READ DAY 1 HERE, DAY 2 HERE AND DAY 3 HERE.
HULK VS. JAMES BOND: STARING INTO THE ID OF A BONER INCARNATE - DAY 4
IT'S THE LAST DAY, EVERYBODY! AND FOR THE LAST DAY WE WILL TACKLE THE 90'S, MR. BROSNAN, INVISIBLE CARS, THE DANIEL CRAIG ERA, NUDITY, THE FUTURE AND SOME OTHER CONCLUSIONY-TYPE THOUGHTS!
17. GOLDENEYE (1995)
HULK CAN HEAR TINA TURNER NOW: "GOLDENEYYYYYYYYYYYE."
CAN YOU HEAR IT? WAIT, WHY IS THAT THE THING THAT MOST STICKS OUT IN HULK'S BRAIN?
ANYCRAP, AFTER SIX YEARS OF AILING HEALTH AND THE AFOREMENTIONED RIGHTS FUTILITY, THE BROCCOLI FAMILY FINALLY GOT THE BOND SHOW BACK ON THE ROAD (CUBBY WAS IN POOR HEALTH, BUT STILL WORKING WITH A DUTY THAT HAS BEEN PASSED ON TO HIS LOVELY DAUGHTER BARBARA AND HER HALF-BROTHER MICHAEL, NOW WORKING WITH BOND UNDER THE UNITED ARTISTS BANNER ). AND SINCE EVERY BOND FILM IS AN OVERREACTION TO THE LAST ONE, AND DOUBLE-SINCE THE NEGATIVE PUBLIC REACTION TO LICENSE TO KILL WAS LEFT TO STEW ON SUCH A LACKLUSTER STATE FOR SO LONG, LET'S JUST SAY THAT THEY REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HAD TO DO A GOOD JOB OF GETTING BACK TO SOME MORE CLASSIC BONDAGE...
WHAT?! NO! THE OTHER KIND!!!
THAT MEANS TOEING THE RIGHT LINE OF TRADITION AND MODERNITY, ALL WHILE MAKING A GREAT MOVIE FIRST AND FOREMOST.
AND IT ALSO MEANS WE GOT A NEW BOND!
WELL, HELLO THERE, HANDSOME.
SO THE THING THAT IS BOTH GOOD (AND EVENTUALLY BAD) ABOUT PIERCE BROSNAN IS THAT HE MADE BOND SEEM EFFORTLESS AGAIN. HE WAS LIKE CONNERY IN THAT REGARD, ONLY HE ALSO HAD A BIT OF MOORE'S DEBONAIRNESS... AND HE WAS PROBABLY WAY MORE FUCKABLE THAN THE LAST COUPLE OF GUYS TOO? HE LOOKS PRETTY DAMN FUCKABLE. BUT HOWEVER YOU CLASSIFY IT (AND MANY DO LIKE THAT), THERE IS NO DENYING THAT BROSNAN JUST OOZED SUAVITY AND CAPABILITY. HE WAS (QUITE LITERALLY) THE KIND OF GUY WHO COULD PILOT A TANK WITHOUT GETTING HIS SUIT RUFFLED.
THIS ACTUALLY MAKES FOR A MORE INTERESTING CINEMATIC EFFECT THAN MOST PEOPLE MIGHT REALIZE, NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT SO READILY MAKES HIM SEEM INHUMAN TO US, BUT BECAUSE IT INADVERTENTLY CREATES A "FEAST OR FAMINE" DICHOTOMY WITH ANY GIVEN BOND MOMENT. TO WIT: WHEN ONE OF BROSNAN'S TYPICAL BOND MOMENTS WORKS, WHETHER IT IS A GOOD ACTION BEAT OR A FUNNY QUIP, HIS EFFORTLESS DEMEANOR HAS THE EFFECT OF CHARMING THE PANTS OFF US. BUT! WHEN A BROSNAN TYPICAL BOND MOMENT IS CONSTRUCTED POORLY? THEN HIS EFFORTLESS NATURE AND CONFIDENCE CAN'T HELP BUT MAKE THE WHOLE EXERCISE FEEL LACKLUSTER OR MAYBE EVEN HOLLOW. THIS IS JUST ONE OF THOSE WEIRD THINGS ABOUT MOVIES. SO MUCH OF THEM DEPEND ON CHEMISTRY, CONTEXT AND UNDERSTANDING OF INTENTION. THE IDEA OF BROSNAN BEING SUCH A PALPABLY COOL AND UNFAZED CAT IS SO CRITICAL TO THE CHARACTER, BUT IT ALSO HIGHLIGHTS WHY YOU REALLY NEED SHADES OF THOSE OTHER QUALITIES TOO (THIS ISN'T TO IMPLY BROSNAN DIDN'T HAVE THAT RANGE, WE'RE JUST TALKING ABOUT HIS MODUS OPERANDI AS BOND). SO THE FACT THAT BROSNAN PLAYED EVERYTHING SUPER COOL INADVERTENTLY MADE HIM, UNLIKE CONNERY AND MOORE, MUCH MORE BEHOLDEN TO THE STRENGTH OF THE MATERIAL SURROUNDING HIM. AND SADLY THAT MEANS THAT HE ULTIMATELY HAD A BIT OF A TOUGH GO AS BOND, GIVEN THAT MOST OF THE MOVIES HE ENDED UP STARRING IN WERE NOT ALL THAT STRONG.
BUT LUCKILY FOR US, GOLDENEYE IS FLIPPIN' GREAT.
FROM THE INCREDIBLE BUNGEE-JUMP OPENING TO THE GONZO ENDING AT THE RADAR INSTALLATION, THIS IS A FILM THAT SEEMED TO SPAN THE COLLECTIVE RANGE TO HIT EVERY MARK IN TERMS OF WHAT BOND CAN BE. AND UNLIKE LICENSE TO KILL, WHICH FEELS HAPHAZARD IN ITS TONAL JUMPS, THIS FILM MOVES US GRACEFULLY IN AND OUT OF THOSE BOND-Y POSSIBILITIES WITH REAL CONFIDENCE. THE MUSIC SHIFTS WITH ACTUAL FORETHOUGHT, FROM SUMPTUOUS ROMANCE TO ELECTRONIC SILLINESS TO CLASSIC BOND NOTES. IT SEEMS LIKE SUCH A WIDE RANGE SHOULDN'T WORK, BUT IT SOOOOO DOES BECAUSE THE FILM HAS A SENSE OF TACT AS FOR WHAT THESE BEATS ARE ACTUALLY TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH. HECK, EVERY SCENE ALMOST FEELS LIKE ITS OWN MINI-WORLD, BUT IT KNOWS TO TAKE ITS DAMN TIME TO ACCENTUATE ITSELF. EVERY SCENE ALSO BREATHES WONDERFULLY WITHOUT EVER MEANDERING. SURE, IT TAKES 50 MINUTES FOR THE CONCEIT TO EVEN COME TOGETHER (TAKE THAT SCREENPLAY RULE SNOBS!), BUT IT SOOOO DOESN'T MATTER. WE FOLLOW THE MOVIE AND FOLLOW BOND AS THEY MOVE RIGHT ALONG IN ROMANTIC ALLURE. PUT SIMPLY: THERE'S A REAL SENSE OF CRAFT HERE, BEST EXPRESSED THROUGH LITTLE TANGIBLE THINGS LIKE THE FILM'S GREAT USE OF SOUND. SERIOUSLY, THE FILM HAS FOUR INCREDIBLE MOMENTS WHERE THE PRETTY SOUND DROPS RIGHT OUT AND IT PULLS US INTO A CINEMATIC MOMENT BEAUTIFULLY. IT MAKES US FEEL IN AWE OF THE STUNTS AND ALLOWS THE ACTION TO COME TO THE FOREFRONT. THE WHOLE FILM OFFERS US AN INCREDIBLE EXAMPLE OF DEFT DIRECTION BY SHOWING US THAT SEEMINGLY DISPARATE ELEMENTS THAT COULD WORK TO MAKE A MOVIE FEEL OUT OF CONTROL, CAN ACTUALLY FEEL IN CONTROL IF YOU KNOW HOW TO CONVEY THEM WITH PURPOSE.
THERE ARE EVEN A FEW DARK, THOUGHTFUL LITTLE NUGGETS AT THE CORE OF THIS STORY THAT, UNLIKE LICENSE, ARE WORKED IN A TOTALLY FUNCTIONAL WAY TO THE STORY. FOR INSTANCE, EVERYTHING ABOUT SEAN BEAN! HE PLAYS ALEC TREVELYAN AKA 006, FRIEND AND PARTNER TO JAMES BOND. AFTER BEING LEFT FOR DEAD IN THE OPENING MISSION, THE MOVIE NICELY TURNS THIS EVENT INTO A BACK-DOOR ORIGIN STORY FOR THE BAD GUY, COMPLETE WITH A HISTORY LESSON ABOUT THE BRITISH TURNING THEIR BACKS ON THE LIENZ COSSACKS BY SENDING THEM BACK TO RUSSIA TO DIE. IT'S AN INTERESTING MOMENT, ONE THAT REFLECTS A MUCH MORE MODERN POLITICAL SENSIBILITY (AFTER WATCHING ALL THESE FILMS BE AS PATRIOTIC AS CAN BE, HEARING BOND SAY "Not our finest moment" IN REGARDS TO BRITISH HISTORY GENUINELY MEANS SOMETHING). IT'S WHOLLY A REFLECTION AWAY FROM BLACK-AND-WHITE IMPERIALISM OF YESTERYEAR AND INSTEAD CLARIFIES HOW MODERN THREATS COME FROM WITHIN AND ARE BORN FROM PAST MISDEEDS (A MODERN POLITICAL THEME IF THERE EVER WAS ONE).
IN DOING SO, IT REFLECTS A REAL GROWING MOMENT FOR THE BOND FRANCHISE. IT'S TRYING TO SHOW US THAT BEING MORE "ADULT" IN THESE MOVIES ISN'T ABOUT PUTTING IN SHARK BITES AND HEAD EXPLOSIONS, OR EVEN LAYERING A GRITTY TONE TO THE WHOLE THING, BUT INSTEAD RELYING ON THE POWER OF THOUGHTFULNESS AND CLARITY OF ENVIRONMENT. AND REALLY, MODERNITY PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE ENTIRE FILM. IT EVEN PERVADES THE ENTIRE CULTURE AROUND BOND, AS SO MANY COMPATRIOTS CALL HIM A DINOSAUR AND THE LIKE. BUT UNLIKE SO MANY BOND FILMS WHICH ARE SECRETLY JUST TRYING TO PROVE "THE DINOSAUR IS RIGHT!" IN A FIT OF REACTIONARY THOUGHT AND RAGE AT THE MODERN WORLD, THIS IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST FILM IN THE SERIES TO REALLY SAY "NO, THE MODERN WORLD IS RIGHT TOO, MR. BOND," AND THUS WE GET THE FULL PICTURE OF WHAT THE FILM IS TRYING TO DO:
THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, BUT BOND HAS NOT.
HE'S STILL THE OPPOSITE OF UGLY, FOR ONE.
AND RATHER THAN MAKE THAT FACT SOME HORRIBLE OBSTACLE OR INCONGRUENT IDEA FOR THE CHARACTER, THE FILM INSTEAD BECOMES ABOUT THE VERY SYMBIOSIS OF THAT GULF BETWEEN THE TWO. SOMETIMES IT'S A LITTLE CLUNKY, BUT IT'S REALLY ONE OF THE FIRST FILMS THAT'S INTERESTED IN EXPLORING THE INHERENT INDULGENCE OF JAMES BOND (OR AT THE LEAST THE FIRST SINCE ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE). AND OUT OF THAT INTEREST THE FILM DEFTLY NAVIGATES THE WATERS OF HOW TO PORTRAY THE CHARACTER. IT'S INTERESTED IN THE THINGS THAT MAKE HIM AWFUL AS WELL AS THE THINGS THAT ARE STILL CLASSICALLY ROMANTIC. AND PLEASE DON'T MISTAKE IT FOR BEING A SUBVERSIVE OR INVERTING TAKE OR ANYTHING, AS ULTIMATELY IT SEEKS TO UPHOLD BOND IN THE NAME OF HIS GOOD ASPECTS, BUT IT IS STILL COMMENDABLE THROUGH AND THROUGH.
OUTSIDE OF APPRAISING THE FILM FOR ITS IDEOLOGY ALONE, THERE'S JUST SOMETHING DOWNRIGHT FUNCTIONAL ABOUT ALL THE FILM'S WEIRD DECISIONS TOO. LIKE THE BEST THING ABOUT THE SEAN BEAN CHARACTER (ASIDE FROM THE FACT THAT HE'S FUCKING GREAT IN THIS) IS THAT IT INHERENTLY MAKES FOR A BETTER STORY WITH ARC AND FUNCTION INSTEAD OF THE SAME OL' EXTERNAL CONFLICT OF "GENERIC MADMAN WITH A THREAT!" AND IF WE'RE GOING TO PLAY WITH HULK'S ONGOING THEORY OF HOW THE BEST BOND FILMS ARE ROMANCES, IT WOULD BE HARD TO ARGUE THAT SEAN BEAN DOESN'T MAKE FOR ONE HELL OF A LOVER SCORNED (INSERT BROMANCES JOKE OR WHATEVER). AFTER ALL, THE CONCEPT OF ROMANCE GOES FAR BEYOND THE STANDARD MALE-FEMALE HETERO RELATIONSHIP IN THESE FILMS AND INTO SOMETHING SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO MALE CULTURE: LOYALTY. HISTORY. DEBT. HONOR. THESE ARE THE EMOTIONAL CURRENCY OF DISTANT MEN. SO WE HAD TWO AGENTS. PARTNERS AND FRIENDS. AND WHAT GOES WRONG HERE PROVIDES GREAT FUEL FOR A SOLID STORY. THIS IS BASIC STORYTELLING STUFF, FOLKS AND IT'S REMARKABLE HOW OFTEN THE BOND FILMS CHOOSE TO GO WITHOUT IT. IT'S AMAZING HOW OFTEN THEY EMBRACE THE SAME OLD HOLLOW CONVENTIONS WITHOUT REALIZING WHAT MAKES THE DRAMA ACTUALLY WORK. WHAT JUST MAKES IT KIND OF FUNNY IS THAT GOLDENEYE IS THE SUCCESSFUL AMALGAMATION OF WHAT LICENSE TO KILL ACTUALLY TRIED TO DO IN THE FIRST PLACE: IT SUCCESSFULLY MIXED BOND WITH A SENSE OF MODERNITY AND SERIOUSNESS, ONLY IT DID SO BY OPTING FOR INTELLIGENCE, MEANING AND SUBTEXT OVER GRIT, POSTURING AND TEXTURE. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHY THEY WERE STILL ABLE TO MAKE A SERIOUS BOND FILM WHILE STILL MAINTAINING THE CRITICAL SENSE OF FUN THAT THESE MOVIES NEED, TOO.
SPEAKING OF FUN: FAMKE JANSSEN.
