must have been on holiday when that shot was filmed…

Then there’s a villain who is so comically bad (played by Toby Stephens) that he had plastic surgery and changed his ethnicity – I kid you not.   It’s as ridiculous as Connery getting new eyebrows and a haircut so he can fit in as an everyday Japanese man in You Only Live Twice. But to top the nonsense off, Toby Stephen’s character, Gustav Graves (a character devoid of any personality except cheese) uses a handheld glove device to control his sunbeam Icarus satellite.  To this day I’m not sure whether that was supposed to be menacing because it ended up looking like a crap update to the Nintendo Power Glove. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at his character – to this day I still don’t.

Rosamund Pike’s character, Miranda Frost went from stuck up MI6 agent undercover on the mission to what could only be described as something out of Mortal Kombat.  She wields a sword and she dresses for the part too (if you made it that far to the end).

The famous Aston Martin makes a welcome return after years of BMW cars in the Brosnan’s Bond films.  Yet this beautiful majestic car that has defined Bond and his class…was turned invisible.

The CGI effects – what the hell are they doing in a Bond film?  It looks so cheap!  The greatest strengths from all the Bond films prior to this one, is the physical nature of the stunts.  Whether it is Bond climbing a mountain in For Your Eyes Only or skiing down a mountain slope in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the fact they did the stunts for real makes the films worthwhile.  So to replace those practical/physical stunts with CG laser beams chasing Bond on an icy landscape and then follow that with the SINGLE WORSE THING in Bond history with CGI Bond kite surfing his way to safety was embarrassing to watch.  In fact, it’s only so much I can take.

I genuinely felt sorry for Pierce Brosnan.  He was the actor who ushered Bond into the 90s with Goldeneye when people said Bond wasn’t relevant anymore.  He certainly made him relevant again. But instead of going out on a high like Roger Moore’s A View to a Kill, he departed from Bond with a whimper and he didn’t deserve that.

The blame unfortunately lies with the writers and Lee Tamahori.  I know what they tried to do – it was the 40th anniversary, the 20th Bond film therefore we have to make it the biggest Bond film to date.  It had to be Everything or Nothing (which EON, the production company behind the Bond films stands for).  But bigger doesn’t necessary mean better and the world was clearly changing.  September 11th happened and new breed of spies were emerging on our screens – Jason Bourne (The Bourne Films) and Jack Bauer (24).  These guys had no time for jokes, quips or clichés.  They were men of action.  What they did wasn’t pretty (and often questionable regarding torture for example) but they reminded the world that this is the real world of spies and Bond was just an escapist fantasy.

After watching this film (both in the cinema and on blu-ray), could you blame the audience for wanting Bond to be serious for once?  Could you blame them for wanting more than just the jokes, his womanizing and the Vodka Martinis?  Did he feel anything at all?  He was supposed to be a tortured soul!  He was a man who could have everything but because of his profession, he cannot live a normal life because of his sworn duty (and love) to his country and the enemies he constantly has to face.

What disappoints me more about this film is that they teased us the possibilities of what this film could have been and they delivered a film that undermines Bond’s entire film history.  They turned him into a giant joke.  The fact that the writers of this film went on to write Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and the absolutely brilliant Skyfall (along with John Logan) is just unbelievable.

At the end of the day, this film has no heart or soul and it is also the laziest Bond film to date. On its 40th Anniversary at the time, Bond deserved better.

Oh yeah, before I forget – do not let Madonna near a Bond theme or a film set ever again!

Check back next week to find out which Bond film comes in at #22.

Author: Kelechi Ehenulo

Creator and writer of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Loves sci-fi and LEGO - couldn't ask for a better combo!

9 thoughts

  1. Ah, this Bond… what an absolute disaster. The beginning of the film held potential, which they so quickly squandered. Wow. Just wow. Awesome write up, though!

    Like

    1. Thanks. It’s incredible on the amount of missed opportunities they could have done with this film. If they were braver with their decisions instead of going back to cliche, this film would have been a lot better than what we got.

      Liked by 1 person

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