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM RECENTLY SHE'S A FUCKING MARVEL. EVERY DECISION ABOUT THIS IS FUCKING BATSHIT PERFECT. AGAIN, MAIBAUM SAID BOND WORKS WHEN YOU PLAY THE JOKE STRAIGHT. AND XENIA ONATOPP IS PLAYING THE JOKE-IEST JOKE AS STRAIGHTLY STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE. HER CHARACTER'S LIKE SOME SORT OF HELLBENT CROSS OF FIONA VULPE WITH SOMETHING OUT OF A RUSS MEYER MOVIE. NOT ONLY IS SHE COMPLETELY INSANE, BUT HER CHARACTER LITERALLY GETS OFF ON MURDER, GUNPLAY AND PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. SHE'S THAT FAMILIAR BOND TROPE OF THE PRAYING MANTIS FIGURE (WHICH IS OBVIOUSLY A BAD TROPE AND STUFF WHEN HANDLED WRONG), BUT SHE SOOOOO PUSHES THE ENVELOPE THAT YOU CAN'T HELP BUT GO ALONG WITH IT AND SEE THE SEAMS IN THE EXACT RIGHT WAY. IT'S THE PERFECT KIND OF DELIGHTFUL INSANITY THAT LETS YOU KNOW THE FILMMAKERS TOTALLY GET IT AND THAT THIS IS ACTUAL SATIRE. IT'S A KNOWING WINK WITHOUT ACTUALLY WINKING CINEMATICALLY LIKE HAMILTON DID (SHE'S LIKE THE FUCKING MACHINE SEQUENCE, WRIT REAL). AND JANSSEN IS TRULY INCREDIBLE IN THE FILM... WAIT, KNOW WHAT? EVERY TIME HULK SEES JANSSEN IN SOMETHING HULK IS ALWAYS TAKEN ABACK BY HOW GOOD SHE IS AND HER SURPRISING RANGE, AND PERHAPS HULK'S SURPRISE JUST FEEDS THAT NOTION, BUT SHE NEVER REALLY IS GIVEN CREDIT FOR THAT. EITHER WAY, XENIA ONATOPP IS PROBABLY HULK'S FAVORITE BOND GIRL VILLAIN, A PERFECT ENCAPSULATION OF THE LURID INSANITY THESE FILMS CAN ACHIEVE WHILE STILL MAKING A FUNCTIONAL MOVIE AROUND THEM.
BUT IT'S NOT JUST ONATOPP THAT CLUES US INTO THE FILM'S AWARENESS. NOTICE HOW MUCH TIME THE MOVIE SPENDS WITH NATALYA SIMONOVA (PLAYED BY IZABELLA SCORUPCO) AND HOW MUCH OF HER PRESENCE IS THE KEY TO MAKING THE FILM WORK. EVEN THE FACT THAT WE ARE INTRODUCED TO HER OUTSIDE THE CONTEXT OF BOND! (A HUGE RARITY IN THESE FILMS). BUT IT'S CLEAR: SHE HAS HER OWN AGENCY AND WORLD. HER VERY SURVIVAL PROPAGATES THE PLOT, HER KNOW-HOW IS INTEGRAL TO THE CENTRAL MISSION, AND ULTIMATELY THEY ARE GOING AFTER THE ENDGAME TOGETHER, AS A TEAM. WE DON'T EVEN HAVE TO USE MUCH OF OUR NOW-FAMILIAR SLIDING SCALE: NATALYA IS SMART, CAPABLE AND EVEN KIND OF NORMAL (FOR THESE MOVIES). BUT IT ALL FEEDS DIRECTLY BACK INTO THE COMMENTARY OF UNDERSTANDING HOW BOND MUST FIT INTO THE MODERN WORLD AND THAT MEANS BEING FOILED BY THE KINDS OF FEMALE CO-STARS THAT ACTUALLY HELP MAKE HIM A BETTER PERSON. IT'S THE MONEYPENNY THEORY ALL OVER AGAIN (THOUGH WE'LL GET TO THE BROSNAN ERA'S TREATMENT OF THAT PARTICULAR CHARACTER LATER).
THE RECENT RE-WATCH OF GOLDENEYE ALSO REVEALS SOME WEIRDLY FUN DETAILS OF DATED SENSIBILITIES. IT'S SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT MID-90'S ERA WHEN HOLLYWOOD THOUGHT COMPUTERS WERE MAGIC (COUGH COUGH THE NET). IT BRINGS UP SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS IF IT WERE SOME HOT NEW TOPIC ON THE BLOCK (WHICH IN MOVIE TERMS, HULK SUPPOSES IT WAS). THERE'S ALSO SOME NEAT STUFF WHERE THEY DID AWAY WITH THE NOW-STAID FELIX CHARACTER (OR PERHAPS JUST WEREN'T SURE WHAT TO DO GIVEN THAT HE GOT EATEN BY SHARKS IN THE LAST ONE) AND INSTEAD EMBRACED JACK WADE, A SURLY AMERICAN PLAYED BY THE GREAT JOE DON BAKER (ANOTHER BOND DOUBLE CASTING! HE WAS THE BAD GUY IN DAYLIGHTS! JUST TWO MOVIES AGO! ALSO, WHY DID HE NOT WORK MORE THE LAST DECADE? HE'S ALWAYS GOLD). BUT THE WHOLE CAST OF THIS FILM IS DOWNRIGHT SPECTACULAR. THERE'S A GREAT BIT WITH ROBBIE COLTRANE AS AN ARMS DEALER. THERE'S ALSO ALAN CUMMING, WHO IS PURE SCENERY-CHEWING SMARM AS A CARTOONY RUSSIAN PROGRAMMER. EVEN Q'S SCENE OF GADGETRY DISPLAY PLAYS LIKE GANGBUSTERS ("That's my lunch!"). AND MOST OF ALL? DAME JUDI DENCH COMES TO THE TABLE, GUNS BLAZING (AND ENSURING SHE WOULD BE THE ONE CONSTANT OF BOND FILMS GOING FORWARD). AND GOING BACK TO THE EARLIER TEXT, HER CONFRONTATION OF THE BULLSHIT PSYCHO-SEXUALITY OF JAMES BOND IS SO CRITICAL TO GIVING THE FILM A BASE OF UNDERSTANDING. THERE IS JUST SO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN HERE. SO MUCH IN FACT THAT IT MEANS ONLY ONE THING...
THE REAL STAR OF THIS FILM IS MARTIN CAMPBELL.
IT FEELS SILLY TO EVEN GET INTO IT NOW, BUT HE IS SUCH A GOOD MATCH FOR THE SERIES THAT HE ENDS UP SAVING THE BOND FILMS FROM RUIN TWICE. LOOK AT EVERY COMMENT HULK JUST MADE AND HOW MUCH OF THEM HAVE TO DO WITH TONE, PERFORMANCE AND DEFT EXECUTION. HE DIDN'T KNOW JUST HOW TO MAKE A BOND MOVIE, HE KNEW WHY. AND SO FOR NOW, THERE IS NO DOUBTING THAT HE WOULD HAVE LEFT HIS MARK ON THE LEGACY OF THE BOND SERIES WITH THIS ENTRY ALONE, NEVER MIND WHAT IS TO COME...
LIKE THE FAMILY PORTRAITS!!!
WITH THAT LEGACY IS ONE THING THAT HULK JUST HAS TO MENTION IN TERMS OF THE FILM'S CULTURAL IMPACT: THE GOLDENEYE VIDEO GAME FOR NINTENDO 64 IS ONE OF THE BEST AND MOST IMPORTANT GAMES EVER MADE.
NOTE: THIS WAS ONCE REVOLUTIONARY.
REALLY, THAT STATEMENT IS NOT HYPERBOLE. NOT ONLY DID IT PERFECT THE FIRST PERSON SHOOTER WITH MISSION-BASED SET-UPS, IMBUING IT WITH STORY AND OBJECTIVE-BASED MISSION TACTICS OUTSIDE OF THE NORMAL "SHOOT EVERYONE" MANTRA AND KEYCARD-FETCHING MECHANICS, BUT IT BASICALLY HELPED CREATE THE SOCIAL FIRST PERSON SHOOTER. REALLY. THE IDEA OF HAVING FOUR PEOPLE PLAYING AT ONCE WAS AWE-INSPIRING AND DICTATED EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW FRIENDS PLAYED GAMES TOGETHER. EVERYTHING ABOUT IT WAS JUST LIGHT-YEARS AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION. AND BECAUSE OF THIS HULK SPENT, QUITE LITERALLY, YEARS PLAYING THAT GAME. IN THE PROCESS HULK GOT VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY GOOD AT IT. SERIOUSLY. PEOPLE WOULD CHALLENGE HULK REGULARLY, BEING THE BEST OF THEIR GROUP OF FRIENDS AND HULK WOULD REGULARLY ANNIHILATE THEM. 3 ON 1. KEEP IN MIND THIS WAS BEFORE THE INTERNET ERA AND THERE WAS NO WAY TO TELL WHERE HULK FIT IN THE LARGER SCHEME OF THINGS, BUT HULK WAS TRULY OUTSTANDING... BUT WHATEVER. THE SAD POINT OF ALL OF THIS IS THAT HULK WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AT ANYTHING AS HULK WAS AT GOLDENEYE.
SAD POINT IS SAD.
BUT GOLDENEYE THE MOVIE IS GREAT!
18. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
A FEW GIVENS, IF HULK MAY... 1. WHILE HULK MAY DESCRIBE MOVIES IN EITHER TECHNICAL OR SPECIFIC TERMS, MOVIES STILL KIND OF HAVE AN ETHEREAL ENERGY AROUND THEM; A LIFE TO THEM, IF YOU WILL. AND WHILE YOU NEED THE TECHNICAL UNDERSTANDING OF CRAFT TO TRANSLATE THAT SPIRITED INTENTION ON SCREEN, WE OFTEN UNDERRATE HOW CRITICAL THAT SPIRIT IS TO THE FILM ITSELF, FOR IT REALLY ENDS UP BEING THE VERY THING THAT FOSTERS A HUMAN CONNECTION WITH THE AUDIENCE. WHICH IS TO REALIZE THAT MOST OF US CONNECT TO MOVIES THE WAY WE CONNECT TO OTHER HUMANS. WE LIKE THEIR PERSONALITY. WE LIKE THEIR STYLE. WE LIKE THEIR HONESTY. WE LIKE THEIR SENSE OF HUMOR. WE LIKE WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. AND JUST LIKE PEOPLE, WE WILL OFTEN OVERLOOK THEIR FAULTS IN THE NAME OF EMBRACING THE THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT THEM. AS A RESULT, HULK MAKES THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT ALL THE TIME: "FILMS HAVE SOULS." THEY REALLY DO. AND FOR ALL THE RELATIVE SHORTCOMINGS A FILM CAN HAVE, THE NEED TO EXHIBIT "A SOUL" IS OFTEN THE MOST CRITICAL.
2. AT SOME POINT IN THE PROCESS OF FINDING A DIRECTOR FOR THIS FILM, EVERYONE WAS PRESUMABLY SITTING AROUND BRAINSTORMING AND SOMEONE SAID THE WORDS: "HEY, HOW ABOUT THE GUY WHO DID STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT!" ... AND THEN, SOMEHOW THROUGH THE BIZARRE PROCESS THAT IS MOVIE DEVELOPMENT, THAT GUY GOT THE JOB.
THOUGH THAT'S PROBABLY NOT HOW IT WENT.
AND IT ISN'T EVEN TO SAY THAT SOMEONE MAKING A BAD MOVIE INSTANTLY MEANS THEY CAN'T EVER MAKE A GOOD ONE. NO, THAT WOULD BE A SILLY, NARROW THING TO IMPLY. NO, ALL HULK REALLY WANTS TO NOTE HERE IS THAT THIS MARKS A DECIDED SHIFT IN HOW BOND FILMS FOUND THEIR DIRECTORS. WHEN THE SERIES WAS UNDER THE WATCHFUL EYE OF ALBERT BROCCOLI, THE BOND DIRECTORS WERE OFTEN SELECTED FROM WITHIN THE RANKS AS PART OF THE FAMILY BUSINESS. SO WHAT STARTED WITH TERENCE YOUNG ALL THOSE YEARS AGO THEN BRANCHED OUTWARD. SECOND UNIT DIRECTORS WERE PROMOTED TO DIRECTOR AND GUYS LIKE JOHN GLEN WERE PROMOTED FROM EDITOR. SURE, THIS PRACTICE WAS MORE COMMONPLACE FOR HOLLYWOOD MOVIES BACK IN THE DAY, AS IT WAS MUCH BEFORE THE PUBLIC STARTED CARING ABOUT HYPE AND PRE-PRODUCTION DECISIONS AND ALL THAT STUFF. BUT AFTER THE PASSING OF ALBERT AND THE ASSIMILATION OF EON PRODUCTIONS INTO UNITED ARTISTS, THE FAMILY BUSINESS MANTRA PRETTY MUCH WENT OUT THE WINDOW (EXCEPT FOR A FEW KEY PLAYERS). IT WAS LIKELY CORPORATE PRESSURE FROM THE NEW OWNERS. OR MAYBE IT WAS JUST CHANGING TIMES. MAYBE IT WAS THE CREATIVE FAILURE OF LICENSE TO KILL THAT GAVE THEM THE IMPETUS TO NOW DO THINGS "THE STUDIO WAY." OR MAYBE, EMBOLDENED BY CAMPBELL'S DEFT DIRECTION AND OUTSIDER STATUS (AS HE WAS FROM NEW ZEALAND, NOT THE U.K.), THEY FELT LIKE THEY WERE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND COULD CONTINUE TO BRANCH OUTWARD. WELL, WHATEVER IT WAS THAT MADE THEM THINK SPOTTISWOODE WAS THE GUY TO HANDLE THIS NEW MOVIE - MAYBE THEY LIKED SHOOT TO KILL (GOOD!), MAYBE THEY LIKED TURNER & HOOCH (BAD!) - IT ULTIMATELY WASN'T THE RIGHT DECISION.
FOR AS HULK HAS HOPEFULLY PROVEN SO FAR, THE SUCCESS OF A BOND ENTRY IS LARGELY DEPENDENT ON THE BALANCING OF SEEMINGLY DISPARATE ELEMENTS. AND AS HULK HAS ALSO HOPEFULLY PROVEN, DIRECTORS MATTER MORE IN ACHIEVING TONAL BALANCE THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE BOND FILMMAKING PROCESS.
WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO THE SUBJECT OF TEXTURE.
HULK KNOWS HULK KEEPS USING THAT WORD AGAIN AND AGAIN, BUT THAT'S JUST BECAUSE IT IS A REALLY GOOD WORD THAT HELPS US TAP INTO A LARGER EXPLANATION OF THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FORM AND FUNCTION IN STORYTELLING (A DIFFERENCE WHICH MIGHT MAKE SENSE IN THEORY, BUT IS HARDER TO IDENTIFY IN PRACTICE). SO LET'S TRY TO MAKE IT AS CLEAR AS POSSIBLE: WHEN MOST PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE "FEELING" OF A MOVIE, THEY ARE OFTEN TALKING ABOUT THAT THING WE CALL "TONE." NOW, THERE ARE TECHNICALLY A LOT OF THINGS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO TONE, BUT THE POPULAR AGREEMENT AS TO WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTOR WOULD BE THE STYLE - I.E. AESTHETICS OF THE FILM. THAT WOULD BE THE LOOK OF THE THING, OR THE EVOCATIVE NATURE OF THE SOUND, OR EVEN THE RHYTHM AND PACE. THESE ARE THE PALPABLE, VISCERAL QUALITIES THAT LAUNCH RIGHT OFF A SCREEN AND INSTRUCT OUR BODIES ON HOW TO FEEL ABOUT WHAT WE ARE SEEING, OFTEN WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT. AND TONE IS SUCH A VASTLY POWERFUL THING THAT, WHEN HANDLED PROFESSIONALLY, IT CAN READILY CONTROL OUR EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE.
NOW, TO TALK ABOUT TONE IN THE CONTEXT OF BOND, WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE "FEELING" OF THE FILMS IN A DESCRIPTIVE WAY. FOR INSTANCE, TERENCE YOUNG'S FILMS HAVE A SWEATY, PALPABLE SEXUALITY AND THIS GREAT 60'S COLOR PALATE. THERE'S EVEN A REAL EYE-LEVEL QUALITY TO THE SHOTS, BRINGING US INTO INTIMATE SPACES AND BEHIND VEILED CURTAINS. BUT LATER ON WHEN WE GOT TO LEWIS GILBERT / GUY HAMILTON PRODUCTIONS, THE COMPOSITIONS WERE BROADER, MORE FULL OF A PLASTICITY AND BRIGHTLY-LIT, HIGH-KEY STYLES. SURE, THERE WAS NOW SOME BIG DEPTH AND SCALE TO ENVIRONMENTS, BUT RARELY WAS THERE ATMOSPHERE. THUS, OUR CHARACTERS COULDN'T HELP BUT FEEL LIKE ANIMATE DOLLS IN A DIORAMA PLAY SET.
NOW, EVEN THOUGH BOTH OF THESE TONES ACCURATELY DESCRIBE THE FEELING OF THEIR RESPECTIVE MOVIE, AND EVEN THOUGH THEY OUTRIGHT CONTRIBUTE TO THE EXECUTION OF EACH MOVIE, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE UNDERSTAND IT IS STILL NOT THE CRUX FOR WHICH A MOVIE'S REAL SUCCESS IS MADE. TONE IS MERELY ONE ASPECT OF THE FINAL EXPRESSION. NO, WHAT MAKES A MOVIE TRULY FUNCTIONAL ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT HULK'S BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS WHOLE TIME: THINGS LIKE THE STORY ITSELF. THINGS LIKE ACTUALLY BELIEVING IN THE CONVERSATION OF TWO CHARACTERS. HAVING CLEAR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES. VALUING CHARACTER CONSISTENCY. UNDERSTANDING CHARACTER PSYCHOLOGY. AND THEN PUTTING ALL THOSE VALUES INTO DRAMATIC AND CONFLICTING SITUATIONS THAT WE UNDERSTAND, BOTH LOGICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY. REALLY, ALL THIS STUFF IS JUST A MATTER OF SUBSTANCE, WHICH IS QUITE DIFFERENT. CONSIDER THE FACT THAT EVEN THOUGH HULK TALKED ABOUT THE TONE OF THOSE FIRST TWO GROUPS OF DIRECTORS, A SLIGHT LACK OF SUBSTANCE CAN MAKE THUNDERBALL FALL A LITTLE FLAT DESPITE THE EVEN-HANDED CONTROL. OR, ON THE OTHER HAND, IT'S WHY THE SUDDEN EMOTIONAL TURN OF JAWS IN A DUMB, CARTOONY MOVIE LIKE MOONRAKER CAN STILL KIND OF WORK IF IT HAS ENOUGH SUBSTANCE UNDERNEATH IT.
PICTURED: NOT THE SUBSTANCE PART.
IF HULK WERE TO PUT IT INTO A BROAD METAPHOR, TONE IS LIKE CLOTHING: CERTAINLY IMPORTANT, A HUGE A SIGNIFIER OF YOUR INTENTIONS, TOTALLY KEEPS YOU FROM BEING NAKED... BUT IT'S NOT WHO YOU ARE.
BUT THE REAL PROBLEM FOR AUDIENCES IS THAT TONE, LIKE CLOTHING, IS SOMETHING THAT THEY CAN SO READILY ATTUNE TO. IT'S THE THING THEY CAN IMMEDIATELY EXPERIENCE ON THE SURFACE. AND THEY, LIKE, KNOW HOW THEY'RE FEELING, DAMMIT! AND BECAUSE OF THAT CERTAINTY WE CAN'T HELP BUT MISS THE IMPORTANT PARTICULARS OF SUBSTANCE ALL THE DAMN TIME. IT'S JUST THE LESS OBVIOUS LANGUAGE AT PLAY IN MOVIES. SO REALLY, IT'S LIKE READING HUMANS WITHOUT A PSYCH DEGREE. BUT MUCH LIKE THE NATURE OF PSYCHOLOGY IMPLIES, HULK ARGUES THAT THIS WHOLE "SUBSTANCE" THING IS STILL THE THING THAT IS REALLY AFFECTING US. DRESS UP A FUN MOVIE IN A LIGHT AND FLUFFY TONE ALL YOU LIKE, BUT IT WILL ULTIMATELY GO IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER. OR DRESS IT WITH ALL THE ROMANCE, GRIT, YELLING OR HEARTACHE YOU LIKE, BUT IF IT'S NOT BUILT ON GENUINE SUBSTANCE AND UNDERSTANDABLE MEANING TO THE CHARACTERS / STORY, THEN YOU ARE GOING TO TUNE OUT MORE OF THE AUDIENCE THAN YOU CARE TO (LEAVING ONLY THE PROJECTORS TO LOVE IT). HULK REALIZES WE COULD SIT HERE AND DEBATE THE FINER POINTS AND WHICH MOVIES USE EXCELLENT TONAL CONTROL AS A MASK FOR LACKING CONTENT (HULK NOMINATES AMERICAN HUSTLE, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FILMS OR MAN OF STEEL), OR EVEN IF THAT'S SUCH A TERRIBLE THING, AS BLINDLY ENJOYING A MOVIE IS NOT AN EVIL INFRACTION IN AND OF ITSELF, OBVIOUSLY. BUT THE CORE PRINCIPAL OF THIS SUBSTANCE / TONE STUFF IS SOMETHING HULK BELIEVES IS TOO CRITICAL TO THE UNDERSTANDING OF NOT JUST HOW WE CONSUME MOVIES, BUT HOW WE MAKE THEM TOO.
THAT'S BECAUSE FILMMAKERS HAVE BEEN REALLY GOOD AT ACHIEVING CONTROL OF TONE FOR MANY YEARS NOW. IT'S CERTAINLY THE EASIER OF THE TWO... THOUGH, THAT'S NOT TO IMPLY THAT IT IS EASY BY ANY MEANS. IT TAKES A WHOLE TEAM OF PEOPLE BEING ABSOLUTELY LOCKED INTO THEIR CRAFT (WITH A GOOD DOSE OF LUCK) TO BE IN CONTROL OF TONE. BUT NAILING THE INS-AND-OUTS OF PURPOSEFUL STORY COHESION? HULK ARGUES THAT IS FAR MORE DIFFICULT, AND IT'S ALSO THE REASON MOST MOVIES FAIL TO REACH US IN THE LONG RUN (TO WIT: THE LIST OF GOOD SCRIPTS, POORLY-EXECUTED IS A SHORT ONE). BUT HULK ISN'T REALLY INTERESTED IN THE BLAME GAME. THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS IS THAT WHEN TONE IS ALIGNED IN COMMON WITH THE PURPOSE OF SUBSTANCE, THE TEXTURE BECOMES AN EXPRESSION OF THOSE FEELINGS INSTEAD OF A ROADBLOCK OR DISTRACTION. WHEN IT COMES TOGETHER, WE GET THE BEST MOVIES HOLLYWOOD HAS TO OFFER AND MOST OF THE MOVIES YOU TRULY LOVE. FOR IT'S NOT ONLY WHAT MAKES MOVIES "WORK" FOR US, BUT WHAT MAKES THEM LAST IN OUR HEARTS AND BRAINS.
OH GOD OH GOD OH-
AND SO WHILE WE COULD TALK ABOUT THE FINER POINTS OF FORM AND TEXTURE, HULK WANTS US TO CONCEDE THAT EVERYTHING THAT TRULY MATTERS, EVERYTHING THAT SPEAKS TO FILMS AS HAVING A "SOUL," IS STILL ROOTED IN FUNCTION. FOR IT'S WHAT GIVES US A REASON TO BELIEVE IN THE THING WE ARE BEING MADE TO FEEL.
AND GIVEN THAT HULK HAS GONE ON AT LENGTH ABOUT ALL THIS FOR QUITE SOME TIME NOW YOU MAY EXPECT HULK TO OBVIOUSLY ARGUE THAT TOMORROW NEVER DIES IS ONE OF THOSE CASES OF A FILM BEING ALL FORM, NO FUNCTION...
BUT HONESTLY, IT KIND OF SUCKS AT BOTH.
THE KEY MATTER OF IMPORTANCE, HOWEVER, IS THAT NOW WE WILL HAVE THE ABILITY TO SUSS OUT WHICH PROBLEM IS DUE TO WHAT.
* * *
FUN FACT: ROBERT ELSWIT IS ONE OF HULK'S CINEMATOGRAPHY HEROES.
HE MAY NOT HAVE THE EASILY IDENTIFIABLE STYLE OF MASTERS LIKE GORDON WILLIS, ROBERT RICHARDSON, JOHN TOLL OR CONRAD HALL. HE'S EVEN LESS IDENTIFIABLE ON SIGHT THAN A GREAT WITH SOME DEXTERITY LIKE ROGER DEAKINS. BUT THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT MAKES ELSWIT SO WONDERFUL: HE'S A TRUE CHAMELEON. HE'S ALL ABOUT FUNCTION AND FITTING IN WITH THE CONTEXT OF THE PROJECT ITSELF. AND LOOKING THROUGH HIS FILMOGRAPHY YOU SEE A GUY WHO COULD AUGMENT HIS M.O. TO FIT WHATEVER KIND OF FILM HE WAS WORKING ON AT THE TIME. AND IN TURN, MAKING IT THE BEST (I.E. MOST APPROPRIATE) THAT IT COULD BE.
HE ALSO SHOT TOMORROW NEVER DIES... WHICH MANIFESTED IN AN INTERESTING RESULT.
BY ALL TASTEFUL ACCOUNTS, THE FILM LOOKS GREAT. IT HAS CLASSIC COMPOSITIONS. THE IMAGE IS ALWAYS CLEAN, BUT WITH JUST A NICE TOUCH OF GRAIN TO REMOVE ANY OVERT FEELINGS OF SURFACE PLASTICITY. THERE'S DEXTERITY TO THE COLOR DEPENDING ON THE SCENE - I.E. SEX SCENES ARE SHOT ROMANTICALLY, BATHED IN A SUMPTUOUS YELLOW LIGHT (WITHOUT BEING OVERBEARING) WHEREAS VILLAINOUS CARICATURES ARE MUTED AGAINST DARKNESS WITH GORGEOUS, CLEAN PURPLES AND BLUES. AND EVERY TIME YOU ARE WATCHING THE SHOTS UNFOLD FROM A CLEARLY STORY-BOARDED SEQUENCE IT ALL CUTS TOGETHER BEAUTIFULLY WITH SUCH A FUNCTION. WHICH ALL SERVES TO THE ARGUMENT THAT THE FORM OF THIS FILM IS SPOT ON... BUT THEN YOU ALSO WATCH THE WAY THE MOVIE COMES TOGETHER FROM COVERAGE AND IT CAN'T HELP BUT KEEP FEELING CLUNKY. WHICH HELPS REVEAL A GREAT POINT THAT NO MATTER HOW MUCH A GREAT CRAFTSMAN LIKE ELSWIT CAN BRING TO A FILM'S AESTHETIC... HE'S STILL AT THE MERCY OF THE DIRECTOR.
AND IT MAKES THINGS REALLY DIFFICULT WHEN YOUR DIRECTOR IS TONE-DEAF.
LET'S START WITH A DIRECTOR'S PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY: THE PERFORMANCES, WHEREIN THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THIS FILM IS WHAT WE CALL A LACK OF MOMENTARY INTENT. FOR INSTANCE, YOU WATCH A SCENE AND JONATHAN PRYCE'S VILLAIN SHOULD BE COMING OFF AS ALTERNATELY FUNNY AND MALEVOLENT, DEPENDING ON THE MOMENT OR LINE ON THE PAGE. BUT INSTEAD, EVERYTHING IS DELIVERED WITH ONE SETTING, RESULTING IN THIS WEIRD, SINGULAR AND MINCING TONE HE APPLIES TO ALL DIALOGUE, WHICH IN TURN MAKES HIM INEFFECTUAL FOR ALL OF IT. AND TERI HATCHER (WHO WAS ACTUALLY GOOD IN LOIS AND CLARK AND A WHOLE LOT OF OTHER STUFF IF YOU DON'T REMEMBER) IS SUPPOSED TO COME OFF AS A BIG-TIME SCORNED EX WITH A HINT OF ALLURE STILL UNDERNEATH, BUT SHE INSTEAD HER WHOLE BEING PUT OFF AND DESPONDENT ACT IS IN EVERY SINGLE SCENE AND THUS RENDERS HER INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY WOODEN. NOW, IT'S HARD TO TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS IN TERMS OF RESPONSIBILITY, BECAUSE THE PUBLIC HAS THIS IDEA THAT ACTORS JUST MAKE UP THE MOVIE AS THEY GO ALONG AND ARE THUS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING. BUT ANYTIME YOU SEE SUCH CLEAR MISTAKES OF INTENTION FROM TALENTED PEOPLE (WHO HAVE ALREADY PROVEN THEY CAN DO THE EXACT THING YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SEEING), THEN HULK BELIEVES THE RESPONSIBILITY IS SOMETHING THAT FALLS BACK ON A DIRECTOR (EITHER DUE TO AN EDITING CHOICE OF TAKES, OR BY NOT MAKING THE INTENTION CLEAR TO AN ACTOR IN THE FIRST). YOU COULD THEN SUPPOSE THE ACTOR JUST WASN'T ABLE TO BRING IT TO SET, BUT AGAIN, PRYCE PULLED OFF THIS EXACT KIND OF THING ALL THE TIME AND HATCHER HAS DONE IT HER ENTIRE TV CAREER. SO WHAT HAPPENED? SUDDENLY, THEY ARE PLOPPED INTO THIS FILM AND CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE? IT'S BECAUSE THEY ARE BEING CHARACTERIZED WITH A BROAD, ONE-SIZE FITS ALL MENTALITY OF THE FILM ITSELF WHICH, WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, IS THE EXACT SAME THING WE SAW FROM MOST OF GUY HAMILTON. AND IN THAT CONTEXT, PRYCE BECOMES A CARTOON. HATCHER BECOMES AN ICE QUEEN. AND THE FILM LETS GO OF ANY HOPE AT REVEALING SUBSTANCE.
THIS IS ALL PART OF THE "TELLING IT STRAIGHT" IDEOLOGY THAT MAIBAUM PROFESSED WAS THE KEY TO THE SERIES. BECAUSE WHEN YOU HAVE AN ACTOR ACT AS IF EVERYTHING IS A JOKE, THEN AN AUDIENCE WILL EMOTIONALLY FEEL LIKE EVERYTHING IS A JOKE. BUT IF AN ACTOR IS PLAYING A SCARY MOMENT AS SCARY, OR A NEW MOMENT AS A SURPRISE (AND PULLS IT OFF), THEN AN AUDIENCE WILL BE IN A POSITION TO RESPOND. COUPLE THIS WITH UNDERSTANDABLE REASONS FOR ALL THIS BEHAVIOR BASED ON THEIR PAST ACTIONS AND YOU GOT YOURSELF SOME CINEMA!
BUT THAT'S THE WHOLE THING. THE ENTIRE MOVIE ISN'T WORKING ON AN OPERATIONAL LEVEL. THE PERFORMANCES FALL FLAT. THE MOTIVATIONS RING HOLLOW. THE JOKES PLAY TOO BROAD. THE AESTHETIC AND INTENTION IS ALWAYS AT WAR WITH ITSELF. ACTION SCENES JUST SEEM TO START WITH NO BUILD UP AND END WITH NO CRESCENDO. THERE SEEMS TO BE NO UNDERSTANDING OF DRAMA AT LARGE, FOR THE PACING AND PROPULSION BELIE THE MORE EGREGIOUS PROBLEM THAT THE MOVIE ZIPS AROUND WITHOUT ANY IMPORT. IT'S ALL HURRIED, BUT THERE'S ZERO ACTUAL URGENCY. AGAIN, ELSWIT IS SHOOTING US SOMETHING COHERENT, BUT THE MOVIE ITSELF LACKS THE SAME CLARITY.
WHICH SUCKS BECAUSE THERE SO MANY GREAT TANGIBLE DETAILS IN THE FILM'S FAVOR. LIKE RICKY JAY, OR THE SURPRISINGLY RACY SEX SCENE WITH THE DANISH PROFESSOR (RACY FOR BOND, THAT IS) THAT WORKS PRETTY WELL. BUT THERE'S OTHER STUFF TOO...
LIKE THE FACT THAT MICHELLE YEOH IS FUCKING IN IT.
SHE'S FUCKING IN IT!
NOW, IN CASE YOU ARE NOT AWARE, HULK ADORES MICHELLE YEOH. SHE'S AMAZING AND AWESOME AND BADASS AND ZOMG HAVE YOU SEEN SUPERCOP? AKA POLICE STORY 3? HULK'S SEEN IT A THOUSAND TIMES. ANYWAY, SHE WAS STARTING TO RISE IN AMERICAN POPULARITY SO OF COURSE THAT MEANS SHE GOT PLOPPED RIGHT INTO A BOND MOVIE. AND "PLOPPED" IS AN APT DESCRIPTION BECAUSE SO OFTEN SHE HAS NOTHING TO DO EXCEPT KICK THINGS/PEOPLE FOR NO REASON. HER ENGLISH WASN'T AS STRONG AS IT IS NOW SO YOU SENSE THE HESITANCY, BUT IT'S LIKE THEY DIDN'T EVEN TRY TO EITHER A) GET AROUND THAT OR B) GIVE HER DIALOGUE THAT ISN'T SO IMPORTANT TO SELLING THE STORY OR THE EMOTION. SO OFTEN THE FILM IS LIKE "HERE'S THE SCENE WHERE SHE BEATS UP PEOPLE!" OR "HERE'S THE SCENE WHERE SHE IS SUPPOSED TO SELL FUNCTIONAL PLOT-BASED DIALOGUE AND IT'S JUST AN IMPOSSIBILITY!" AND IN THE END IT CONTRIBUTES TO THE SURFACE-LEVEL EFFECT OF THE FILM. THERE IS NO LINGERING ROMANCE OR EVERYTHING PRESENTED IS ONLY ABOUT WHAT IT IS ABOUT ON FACE LEVEL. WHICH IN TURN JUST TURNS THE THING THAT IS GREAT ABOUT BOND MOVIES INTO A SERIES OF STERILE ACTION SCENES THAT MEANDER WITHOUT INTENTION.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS SHOULD BE UTTER PROOF THAT BOND MOVIES CANNOT AND WILL NOT WORK AS PURE ACTION MOVIES. THEY ARE REALLY ABOUT SO MANY OTHERS THINGS... AND WE WILL WANDER INTO THIS PROBLEM AGAIN.
WHAT (KIND OF) STINKS ABOUT ALL THIS IS THAT TOMORROW NEVER DIES IS ACTUALLY ROOTED IN A (KIND OF) INTERESTING IDEA, BEING THAT IT IS A NOT-SO-VEILED SHOT AT BOTH RUPERT MURDOCH AND THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1996. A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON FOR THE UNAWARE! THE ACT WAS ESSENTIALLY A PIECE OF LEGISLATION DESIGNED TO HELP BRING TOGETHER CELL PHONE COMPANIES FOR THE NECESSARY PURPOSE OF BREAKING HARD-LINE COVERAGE MONOPOLIES / DISTRIBUTION ROADBLOCKS ON A LOCAL LEVEL AND MAKING THEM FUNCTIONAL FOR A NATIONAL LEVEL (THAT'S THE BROAD VERSION). THIS WAS A WHOLLY NECESSARY THING, BUT THE ACT ENDED UP ALLOWING FOR MEDIA CONGLOMERATION WITHOUT US LEGALLY CALLING INTO TO QUESTION THE NOTION OF AN EVEN BIGGER MONOPOLY OR CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. BASICALLY, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT MEDIA WAS ALLOWED TO COME TOGETHER UNDER SINGULAR BANNERS IN AN INSTANT AND SUDDENLY WE HAD DESTROYED THE VERY NOTION OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA AND INDEPENDENT NEWS. WHICH IS ACTUALLY BEYOND HORRIBLE. WHY WERE WE SO DESPERATE TO EMBRACE THIS CONGLOMERATION? WELL, IT WAS LARGELY AN OVERREACTION TO THE PERCEIVED THREAT OF "THE SIX COMPANIES" MODEL FROM JAPAN WHICH WAS SO SUCCESSFUL AT THE TIME (AND HAS SINCE KIND OF COLLAPSED). BUT IF WE HAD EVEN A HINT OF FORESIGHT OR PATIENCE WE WOULD HAVE WATCHED THAT HAPPEN AND WOULD HAVE ABSOLVED FROM EVEN TRYING, BUT INSTEAD WE CONTINUE THE LONG MARCH TO DEEP CORPORATE CONGLOMERATION WITH ITS INFINITE PROBLEMS.
UHHHH, SORRY - ENOUGH DEPRESSING REALITIES! THE THING IS THE MOVIE WAS ACTUALLY ADDRESSING THIS STUFF IN A PRETTY TIMELY MANNER AND MEANT TO DO IT IN A MAINSTREAM, EASILY PALATABLE WAY, ONLY INSTEAD OF INGRAINING SOMETHING SERIOUS TO THE VILLAIN (LIKE GOLDENEYE DID WITH THE COSSACK HISTORY MOTIVATION), THE MOVIE MAKES THE MISTAKE OF GOING FULL-BOND VILLAIN.
YES, HULK IS TALKING ABOUT THE TROPIC THUNDER JOKE. THE SAME LESSON ACTUALLY APPLIES HERE. YOU SEE, BOND VILLAINS HAVE TO EXIST IN THIS SWEET SPOT OF WEIRD/FUNNY BUT ALSO ACTUALLY SCARY WHEN NEEDED. THIS IS PERFECTLY EMBODIED BY DONALD PLEASENCE'S BATSHIT PERFORMANCE IN YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (AND FOR A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE, BARDEM IN SKYFALL). NOTICE THAT THERE ARE NO BOND VILLAINS WEIRDER THAN THOSE TWO, BUT THEY STILL ARE CLEAR TO GIVE REAL MENACE AT TIMES AND CERTAINLY UNDERNEATH. NOW, PLEASE NOTICE THAT ALL THE GUY HAMILTON VILLAINS NEVER HAD ANY OF THOSE KINDS OF MOMENTS AND INSTEAD WENT FULL-BOND VILLAIN ... AND THUS NEVER REALLY WORKED. HERE WE MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE. AND THE THING THAT SUCKS IS JONATHAN PRYCE IS OBVIOUSLY AN AMAZING ACTOR, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE HE SPENDS THE ENTIRE TIME BEING FORCED TO GO FULL-BOND VILLAIN. NOTE HOW MANY TIMES HE'LL HAVE AN AWKWARD PAUSE, TURN PRETTY MUCH RIGHT TO THE CAMERA, AND THEN, IN HIS BEST JONATHAN HARRIS IMPERSONATION, MUTTER "DELICIOUS!" WHILE, AGAIN, STARING RIGHT AT US. THIS IS A DIRECTION THING, FOLKS.
AND YUP. HE WENT FULL-BOND VILLAIN.
* * *
WHY TALK SO MUCH ABOUT FORM AND FUNCTION IN THIS ESSAY?
GIVEN THE EVENTUAL CONTENT OF THE ANALYSIS IT MIGHT HAVE SEEMED LIKE A WEIRD DECISION, AS IT DIDN'T PERFECTLY CLARIFY ANY OF THE REAL POINTS HULK MADE ABOUT CINEMATOGRAPHY OR ACTING. WHAT IT DOES DO, HOWEVER, IS FRAME THE CONVERSATION IN A WAY THAT PREVENTS US FROM TALKING ABOUT ALL THE WRONG THINGS. COMBING THROUGH REVIEWS OF THE MOVIE THERE'S SO MANY TANGIBLE DETAILS DISCUSSIONS THAT REALLY DON'T GET AT WHAT HULK FEELS THE FILM'S PROBLEMS REALLY ARE. CLARIFYING WHAT DIRECTION REALLY MEANS AND HOW IT AFFECTS US IS SUCH A NUANCED THING ANYWAY. BUT TALKING ABOUT THE LARGER IDEAS HERE WILL BE REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT IN GOING THROUGH THE REMAINING MOVIES. BUT ALL WE HAVE TO REMEMBER IS THAT THESE FILMS CAN DO THE CRAZIEST THINGS IN THE WORLD (AND GOLDENEYE IS CRAZY) BUT IT'S ALL ABOUT HOW YOU TRY TO SELL THOSE THINGS.
FOR "DON'T IMPRESS ME, CONVINCE ME" IS AN OLD ADAGE OF HOLLYWOOD.
IT IS ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE SAYINGS BECAUSE IT HIGHLIGHTS HOW MUCH STORYTELLING SHOULD BE ABOUT CONVINCING AN AUDIENCE OF SOMETHING. WHO IS THIS PERSON? WHAT DO THEY WANT? WHY SHOULD WE CARE? WHY DO THEY CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER? ASK THESE QUESTIONS AND YOU'LL BE IN FERTILE GROUND TO GROW. AND THEN YOU CONVINCE AN AUDIENCE OF THE ANSWERS BY BRINGING THOSE MOMENTS TO LIFE. YOU SELL THE ACTION. YOU SELL THE BAD GUY. YOU SELL THE ATTRACTION... YOU JUST CAN'T COAST. YOU CAN'T JUST FIGURE THAT EVERYONE WILL ACCEPT THE JOKE. YOU CAN'T USE SHORTHAND. YOU CAN'T EVEN JUST TRY TO IMPRESS THEM WITH BEAUTIFUL CINEMATOGRAPHY, HOT IMAGERY, KICK-ASS STUNTS AND ALL THE ACTION YOU CAN MUSTER (THOUGH THOSE THINGS CERTAINLY HELP). DIRECTING IS THE ART OF SELLING THESE "COOL" MOMENTS IN A BROADER CONTEXT. AND MR. SPOTTISWOODE, FOR WHATEVER GIFTS HE MAY HAVE ELSEWHERE, COULD NOT BRING THIS FILM TO LIFE.
IT'S A LESSON BOND FILMS NEED TO LEARN TIME AND TIME AGAIN. WHETHER IT IS A DIRECTOR TRYING TO OVER-RELY ON THE COMEDY OF INHERENT SILLINESS, OR THE HURRIED AESTHETIC OF ACTION, OR THE NATURAL SEXUAL ALLURE OF PRETTY WOMEN, THE THING YOU REALIZE IS THAT ANYONE WHO IS NOT WORKING THEIR BUTT OFF TO MAKE THOSE AREAS OF THESE FILMS COMPELLING IS JUST ULTIMATELY LETTING THOSE SAME THINGS FAIL. SO IF THERE'S EVER A CASE TO BE MADE FOR THE FACT THAT DIRECTORS REALLY DO IMBUE A FILM WITH PERSONALITY AND EXUBERANCE, IT'S EVIDENT IN TOMORROW NEVER DIES. BECAUSE THIS IS A BOND MOVIE THAT SEEMS PROFICIENT ON THE SURFACE, THE TANGIBLE DETAILS, THE TOP FLIGHT TALENT AND MAYBE EVEN AN INTERESTING PREMISE, BUT THERE'S NO PASSION, NO ROMANCE...
... NO SOUL.
19. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
SO THIS IS THE FILM THAT REALLY COMPLETES THE "90'S-IFICATION" OF BOND.
MEANING IT IS THE HOLLOWED-OUT CORPSE OF HAMILTON'S TONE, ALBEIT WITH LESS CAMP AND MORE OVERBLOWN, INCOHERENT ACTION AND POSTURING THAT BEFIT THIS ERA (TO THE POINT THAT IT PRACTICALLY FEELS LIKE CAMP NOW). AND WHILE THERE WERE HINTS OF IT IN THE LAST ENTRY, THIS IS THE FILM THAT SIGNIFIES THE TURN WHEN AUDIENCES STARTED READING BROSNAN AS INEFFECTUAL. REMEMBER HOW HULK SAID BROSNAN IS ULTIMATELY DEPENDENT ON THE STRENGTH OF THE MOVIE AROUND HIM? HOW HIS ABILITY TO MAKE THINGS SEEM EFFORTLESS ONLY WORKS IF THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE MOMENT WORKS? BUT IF THE MOMENT SUCKS THEN HE COMES OFF AS GROAN-WORTHY. WELL, THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A LOT OF UNDERSOLD MOMENTS IN TOMORROW NEVER DIES, BUT THEY WERE MOSTLY SOFT LANDINGS WITHOUT BEING JARRING. BUT THIS ONE? OOF. THERE ARE SO MANY POORLY CONSTRUCTED MOMENTS IN THIS FILM THAT IT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO NOTICE. AND FOR THAT, IT IS WIDELY REGARDED AS BROSNAN'S FIRST BAD ENTRY IN THE BOND SERIES.
THE WEIRD THING IS THAT HULK ACTUALLY LIKES IT BETTER THAN THE LAST ONE.
IT'S JUST THAT THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH IS A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF "BAD" THAN ITS PREDECESSOR. YOU COULD ARGUE THAT TOMORROW NEVER DIES IS A FAR MORE PROFICIENT FILM, BUT IT'S EMPTY AND HOLLOW, DEVOID OF ENGAGING MOMENTS. LIFELESS. SOULLESS. AND IN THE VERY LEAST THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH HAS SOME REAL VARIATION IN IT, EVEN A FEW COMPELLING OR OUTLANDISHLY FUN MOMENTS. THUS, THE COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO FILMS GIVES US FODDER FOR THAT AGE OLD QUESTION OF "WHAT'S BETTER: A MIXED BAG VS. A PERSONALITY-LESS-BUT-PROFICIENT EXERCISE IN FILMMAKING?"
HULK DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT HULK WILL TAKE THE MIXED BAG EVERY TIME.
PARTICULARLY THE CASHEWS.
WHY NOT OPT FOR SOMETHING WEIRD AND MEMORABLE OVER SOMETHING WE WILL FORGET IN TWO SECONDS FLAT? PRIOR TO THE RE-WATCH, HULK HADN'T SEEN EITHER FILM SINCE THE THEATER AND IT SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE THAT SO MUCH OF THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH WAS STILL LODGED IN HULK'S BRAIN WHEREAS HULK HAD FORGOTTEN ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT TOMORROW NEVER DIES COMPLETELY. KEEP IN MIND THAT HULK ISN'T ABOUT ENJOYING THINGS IRONICALLY. IT'S ABOUT READING INTO HIGHS AND FUNCTIONALITY AND PERSONALITY AND WEIRDNESS. THERE'S SO MANY STRANGE THINGS ABOUT THIS ONE. LIKE HOW JOHN CLEESE SHOWS UP AND ACTS LIKE THE MOST BUFFOONISH VERSION OF JOHN CLEESE IMAGINABLE (BY THE WAY, HULK MISSES FISH CALLED WANDA JOHN CLEESE WHERE HE WAS A QUASI-STRAIGHT MAN). THEN THERE'S THE WEIRD CHOKING BONDAGE FUCK MACHINE TORTURE SCENE (TOTALLY PLAYED STRAIGHT!). OR HOW ROBERT CARLYELEYELLEYEE IS ACTUALLY PRETTY EFFECTIVE AS THE ALTERNATELY SCARY AND SILLY VILLAIN (COMPLETE WITH BRAIN BULLET TAKING AWAY ALL HIS PAIN!). THERE'S EVEN A THROWBACK SCENE IN TERMS OF INDULGENCE WITH UBER-GROSS BOND BEHAVIOR IN THE DOCTOR WARMFLASH AFFAIR. THERE'S EVEN THE LUMINOUS SOPHIE MARCEAU, DOING HER DAMNDEST TO SELL IT AMIDST ALL THE NOISE. THESE ARE ALL WEIRD THINGS ABOUT THE MOVIE, SOMETIMES FUNCTIONAL, SOMETIME HORRIBLE, BUT THEY IN THE VERY LEAST MAKE THE FILM DISTINCT.
THANKFULLY, THE FILM IS ALSO IN MUCH LESS OF A HURRY THAN ITS PREDECESSOR. IT TAKES ITS TIME AND TELLS THE STORY STRAIGHT. THERE'S EVEN SOME THEMATIC / SOCIAL THOUGHT PUT INTO THE BAD GUY'S PLAN (WHICH IN RETROSPECT IS ACTUALLY A REAL STAPLE OF THE BROSNAN BONDS, THOUGH EACH TIME IT IS USED TO LESS PRODUCTIVE ENDS). THIS TIME IT IS ALL ABOUT OIL DEPENDENCY BEING THE SECRET MOTIVATOR OF EVERYTHING BAD (AND NOT TO GET POLITICAL, BUT PRETTY MUCH, YEAH). AND LIKE MOST TOPICAL BOND FILMS, THIS METAPHOR IS CLUNKY AS HELL AND WOULD BE MUCH BETTER SERVED WITH A STRONGER MOVIE AROUND IT. BUT IN THE END, IT'S JUST MORE FODDER FOR THE IDEA THAT THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH IS TRULY WELL-MEANING. THE JOKES ARE A LITTLE TOO GROAN-WORTHY, IT SEEMS A LITTLE STILTED, BUT THE ACTION IS STILL FUNCTIONAL (IF LACKING SOME UMPH THAT WAS A STAPLE OF THE SERIES). YOU KNOW, PERHAPS THE FILM IS BEST SUMMED UP IN THE DISPOSITION OF FILM'S DIRECTOR MICHAEL APTED, A STODGY OLD BRITISH MAN WHO FOR SOME REASON HAS BECOME A GO-TO FOR CURRENT BRITISH BLOCKBUSTERS THAT DESIRE A HINT OF VENERABILITY WITHOUT MUCH PERSONALITY BEYOND THAT (THOUGH HULK IS OBVIOUSLY A HUGE FAN OF APTED'S UP SERIES AND HAS MUCH LOVE FOR GORILLAS IN THE MIST).
YOU KNOW, THE WAY HULK'S DESCRIBING ALL THIS, IT ALL DOESN'T SOUND TOO HORRIBLE, DOES IT? NOT REALLY, NO. SO WHY IS THIS FILM OFTEN REGARDED AS ONE OF THE WORST JAMES BOND FILMS, EXACTLY?
WELL, THE ONE THING EVERYONE POINTS TO IS THE EXACT SAME:
LIKE A DEER IN HEADLIGHTS... DENISE RICHARDS AS DR. CHRISTMAS JONES.
BUT LET'S GET AWAY FROM ALL THIS BULLSHIT IMMEDIATELY.
BECAUSE THE CONVERSATION REGARDING DENISE RICHARDS IN THIS MOVIE IS SO CHOCK-FULL OF HORRIBLE GENERALIZATIONS AND UGLY STATEMENTS THAT HULK IS GOING TO ZERO IN ON THE RIGHT QUESTION IMMEDIATELY:
WHO IS REALLY TO BLAME HERE?
THERE IS NO DENYING THAT DENISE RICHARDS IS NOT VERY GOOD IN THIS FILM. THERE IS ALSO NO DENYING THAT DENISE RICHARDS ISN'T THE KIND OF ACTRESS WHO HAS ANY REAL THESPIAN QUALITIES, IF WE'RE GOING TO BE DICKS ABOUT IT. BUT THAT ISN'T MEANT AS A BARB. TONS OF ACTORS DON'T. BUT UNLIKE MANY PROFESSIONAL ACTORS, RICHARDS DOESN'T REALLY HAVE THE ABILITY TO AUGMENT A ROLE, SHE CAN'T COAST ON PERSONALITY, SHE CAN'T CREATE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING... BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN SHE CAN'T BE EFFECTIVE, EITHER. TO WIT: THERE ARE TWO FILMS THAT HULK FIRST NOTICED HER WHERE HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT SHE WAS WHOLLY EFFECTIVE. GRANTED, ONE OF THEM WAS PAUL VERHOEVEN'S SATIRICAL MASTERPIECE STARSHIP TROOPERS AND A GOOD PORTION OF HER PERFORMANCE WAS MEANT TO HAVE A HOLLOW SOAP ACTORY QUALITY, BUT THERE'S NO ARGUING SHE WAS GREAT AT DOING THAT AND IT'S PRECISELY WHAT HELPS HIS SATIRE SUCCEED. SHE WAS WORKING EXACTLY TO HER DIRECTOR'S PURPOSE. BUT ALSO, DON'T FORGET ABOUT DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, WHERE SHE BROUGHT REAL GUSTO TO THE FILM'S VILLAIN AND ACTUALLY HAD A BUNCH OF FUNNY STUFF TO DO. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? THE SAME GOES FOR HER ROLE IN WILD THINGS WHERE SHE TOTALLY DID WHATEVER SHE NEEDED TO DO TO MAKE THAT ROLE WORK (TRASHY AS THE FILM IS, SOMETIMES IT'S TO GOOD TRASHY ENDS). IT'S ALL PART OF THE SAME THING HULK TALKED ABOUT WITH CONTEXT. THERE ARE ROLES THAT PEOPLE CAN DO. THERE ARE ROLES THAT PEOPLE CAN'T DO. AND THE DIRECTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CASTING AND CRAFTING THE CONTEXT FOR ALL OF IT.
WHICH MAKES IT KIND OF HORRIBLE THAT SHE PERSONALLY GETS ALL OF THE SCORN. THE ROLE IS TECHNICALLY "WRITTEN" (NOT VERY WELL) FOR THIS TOUGH AS NAILS, SEXY, SMART SCIENTIST - AND SHE JUST CAN'T PULL IT OFF. EVEN THE OUTFIT IS ALL WRONG. REALLY, WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR A NUCLEAR SCIENTIST? WAS THIS INTENDED AS A GUY HAMILTON-ESQUE JOKE ON WOMEN? OR WAS SHE ERRANTLY INTENDED TO HAVE THE SAME EFFECT AS VERHOEVEN'S CHOICE? BUT WHY DO THAT IF THE REST OF THE MOVIE DOESN'T? WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THE CHOICE? DID THE DIRECTOR NOT GET WHAT HE THOUGHT HE COULD GET OUT OF HER? WERE THEY CONVINCED SHE COULD DO MORE? DID THEY EVEN CARE? AND MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, IS IT REALLY DENISE RICHARD'S FAULT FOR TAKING A ROLE LIKE THIS? IT'S A BIG BOND MOVIE AND A GREAT OPPORTUNITY, SO WHY WOULDN'T SHE TAKE IT? AND DID SHE NAME HER CHARACTER DR. CHRISTMAS JONES PERSONALLY? DID SHE WRITE THOSE LINES? DID SHE CAST HERSELF AS A NUCLEAR SCIENTIST?
SO EVEN IF SHE IS THE TANGIBLE THING THAT DOESN'T WORK IN THIS FILM, THE QUESTION REMAINS: CAN WE REALLY BLAME DENISE RICHARDS AS THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE?
IT'S ALL JUST PART OF WHY HULK MAINTAINS THAT ACTING IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING TO TRULY EVALUATE IN THE UNIVERSE, OUTSIDE THE DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF GUIDING THE PROCESS. WE ALWAYS INSTINCTIVELY KNOW WHO IS BAD OR GOOD OR CHARISMATIC WHEN WE WATCH A MOVIE, BUT THAT IS JUST BECAUSE WE KNOW THE VALIDITY OF OUR OWN EMOTIONS. BUT IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS WE ARE BAD AT ARTICULATING AND CONTEXTUALIZING. WE HAVE REAL TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING THE HOW AND WHY WE GET TO THOSE EMOTIONAL PLACES. HULK TRULY BELIEVES THAT ACTING IS THE SUBJECT THAT THE MOVIE-GOING COMMUNITY (AND EVEN THE CRITICAL COMMUNITY) SEEM TO KNOW THE LEAST ABOUT IT. AND SO THE LESSON OF THIS MISCONCEPTION THAT DENISE RICHARDS RUINS THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGHAND ZOMG SHE'S SUCH A BAD ACTRESS IS THAT HULK'S PRETTY SURE IT'S NOT REALLY ABOUT DENISE RICHARDS BUT THE WHOLE SET OF GENDER CIRCUMSTANCES / EXPECTATIONS THAT BROUGHT HER INTO THE FILM IN THE FIRST PLACE. AND IT REVEALS EVEN MORE ABOUT EVERYONE'S ATTITUDE WHEN IT CAME TO WANTING SOMETHING MORE OUT OF THE CIRCUMSTANCE. BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT? HULK IS PRETTY SURE THE FILMMAKERS WRESTLED WITH THE ISSUE OF WHETHER OR NOT TO CAST HER IN THIS ROLE, BUT THE END RESULT AND FINAL ARTICULATION MAKE IT SEEM LIKE THEY DIDN'T. IT WAS JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE BOND SERIES THROWING UP ITS COLLECTIVE HANDS AND CASTING SOMEONE BASED ON LOOKS DESPITE HER BEING ALL WRONG AND THEN THINKING IT WOULDN'T MAKE A LICK OF DIFFERENCE (HINT: IT DOES. IT ALWAYS DOES). SO AGAIN, WHO'S TO BLAME?
THE REALITY IS HULK'S NOT GOING TO BLAME ANYONE. ULTIMATELY, THIS JUST HAS TO BE MERE DIAGNOSIS. THE FACT THAT RICHARDS CAN'T BRING WHAT IS NEEDED TO THE INTERACTIONS IN THE FILM LET EVERY MOMENT FALL FLAT AND RENDER BOND HIMSELF INEFFECTUAL. IT'S JUST HOW IT IS. IT DOESN'T SELL THE MOVIE. IT POINTS TO THE HOLLOWNESS WITH A BIG RED ARROW. BUT GIVEN THAT THE FILM IS ALREADY FULL OF SO MUCH WEIRD AND DISPARATE CRAZINESS IT JUST BECOMES ANOTHER THING THAT PREVENTS IT FROM WORKING (EVEN IF HULK FINDS IT INTERESTING). AND TO OUR PURPOSES, IT'S ANOTHER PIECE OF THE BOND SERIES PUZZLE THAT REVEALS JUST HOW MUCH CERTAIN THINGS MATTER, LIKE HAVING A FUNCTIONAL FEMALE LEAD WITH HER OWN AGENCY. WHICH REVEALS THAT BEYOND THE ENJOYABLE ASPECTS OF MIXED BAGS, THE BAD FILMS CAN ACT AS ANOTHER ROSETTA STONE FOR OUR DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE SERIES.
AND IF WE ARE GOING TO BE HONEST, THEN THESE KINDS OF COMPARISONS ARE IMPORTANT. HULK TALKS ABOUT EVERY FILM BEING AN OVERREACTION TO THE LAST ONE, BUT MAYBE HULK'S GREATER LIKE OF THIS FILM OVER ITS PREDECESSOR IS INDICATIVE OF THE SAME CHRONOLOGY. WOULD HULK BE AS HAPPY WITH IT IF IT CAME ON THE HEELS OF A GREAT FILM LIKE GOLDENEYE? PROBABLY NOT. BUT HULK WILL HOLD STEADFASTLY TO THE IDEA THAT EVEN A MIXED BAG IS SOMETHING THAT IS LIFELESS AND BORING, SOUND AND FURY SYMBOLIZING NOTHING. AND AGAIN, PERHAPS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE A COMPARISON TO TOMORROW NEVER DIES IS TO REALIZE HOW MUCH MORE THERE IS TO BE GAINED FROM A MOVIE LIKE THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH IN TERMS OF WHAT WE CAN REALLY LEARN. AND MAYBE THAT'S EVERYTHING.
ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE TWO LAST THINGS THAT STAND OUT...
1. IF WE'RE GOING TO BE SENTIMENTALISTS ABOUT ALL THIS BOND SERIES BUSINESS (AND HULK ARGUES WE SHOULD), THEN THE BEST THING THIS FILM GAVE US WAS Q'S AWKWARD, BUT ULTIMATELY FITTING LAST MOMENT IN THE SERIES. ONE MADE BITTERSWEET BY HIS ACCIDENTAL DEATH A FEW WEEKS BEFORE THE FILM'S RELEASE:
2. HULK HAS A TERRIBLE CONFESSION. HULK KIND OF ADORES THE LAST LINE.
... IF ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS THE ONE TIME THAT HULK HEARD AN ENTIRE AUDIENCE GUFFAW WITH INCREDULITY.
20. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
SO HULK THOUGHT OF, LIKE, TWENTY OPENING LINES FOR THIS ESSAY ON DIE ANOTHER DAY. HERE ARE JUST SOME OF THEM:
1. SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT GUY HAMILTON, THE DUDE AT LEAST KNEW WHEN HE WAS MAKING A STUPID MOVIE!
2. IMAGINE IF GUY HAMILTON'S ZOMBIE CORPSE ROSE FROM THE GRAVE TO MAKE A MOVIE STARRING EVERYONE ELSE'S CORPSE!
[GOOGLES GUY HAMILTON AND DISCOVERS HE'S STILL ALIVE... LEAVES THIS JOKE IN BECAUSE IT'S TOO GOOD A FOOT-IN-MOUTH MOMENT].
3. IF BOND MOVIES ARE THE SILLY PLAYED STRAIGHT, IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THEY COULDN'T STOP CRACKING UP THE ENTIRE DURATION!
4. HEY EVERYONE, CHECK OUT MADONNNA'S FEATURE-LENGTH BOND MUSIC VIDEO!
5. LEE TAMAHORI IS THE HITLER EQUIVALENT OF...
EH, FUCK IT. YOU GET THE IDEA.
PICTURED: THE IDEA.
THE THING ABOUT ALL THESE SARCASTIC, MEAN-SPIRITED, OFFENSIVE LINES IS THEY MIGHT BE ACCURATE OR FUNNY OR WHATEVER, BUT JUST DUMPING ON THINGS SARCASTICALLY IS NOT REALLY HULK'S BAG. SO LET'S DO WHAT HULK DOES AND EXPLAIN THE JOKE.
THE PROBLEMS WITH DIE ANOTHER DAY ARE, QUITE OBVIOUSLY, MANIFOLD. IN FACT THERE ARE SO MANY BAD THINGS THAT IT SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE THAT IT IS WIDELY REGARDED AS THE WORST BOND FILM EVER. BUT THERE ARE PERHAPS A COUPLE BIG UNDERLYING REASONS FOR THIS SENTIMENT. THE FIRST REASON IS THAT IT IS JUST HOW RECENT HISTORY WORKS, AS MOST OF THE FOLKS WHO ARE MAKING THIS CLAIM PROBABLY SAW ALL THE OTHER TERRIBLE BOND FILMS BACK WHEN THEY WERE KIDS AND IT WAS ON TV OR SOMETHING. AND IT'S NOT JUST THIS CHILDLIKE LENS THAT MAKES US OVERLOOK CERTAIN KINDS OF BADNESS. THIS HAPPENS BECAUSE IT IS SO FAR REMOVED FROM WHAT HULK WOULD CALL THE ADOLESCENT THEATER-GOING EXPERIENCE, WHERE WE HAVE A WHOLE EMOTIONAL ARC OF EXPECTATIONS, PROMOTION, REACTIONS, ELATION AND LIKELY DISAPPOINTMENT. THUS, THE REAL REASON THIS FILM STANDS OUT AS WORST IS MERELY THAT IT IS THE MOST RECENT BAD BOND FILM - BUT PEOPLE ALSO REMEMBER HOW IT AFFECTED THE LARGER BOND / MOVIE-GOING CULTURE, TOO.
THE OTHER REASON WE SAY THAT IS BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING TERRIBLE.
THERE IS JUST NO NICE WAY TO PUT IT. HULK KNOWS HULK SAYS TO NEVER HATE A MOVIE. AND TO THAT PURPOSE, HULK QUITE HONESTLY DOES NOT HATE THIS MOVIE. REALLY, THERE'S NEVER ANYTHING TO BE GAINED BY HATING A FILM LIKE THIS. MOSTLY BECAUSE THIS IS AN ANTI-MOVIE. AND NOT IN THE GOOD COEN-Y WAY WHERE THEY ARE CLEARLY UNDERCUTTING STORY EXPECTATIONS TO COMMENT ON HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND DEEPER MEANING. INSTEAD, DIE ANOTHER DAY IS THE KIND OF FILM THAT IS NOTHING MORE THAN AN UNABASHED GLUING TOGETHER OF ROTE STORY PIECES / MOMENTS / ICONOGRAPHY / AND TEXTURES WITHOUT A SINGLE WELL-INTENTIONED REGARD FOR ANY REAL PRINCIPLE OF STORYTELLING, WHETHER IT CONCERNS DRAMA, CONTEXT, MEANING OR IMPORT. THIS LIKELY SOUNDS LIKE A HARSH APPRAISAL, BUT IT'S JUST THE REALITY OF THE THING.
AND DUE TO THE SHEER INCOMPETENCE ON DISPLAY, THE ESSAY THAT FOLLOWS IS PRETTY UNWIELDY, RAMBLING AND UNFOCUSED.
WHICH MEANS IT BEST REFLECTS WHAT THE MOVIE IS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
PICTURED: CONFUSION REFLECTING OUR OWN CONFUSION
WHEN MOST PEOPLE START CITING THE REASONS DIE ANOTHER DAY IS TERRIBLE THEY, OF COURSE, DO THAT THING WHERE THEY POINT TO THE TANGIBLE DETAILS. BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE THE BADNESS OF THIS FILM HAS NOTHING REALLY TO DO WITH THE INVISIBLE CAR, OR V.R. TRAINING SESSIONS, OR WEIRD DIAMOND FACES, OR OVERLY-COIFFED BAD GUYS OR ANY OTHER SURFACE-LEVEL CRAZINESS. AFTER ALL, THIS IS THE BOND SERIES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. WE'VE SEEN THE RIDICULOUS SURFACE-Y THINGS WORK ON US TIME AND TIME AGAIN. HULK MEAN, IS AN EJECTOR SEAT SUPPOSED TO BE TOTALLY RATIONAL? IS A MAN WITH A GOLDEN GUN THE PINNACLE OF SANITY? OF COURSE NOT. SO, AS ALWAYS, MAIBAUM'S RULE APPLIES: BOND IS THE RIDICULOUS TOLD STRAIGHT. MEANING THE SUCCESS OF ANY GIVEN BOND MOVIE IS DEPENDENT ON MAKING THE INVISIBLE CAR WORK, SO TO SPEAK.
THUS, THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT THIS FILM JUST DOES NOT MAKE THE INVISIBLE CAR WORK, NOR MUCH OF ANYTHING WORK, NOR DOES IT EVEN TRY. IN FACT, IT JUST MIGHT BE THE LAZIEST FILM HULK HAS EVER SEEN. A POORLY CONCEIVED AND WHOLLY UNINSPIRED PRODUCT OF A FILM THAT COULD STAND AS THE IDEAL EXAMPLE OF JUST THROUGH THE MOTIONS. BUT WHAT COULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATIVE TEAM TAKING SUCH A LAZY APPROACH? HOW DID THEY DROP THE BALL?
WE CAN BLAME OUTRIGHT INCOMPETENCE (AND HULK WILL), BUT ONE OF THE KEY NUGGETS OF MISGUIDANCE SEEMS TO BE WHOLE EUPHORIA OF THE 20TH BOND MOVIE! MANTRA THAT GOT THEIR BRAINS WORKING OVERTIME. SUDDENLY, THIS PREVIOUSLY COMPETENT GROUP OF PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER AND HIRED THE WRONG DIRECTOR, THEN THREW OUT ALL THEIR RULES OF STORY AND COMPETENCY AND INSTEAD ADVOCATED AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT KIND OF MOVIE... DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN HULK SAID THAT ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH TOMORROW NEVER DIES IS THAT IT GOES FULL-BOND-VILLAIN? IN THAT IT EMBRACES THE SINGULAR, FULL-BLOWN TONE OF CHARACTERIZATION THAT GOES ON TO DEFINE THEM?
WELL, THIS FILM GOES FULL-BOND-MOVIE.
MEANING IT DELIVERS TWO HOURS PACKED TO THE BRIM WITH REFERENCES TO THE OLD MOVIES, DOUBLE ENTENDRES, MAGIC GADGETS AND DIALOGUE THAT FEELS LIKE EVERYONE-IS-DOING-NOTHING-BUT-STANDING-THERE-TRYING-TO-COME-UP-WITH-ONE-LINERS-AND-DOESN'T-EVEN-CARE-IF-THEY'RE-GOOD. REALLY, BOND ONE-LINERS AREN'T EXACTLY THE PINNACLE OF WILDE-IAN WIT, BUT THESE ARE UNIQUELY TERRIBLE. NOT IN THE GROAN-WORTHY "I thought Christmas only comes once a year" WAY, BUT IN A FAR LAZIER WAY. HALLE BERRY CAN BARELY SAY THE LINE "Wow, there's a mouthful" WITHOUT VISIBLY HATING HERSELF OR BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL (PROBABLY BECAUSE THERE IS NO REASON FOR HER CHARACTER TO ACTUALLY SAY THAT). HULK MEAN... JUST... GOOD LORD. A DOUBLE ENTENDRE IS USUALLY REQUIRED TO HAVE SOME KIND OF WIT OR PURPOSE BEHIND IT. OR AT LEAST SOME CONTEXT AND SET-UP. AND IT'S A PLAY ON WORDS SO THERE SHOULD BE A SENSE OF, LIKE, CRAFT. OR AT LEAST THE DEDICATION TO SELL THE CRAFT. BUT THIS MOVIE IS LIKE PEOPLE JUST WALKING AROUND BEING LIKE "I'M TALKING ABOUT YOUR COCK!" OR "LETS PUT OUR THINGS IN OTHER THINGS!" (WHICH WOULD ACTUALLY BE A FUNNY TACTIC AND LARGELY WHAT THE AUSTIN POWERS FILMS DID). AND THAT DOESN'T EVEN COUNT WHETHER OR NOT THEY CAN SUM UP THE WILL TO ACTUALLY SAY THESE LINES WITH ENERGY OR EMOTION (BROSNAN MOSTLY SEEMS DEFEATED). AGAIN, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO TELLING IT STRAIGHT HERE. NO COMMITTING. THEY ARE STILL JUST WINKING DIRECTLY AT THE AUDIENCE. EVEN WITH WITH PRODUCTION DESIGN AND ACTION SCENES, THE MOVIE FEELS LIKE A SHOPPING LIST OF REFERENCES. GO BACK AND WATCH THE Q BRIEFING FROM GOLDENEYE AND YOU'LL SEE A SCENE THAT HAS A SENSE OF TIMING AND INTEREST IN FARCE WITH ALL THESE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE BACKGROUND, ALL BUILDING TO THE HILARIOUS CAPPER OF "That's my lunch!" THERE'S A RHYTHM TO IT ALL. BUT WHEN YOU WATCH THIS Q SCENE IT'S A MOMENT-TO-MOMENT WINKFEST. THERE'S NO CRAFT. JUST AIRLESS PRESENTATION:
WHAT MAKES IT ALL THE WORSE IS THIS MOVIE SCREAMS "PLASTICITY" WITH EVERY FIBER OF ITS BEING. THE AESTHETICS ARE A COOL-BLUE HAZY NIGHTMARE, THE FILM LOOKS LIKE ITS PRODUCTION WAS DESIGNED BY THE BASTARD THREE-WAY LOVE CHILD OF VINCENT PRICE, LIBERACE AND HOW-HULK-IMAGINES-A-REAL-HOUSEWIFE-OF-WHEREVER-DECORATES-THEIR-HOUSE-AND-SORRY-HULK-WISHES-THE-ANALOGY-WAS-BETTER-BUT-HULK-DOESN'T-WATCH-THAT-SHOW. HULK REALIZES THIS COULD ACTUALLY SOUND KIND OF FUN, BUT IT'S JUST UGLY, GARISH AND FLAT. AND IT COULD JUST BE THE BLU TRANSFER, BUT THE FILM EVEN SOUNDS UGLY, FOR IT HAS QUITE POSSIBLY SOME OF THE WORST A.D.R. THAT HULK HAS EVER HEARD IN A BIG BUDGET MOVIE (GO BACK AND WATCH THE JINX MEETING AGAIN) EVEN THE SCORE, WHICH DESPERATELY ATTEMPTS TO IMBUE THAT WHOLE "ROMANCE" THING THAT HULK SAYS IS SO IMPORTANT, BUT IT PASSES RIGHT THROUGH ROMANCE AND INTO OUTRIGHT SAP. SOMETIMES MORE THAN SAP. THERE WILL BE A PERFECTLY NORMAL CONVERSATION AND THEN THERE'S ALL THIS SWOONING MUSIC AND HULK'S LIKE "WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!??!?!" IT'S NOT LIKE THE CINEMATOGRAPHY IS JARRING ENOUGH WITH THE STRANGEST RATIO OF SHOTS TOO FAR AWAY FOR THE ACTION AND CLOSE-UPS THAT ARE WAY TOO CLOSE FOR THE ACTION; IT'S DOWNRIGHT BIZARRE. HULK KNOWS THE DIRECTOR CAN OVERRIDE A LOT OF STUFF, BUT WAIT, WHO SHOT THIS THING ANYWAY?
OH SHIT, IT'S THE GUY WHO DID THE PREQUELS. THAT HAS ALL SORTS OF DEEP RAMIFICATIONS FOR CULTURE ANDOHSHITHULK'SGETTINGOFFTRACKHERE...
SORRY. HULK DOESN'T WANT TO START BLAMING FOLKS, PARTICULARLY CREW MEMBERS FOR ANYTHING. HULK'S JUST TRYING TO BUILD UP TO A FAMILIAR POINT: IT'S NOT THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. OR THE SOUND EDITOR. OR THIS ACTOR. OR THAT ACTOR. WHILE THE DIRECTOR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FOLLOWING, IT'S STILL A LARGER ISSUE THAN THAT. LIKE THE INVISIBLE CAR, IT'S NOT THAT THE DEVICE ITSELF IS INHERENTLY PROBLEMATIC, IT'S THE ATTITUDE OF THE COLLECTIVE APPROACH.
FOR INSTANCE, DID YOU NOTICE THAT WHEN THEY TROT OUT THE CAR THERE IS THIS WHOLE "ISN'T THIS IMPRESSIVE?" PRIDE TO THE MOMENT, BUT BY PUTTING THE EFFECTS THEMSELVES FRONT AND CENTER YOU CAN ONLY NOTICE THEY ARE KIND OF TERRIBLE? IT JUST HAS THIS REMARKABLY STILTED AFFECTATION THAT'S SYMBOLIC OF THE ENTIRE FILM'S APPROACH. AND DID YOU NOTICE HOW MUCH LIP SERVICE IS GIVEN TO MODERNITY IN THAT SCENE? THE FILM IS BASICALLY OBSESSED WITH GETTING BOND TO EMBRACE MODERNITY AND STOP LOOKING AT HISTORY, BUT THE FILM ITSELF IS ALSO SO OBSESSED WITH THAT SAME HISTORY, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY HAVING NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE DYNAMIC OF MODERNITY/HISTORY WHATSOEVER. IT'S BIZARRE; JUST ONE BIG "LOOK AT THE NEAT THINGS WE CAN DO!" AND "THIS IS SORT OF BASED ON REAL SCIENCE AND REAL THINGS, BUT WE'RE JUST MILKING THAT FOR ALL IT'S WORTH WITH NO PRETENSE!" ODDLY ENOUGH, THE END RESULT IS A FILM THAT IMMEDIATELY DATES ITSELF IN THE GOOFIEST WAY POSSIBLE. INSTEAD OF GETTING A COOL SENSE OF ALL THE THINGS IN THE HISTORY AND CULTURAL SENSE OF JAMES BOND, IT'S ALL A BUNCH OF WINK, WINK, NUDGE, NUDGE REFERENCES TO THINGS FROM THE OTHER MOVIES AND WE'RE SUPPOSED TO LIKE THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE FUCKING THERE AND BEING POINTED AT AS CHARACTERS NOD AND SMILE AT US AND... AND... AND...
... SORRY. HULK IS GETTING SMASHY.
IT'S JUST THE MOVIE REALLY IS ONE OF THE LAZIEST FILMS HULK HAS EVER SEEN. HULK'S SURE THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE BEING SO CLEVER, BUT THE ARROW OF THIS FILM JUST DOESN'T HIT THE MARK, IT HITS THE GUY SITTING IN THE THIRD ROW. EVEN THE MUCH-BALLYHOOED "COOL" PRACTICAL SWORD FIGHT IS RUSHED, LACKING IN DRAMA AND VISUAL STORYTELLING SENSE. EVERY MOVE IS THE SAME KIND OF REPETITIVE INTENSITY, IT'S SHOT WITH APPROPRIATE DISTANCE YET STILL LOSES GEOGRAPHY BECAUSE IT BREAKS THE LINE TO NO TANGIBLE PURPOSE LIKE 500 TIMES, AND OH YEAH... THE ENTIRE REASON IT STARTS HAPPENING MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE IN THE NARRATIVE. AND THEN THE HILARIOUS "That's enough!" CONCLUSION JUST SEALS THE DEAL TO ITS PURPOSELESSNESS. SO NO. IT'S NOT A COOL FIGHT SCENE. THERE IS NO REASON FOR IT ON ANY LEVEL. IT IS A COOL FIGHT THAT SERVES NO FUNCTION BEYOND "HEY, YOU THINK THIS COOL, RIGHT?"
THE FILM EVEN DOES THE BROSNAN BOND ERA THING WHERE IT FOCUSES ON SOME KIND OF WORLD ISSUE TOPICALITY, BUT THIS TIME THERE IS NO REAL IMPORT TO IT. JUST SOME TINY LIP SERVICE TO CONFLICT DIAMONDS, BUT RATHER THAN DEAL WITH THE IMPLICATIONS EVEN IN A METAPHORICAL WAY, WE END UP GOING FULL-BOND-MOVIE AND THE BAD GUY GETS DIAMONDS IN HIS FACE OR WHATEVER. EVEN THE PLOT ITSELF IS A WEIRD DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER RIP-OFF THAT HULK HONESTLY CAN'T REMEMBER THE INTRICACIES OF. WHICH ALL JUST MAKES THE FACT THAT THEY BLINDLY CLUNG TO CONFLICT DIAMONDS AS A SOURCE OF LEGITIMACY ALL THE MORE HORRIBLE BECAUSE THEY JUST END UP BELITTLING THE ENTIRE ISSUE. SAME GOES FOR THE SUPER SERIOUS NORTH KOREA OPENING THAT THE FILMMAKERS WERE SO PROUD OF ('CAUSE, LIKE, SERIOUSNESS!), WHAT WITH THE TORTURE AND ALL THAT ('CAUSE OF COURSE). NOT ONLY IS THIS A TERRIBLE IDEA FOR MOST BOND MOVIES, BUT IT DOES NOT FIT ANYTHING THAT FOLLOWS IN TERMS OF TONE OR STORY OR ANYTHING WHATSOEVER. BECAUSE WE SHOULD ALL WANT OUR SILLY, POPULAR MOVIES TO OPEN WITH SHADES OF AUDITION?... ACTUALLY, HULK JUST MADE THAT SOUND WAY COOLER THAN IT IS.
THE POINT IS THAT EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS MOVIE MAKES NO SENSE IN THE CONTEXT OF THE REST OF THE MOVIE. IT'S NOT EVEN THE LOGIC OF EVENTS (THOUGH THERE'S THAT TOO), BECAUSE THE REASON IT MAKES NO SENSE IS THAT IT HAS NO CORE STORY IDENTITY OR GOAL. IT IS SIMPLY TRYING TO COMPILE BIG MOMENTS THAT ARE EITHER COMPLETELY DIFFERENT OR SERIOUS OR CLASSIC FOR THE SERIES, BUT REALLY IT'S JUST LAZILY EMBRACING ALL THE MOST ROTE ASPECTS OF THE SERIES. BUT SINCE IT GOES FULL-BOND-MOVIE IT SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE THAT FOR A TINY AMOUNT OF THE FANDOM OUT THERE...
THIS IS ACTUALLY THEIR FAVORITE BOND MOVIE EVER.
LOOK. HULK IS NOT TRYING TO BELITTLE ANYONE'S OPINION. REALLY. THIS IS JUST A WEIRD SERIES OF MOVIES. AND BECAUSE IT IS SO WEIRD AND INDULGENT, HULK MEETS PEOPLE ALL THE TIME WHO HAVE THE EXACT OPPOSITE OPINION ON EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE FILMS. AND SOMETIMES THEIR ARGUMENTS OF SUCH OPINIONS ARE TOTALLY FINE. SOMETIMES THEY FIND THE TRAINWRECK NATURE OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS AMUSING. OR MAYBE THEY CAN SEPARATE THEMSELVES FROM THE RACISM OF LIVE AND LET DIE AND EMBRACE ITS TOUR DE FORCE CINEMA. OR MAYBE THEY SOMETIMES LIKE THE GRITTY "SERIOUSIFICATION" BECAUSE IT JUST HELPS SELL THEIR FANTASY. BUT GIVEN EVERYTHING HULK HAS TRIED TO CONVEY ABOUT HOW HULK THINKS THESE MOVIES WORK AND WHY, WELL, ALL HULK CAN SAY IS THAT THE APPROACH OF DIE ANOTHER DAY JUST DOESN'T WORK FOR HULK. IT'S TOO LAZY TO EVEN BE TRASHY FUN. MOSTLY BECAUSE THERE'S NOT A HINT OF EARNESTNESS FROM ANYONE EXCEPT A FEW OF THE BAD GUYS (ROSAMUND PIKE'S MIRANDA FROST REALLY HAS TO BE SINGLED OUT FOR GIVING IT HER ALL. SHE'S NOT ONLY THE BEST PART OF THE MOVIE, SHE LAPS EVERYONE ELSE LIKE FORTY TIMES). AND AGAIN, YOU'RE WELCOME TO LIKE THIS FILM AND EXPLAIN YOUR REASONS WHY, BUT TO HULK'S IT'S NOT EVEN REALLY A MOVIE.
IT'S AN INDULGENCE FACTORY.
AND IT INDULGES EVERY MOMENT IT CAN FOR THIS, THE MOST INDULGENT MOVIE SERIES OF ALL TIME. AND IN THAT PROCESS IT GOES TO SOME VERY UGLY PLACES. WHETHER IT IS UNDERMINING SERIOUS WORLD ISSUES OR SAYING TERRIBLE THINGS ABOUT WOMEN, THE FAULT, LIKE EVERYTHING IN THIS DIRECTOR-DEPENDENT SERIES, HAS TO LIE WITH LEE TAMAHORI. BECAUSE, HEY, THE WRITERS ARE THE SAME GUYS WHO WROTE ALL THE BROSNAN BONDS, RIGHT? WHICH DOESN'T MEAN THEY DIDN'T DROP THE BALL HERE, BUT IT ALSO COMES DOWN TO TAMAHORI'S CHOICES WITH THIS FILM.
BUT DOUBLE-HEY, SOMETIMES SEEMINGLY GOOD DECISIONS CAN CREATE PROBLEMS, TOO. FOR INSTANCE, IF WE'RE GOING WITH THE THEORY THAT EVERY BOND FILM IS AN OVERREACTION TO THE BIGGEST CRITICISM OF THE LAST ONE (THE DENISE RICHARDS DEBACLE), THEN IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE THAT THE PRODUCERS WERE LOOKING FOR A REALLY STRONG ACTRESS WHO COULD COME INTO THE SERIES AND NOT ONLY MAKE IT SING, BUT MAYBE EVEN BE BOND'S EQUAL IN EVERY WAY.
THUS, THEY WENT RIGHT FOR HALLE BERRY.
LIKE, RIGHT FOR HER.
ON PAPER, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS DECISION IS GREAT. SHE'S STRONG-WILLED. MODERN. CONSIDERED A "POST-RACIAL" FIGURE (A MOVING TARGET OF A WORD IF THERE EVER WAS ONE, SO PLEASE ACCEPT THAT AS THE WORD POP CULTURE WAS HELL-BENT ON USING). SHE WAS EVEN COMING OFF AN OSCAR. HER STAR WAS TRULY BRIGHT. AND SHE PROJECTED THE KIND OF HEART AND ETHOS THAT THIS SERIES DESPERATELY NEEDED AT THE TIME. HULK EVEN REMEMBERS ONE OF THE PRODUCERS MAKING A DIANA RIGG COMPARISON AND WANTING TO HEARKEN BACK TO ALL OF THAT.
... THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT THEY GOT ALL OF IT WRONG.
IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE THAT THERE ARE ONLY A FEW STALWART EXAMPLES OF BOND GIRLS IN THIS ENTIRE SERIES. AFTER ALL, USUALLY THE BOND GIRL IS AN UP-AND-COMER OF SORTS, WHETHER A YOUNG ACTRESS OR FAMOUS MODEL OR SOMETHING. BUT WHAT MADE DIANA RIGG STAND OUT WAS THAT SHE WAS 1) A TRUE BLUE STAR 2) A GREAT ACTRESS 3) WRITTEN AS AN ACTUAL WOMAN AND 4) INTEGRAL TO THE PLOT AND CHARACTER ARC. BUT REALLY, SHE WAS A FORCE OF NATURE. A VIBRANT PERSONALITY WHO COULD GO TOE-TO-TOE WITH BOND IN THE VERBAL ARENAS, DRIVE A MEAN GETAWAY CAR AND EVEN BE HEARTFELT AND ROMANTIC... CUT TO A FEW DECADES LATER, THE BOND TEAM IS FINALLY IN A SITUATION WHERE THEY WANT TO MAKE HALLE BERRY'S CHARACTER "JINX" BE JAMES BOND'S EQUAL, TOO. BUT RATHER THAN THINK ABOUT THEIR CONFLICT OR DYNAMIC OR ANY OF THAT GOOD STUFF, THEY BASICALLY JUST HAVE HER KICK PEOPLE (I.E. MADE STRONG IN A SINGULARLY DUMB MASCULINE WAY) AND HAVE HER BE JAMES BOND'S SIDEKICK WITHOUT ANY REAL PERSONALITY OR EMOTIONS OF HER OWN.
ASIDE FROM THE FACT THAT THIS IS DOWNRIGHT MISGUIDED, AND ALL PART AND PARCEL OF THE NONSENSICAL WAY WE THINK ABOUT MODERN FEMALE EMPOWERMENT (IT HAS TO DO WITH HOW KICK-ASS THEY ARE! YOU KNOW, LIKE GUYS!). IT IS ALSO A COMPLETE WASTE OF HALLE BERRY AND HER SKILL SETS. HERE THEY WERE, WANTING TO CAPTURE EVERY BIT OF HER "IT GIRL" (IT WOMAN) STATUS AND GIVE HER TONS OF SCREEN TIME AND THEY DID EVERYTHING, SAVE WRITING HER AN ACTUAL ROLE. IT'S ENRAGING. AND PERHAPS THE MOST TELLING PART IS THAT THEY WERE SO COCKSURE ABOUT HER CHARACTER AND HOW KICK-ASS SHE WAS THAT THEY WERE GOING TO SPIN HER OFF INTO HER OWN CHARACTER'S MOVIE SERIES. HECK, SHE EVEN SHARED THE POSTER WITH BOND...
LOOKING BACK ON IT ALL NOW IT SEEMS SO INFINITELY HOLLOW, DOESN'T IT? IT WAS ALL CALCULATED BEFOREHAND, WITHOUT EVER BEING WRITTEN OR MADE REAL. HULK CONSIDERS THIS THE VERY DEFINITION OF MISGUIDED ENTERTAINMENT. WE REALLY HAVE TO SEE WHAT PEOPLE LIKE AND RESPOND TO. BECAUSE THIS IS NOTHING BUT HYPE AND ASSUMPTION OF EMPATHY. IT'S ALMOST A SOCIOPATHIC APPROACH TO CHARACTER AND PROPERTY CREATION.
WHICH KIND OF JUST MAKES IT A GREATER SHAME BECAUSE, AGAIN, ROSAMUND PIKE IS GREAT IN THIS MOVIE. TAKE A LOOK AS SHE CHEWS THE WALLS:
NOTICE HOW EVERYTHING AROUND HER IS PRETTY TERRIBLE, BUT SHE'S NOT LETTING THAT SHIT STICK TO HER? HULK WOULD LOVE TO CONVINCE YOU THAT THIS IS SOME OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE ACTING YOU CAN DO. AND IT'S WHY HER PERFORMANCE IN THIS FILM FASCINATES HULK.
THE PROVERBIAL FLOWER GROWING OUT OF THE SHIT PILE.
* * *
IN THE END, THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH DIE ANOTHER DAY MIGHT BE THE LEGACY IT LEAVES FOR BROSNAN. HIS BOND CAME OUT OF THE GATE SWINGING, WHAT WITH THE INCREDIBLE BUNGEE JUMP AND THE TERRIFIC FIRST MOVIE THAT FOLLOWED. THEN WE GOT A POLISHED BUT HOLLOW EFFORT. THEN A MIXED BAG OF AWKWARDNESS. AND THEN FINALLY, A GENUINELY TERRIBLE ENTRY IN THE SERIES. AND THE SAD THING ABOUT ACTORS IN THE BOND MOVIES IS THAT WE REALLY DO LARGELY REMEMBER THE HURTFUL STING OF THEIR LAST EFFORTS. FOR SOME FOLKS, CONNERY IS DEFINED BY THE SAD RAMBLING OF DIAMONDS OR ESPECIALLY NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. WE ALSO REMEMBER LAZENBY THROUGH THE FAILURE OF OMHSS. WE REMEMBER TIRED, OLD ROGER MOORE FROM THE HOLLOW A VIEW TO A KILL. AND WE REMEMBER DALTON BY THE GRIM AND UNEVEN LICENSE TO KILL. THESE FILMS STICK WITH US GOOD OR BAD. AND SADLY FOR BROSNAN, HE WILL BE LARGELY DEFINED BY THE WAY HIS FILMS FAILED TO LIVE UP TO THE PROMISE OF THE FIRST ONE. WHICH, AGAIN IS TOTALLY NOT FAIR BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS BRINGING IT IN TERMS OF WHAT HE DOES. IT'S JUST THAT WE ALSO ESTABLISHED THAT HE'S THE KIND OF BOND WHO IS TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON HIS MATERIAL. HULK WOULD LOVE TO REMEMBER HIM JUST FOR GOLDENEYE, BUT HULK KNOWS THE STING OF DIE ANOTHER DAY WILL LAST WITH SOME PEOPLE FOREVER. NONE OF WHICH IS HIS FAULT. IT'S JUST THE WAY THIS SERIES GOES.
YOU KNOW, PERHAPS THE EVOLUTION OF THE BROSNAN ERA CAN ALL SUMMED UP WITH THE FOLLOWING SUPER-CUT OF ALL OF HIS SCENES OF SAMANTHA BOND'S MONEYPENNY. NOW YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT HULK HASN'T TALKED ABOUT THE BROSNAN ERA MONEYPENNY AT ALL IN THESE ESSAYS. THAT'S BECAUSE, WHILE HULK LIKES SAMANTHA BOND A GREAT DEAL, TO BE HONEST, HULK ACTUALLY FORGOT THAT SHE PLAYED MONEYPENNY IN THESE FOUR FILMS AND DURING THE RE-WARCH, IT WAS NECESSARY TO WAIT TO TALK ABOUT TILL NOW. SO WATCH THE WAY THIS ALL MOVES AND TELL HULK IT'S NOT SYMBOLIC OF HOW THE BROSNAN BONDS EVOLVED. WE GO FROM THE FIRST SCENE'S GREAT AND POINTED BANTER TO SOME LAME COCK JOKES TO... WELL, JUST WATCH.
THAT LAST SCENE...
THAT LAST SCENE EMBODIES ALL OF HULK'S PROBLEMS WITH THIS FILM.
AND WHEN HULK TALKS ABOUT INDULGENT, THIS IS WHAT HULK IS TALKING ABOUT. YOU FIGURE THEY WERE ALL HIGH ON THEMSELVES AND LOOKING AT HISTORY WITH THIS BEING "THE TWENTIETH BOND" AND SO THERE WAS A LAST MINUTE CHANGE OF SCRIPT WHERE THEY WERE LIKE "HEY, LET'S JUST FINALLY SHOW BOND FUCKING MONEYPENNY! EVERYONE WILL LOVE IT AND BE LIKE 'FINALLY!' AND STUFF!" ... AND THEN OF COURSE IT'S ONLY A V.R. FAKE-OUT. EVEN THEN, IT'S STILL THE MOST SHORT-SIGHTED, INDULGENT THING EVER. NOT JUST BECAUSE THE IDEA OF THE 2OTH BOND IS COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS TO US NOW THAT THERE HAVE BEEN 23 OF THEM (THIS WHOLE NUMERAL VALUE IS HYPE AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND PROMOTION). IT'S THAT THE SCENE IS APROPOS OF NOTHING AND SERVES NO NARRATIVE FUNCTION OTHER THAN "OH SNAP!" AND FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY, TO SIMPLY GIVE INTO ONE OF THE GREAT UNSPOKEN RELATIONSHIPS, EVEN ON A FAKE LEVEL, IS HORRIBLE, NOT JUST BECAUSE IT'S A CHANGE OF THE ESTABLISHED ORDER, BUT BECAUSE IT SO INTENSELY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE OF THE RELATIONSHIP IN THE FIRST PLACE.
HULK EXPLAINED IT BEFORE WITH THE DEPARTURE OF LOIS MAXWELL, BUT THERE IS PURPOSE TO THAT DISTANCE. THERE IS PURPOSE TO HER FLIRTING AND DISAPPROVAL. TO ALL OF IT. AND SO TO DO WHAT THEY JUST DID, TO MAKE THE FANTASY EXPLICIT IN A WAY THAT UNDERMINES HER ENTIRE IDENTITY, AND TO DO IT IN SUCH AN INDULGENT AND THOUGHTLESS WAY... HULK BELIEVES IT IS THE SINGLE MOST INDULGENT DECISION IN THE MOST INDULGENT MOVIE IN THE MOST INDULGENT MOVIE SERIES EVER MADE. MONEYPENNY REALLY DOES MATTER. SHE IS THE VERY EMBODIMENT OF HOW WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL ABOUT JAMES BOND.
SO IF YOU DO IT WITH MONEYPENNY, YOU'RE REALLY JUST FUCKING YOURSELF.
21. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
LET'S SHAKE THE LAST ONE OFF, SHALL WE?
* * *
THE WORD "REBOOT" HAS BECOME A STRANGE ONE IN OUR CINEMA-GOING VOCABULARY. IT'S FUNNY TO THINK JUST HOW DIFFERENT THINGS WERE AS LITTLE AS NINE YEARS AGO. LEST WE FORGET, A REBOOT WAS PRETTY MUCH A FOREIGN CONCEPT TO MOVIE AUDIENCES AT THE TIME. AND WHILE THE DEVICE WAS A FAIRLY COMMON TACTIC IN COMICS (ALBEIT WITH FIRST ISSUE LANGUAGE), HULK REMEMBERS REGULAR MOVIE-GOERS HAVING TO BE EXPLAINED THAT NOLAN'S NEW BATMAN FILM WOULD ACTUALLY BE STARTING THINGS OVER. WHICH IS ACTUALLY THE ENTIRE REASON WE GOT A LAME, ON-THE-NOSE TITLE OF BATMAN BEGINS. TO BE FAIR, IN THAT CASE, THE REBOOT WAS TRULY NECESSARY. WE WERE COMING OUT OF THE BLOAT OF 90'S SEQUEL FATIGUE AND BATMAN AND ROBIN HAD DONE SO MUCH (CONCEPTUAL) DAMAGE THAT THE SERIES NEEDED TO START FROM SCRATCH. AND AFTER THE ROUSING (CONCEPTUAL) SUCCESS OF THE FILM, STUDIOS FELT INSPIRED (AND KEEP IN MIND HULK KEEPS SAYING CONCEPTUAL BECAUSE IT WAS PERCEIVED AS A SUCCESS DESPITE FLYING OFF THE RAILS WITH THE ACTUAL EXECUTION AND NOT DOING AS SOLID BUSINESS AS PEOPLE THINK). SADLY, THE INSPIRATION DIDN'T LAST THAT LONG, AS REBOOTING SOON BECAME HOLLYWOOD'S QUICK-FIX FOR ANY FRANCHISE THAT WAS ANYTHING OTHER THAN A ROUSING SUCCESS AT THE TIME. MEANING NINE YEARS LATER AND WE'VE GOT A CASE OF REBOOT FATIGUE THE SAME WAY WE DID WITH SEQUEL FATIGUE. THIS SIMPLE FACT ILLUSTRATES THE ONGOING PROBLEM OF HOLLYWOOD: THERE IS NO CONCEPT IN FILMMAKING THAT IS INHERENTLY PROBLEMATIC, THERE IS ONLY OUR UNDERSTANDABLE FATIGUE WITH HOLLYWOOD RUNNING THOSE CONCEPTS INTO THE GROUND IN A HOLLOW AND UNJUSTIFIED MANNER. JUST MORE FORM OVER FUNCTION, FOLKS!
BUT BACK WHEN WE WERE IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF REBOOTS (WHICH ALMOST LASTED, LIKE, 2 WHOLE YEARS!) IT WAS CASINO ROYALE THAT ACTUALLY SERVED AS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO DO IT WELL. THE PRODUCERS LOOKED AT THE OVERT-CGI JOKE-FEST OF DIE ANOTHER DAY AND REALIZED THEY NEEDED TO GET BACK TO THE CORE OF THE CHARACTER. AND NOT IN THE GADGETS AND GIRLS SENSE, OR WITH CHEESY REFERENCE-Y SENSE OF HISTORY, BUT JUST BY MAKING A REAL FUCKING MOVIE WITH ACTUAL CHARACTERIZATION, IMPORT, STAKES AND ALL THAT OTHER GOOD STUFF. THEY BASICALLY SALTED THE EARTH AND RE-CASTED EVERYTHING (SAVE JUDI DENCH) AND BROUGHT US RIGHT INTO THE GENESIS STORY, COMPLETE WITH THE DAWN OF BOND BEING MADE A DOUBLE-0 AGENT. BUT THIS WASN'T JUST A LOGIC THING. THE FILM UNDERSTOOD THAT THE SENTIMENTALITY OF WHAT MAKES BOND "BOND" WAS AN ORGANIC THING THAT WE HAD TO REDISCOVER. THE KNEW THEY COULDN'T JUST CREATE BOND USING THE REFERENCES TO THE STUFF HE DID IN THOSE OTHER MOVIES, AND INSTEAD THEY THOUGHT LONG AND HARD ABOUT HOW TO CREATE BOND IN AN EFFECTIVE CHARACTER SENSE. AND THAT MEANT FIGURING OUT WHO BOND IS, WHAT HE WANTS, WHAT HE FEARS, WHAT HE MEANS TO US, AND HOW HE IS GOING TO EVOLVE. AND IN DOING SO, THEY CRAFTED A GENUINE CHARACTER, A BOND WITHOUT OBLIGATORY NEEDS, OR GESTURES, BUT INSTEAD HIS OWN REALITY.
THE CHOICE PAID OFF... BECAUSE HULK AND A LOT OF OTHERS FUCKING LOVE THIS FILM.
IN FACT, HULK THINKS IT'S THE BEST BOND FILM IN FOUR DECADES, PUTTING IT JUST BEHIND ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE AND FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. AND WHO KNOWS? MAYBE TIME WILL BE EVEN KINDER TO IT. BUT TO BE HONEST, HULK HAS NO INTEREST IN REALLY DISCUSSING THE MERITS OF "ZOMG, WHAT'S THE BEST BOND!?!?! LET'S ARGUE!!!" THAT GAME JUST SEEMS LIKE NO FUN AND LESS PRODUCTIVE.
SO INSTEAD LET'S TALK ABOUT WHY THIS FILM WORKS SO WELL.
LIKE HOW BOUT THIS GUY.
LOOKING BACK, IT'S HILARIOUS THAT ANYONE THOUGHT DANIEL CRAIG WOULD BE A BAD BOND. DO YOU REMEMBER THE RIDICULOUSLY INSANE "CRAIG NOT BOND" CAMPAIGN? THE ONE PREDICATED ON THE IDEA THAT DANIEL CRAIG COULDN'T BE BOND BECAUSE HE HAD BLONDE HAIR?!?!?! WELL, IF ANYTHING EVER HELPED ARGUE FOR HULK'S THEORY THAT MOST POPULAR CRITICISM IS BASED ON TANGIBLE DETAILS (AND ALSO THAT THE BOND SERIES IS SO INDULGENT THAT IT HAS HYPER INDULGENCE-CRAVING FANS), IT WAS THAT WEIRDO CAMPAIGN; ONE THAT ACTUALLY GOT A STRANGE AMOUNT OF ATTENTION AND SUPPORT!
THAT IS UNTIL THE MOVIE CAME OUT AND EVERYONE REALIZED THAT DANIEL CRAIG WAS FUCKING AWESOME. BUT, KUDOS TO THAT SITE, BECAUSE THEY SURE KEPT AT IT! SERIOUSLY, AFTER THE RELEASE THEY KEPT ARGUING THAT THE FILM WAS TERRIBLE AND THAT THE FILM'S MASSIVE SUCCESS WASN'T ACTUALLY MASSIVE BECAUSE IT KEPT "LOSING" AT THE BOX OFFICE TO HAPPY FEET. YEAH. CRAZY STUFF. AND GUESS WHAT? THE SITE WAS STILL ACTIVE THROUGH LAST YEAR! AND IT'S PRETTY DUMBFOUNDING... HOW TO PUT IT... SO HULK IS ALWAYS WAAAAAAAY HESITANT TO ACCUSE PEOPLE OF THE FOLLOWING DYNAMIC, BUT THE PEOPLE RUNNING THIS SITE REALLY SEEM TO JUST BE OPERATING ON THE ACCEPTED GIVEN THAT ALL DANIEL CRAIG THINGS HAVE TO BE BAD AND THEN JUST WORKING BACKWARDS WITH EVERY BIT OF NEWS OR WHATEVER AND CRAFTING ARGUMENTS THAT FIT THAT LOGIC. THEY'RE LIKE THE FOX NEWS OF BOND WEBSITES.
ANYCRAP, THE POINT OF HULK MENTIONING ALL THIS ABSURDITY IS THAT, BY ALL CONCEIVABLE OBJECTIVE RATIONALE HULK CAN THINK OF, CRAIG IS UNQUESTIONABLY GREAT. ON THE SURFACE, SURE. HE'S ATYPICAL OF THE ROLE. A BRUISER WITH CRACKED FEATURES AND PIERCING BLUE EYES (HONESTLY, HE'S MORE OF AN ARCHETYPAL FIT FOR THE JACK REACHER NOVELS THAN JAMES BOND). BUT THE OBVIOUS KEY TO HIS SUCCESS IS THAT CRAIG'S JUST A GREAT FUCKING ACTOR. HE DOESN'T HAVE TIMOTHY DALTON'S AIR OF PRESTIGE, OR CONNERY'S CHARM OR BROSNAN'S EASE, BUT HE CERTAINLY HAS A HECK OF A LOT MORE DEXTERITY THAN ANY OF THEM. CRAIG'S BOND CAN CONVINCINGLY BE ANYTHING: SMART, WITTY, STUPID, BRUTISH, SMOOTH, VULNERABLE, TRAGIC, TRIUMPHANT, EVEN A RUNAWAY FREIGHT TRAIN OF ACTION IF THE MOMENT CALLS FOR IT.
AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, BUT HIS GREAT PERFORMANCE WORKS FOR THIS SERIES LIKE A MAGIC ELIXIR. WHICH MAKES IT ALL THE WEIRDER THAT WE ALWAYS THOUGHT ACTORS CAN COAST BY ON PERSONALITY IN THIS SERIES. IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE THE OPPOSITE BECAUSE IT TAKES A LOT TO SELL THE RIDICULOUS AND PLAY IT STRAIGHT. AND CRAIG'S PERFORMANCE PROVIDES THE PERFECT BACKBONE TO TRULY MAKE US BELIEVE IN THE REALITY OF THE MOMENT. WHICH AGAIN IS SO CRITICAL TO FILMMAKING IN GENERAL, BUT ESPECIALLY HERE BECAUSE BOND FILMS ARE INHERENTLY DRIPPING IN UNREALITY. MEANING, YES, CRAIG SELLS US THE INVISIBLE CAR. AND THE MOVIE IS SO SMART IN KNOWING HOW EXACTLY TO TOE THE LINE IN ACCORDANCE. INSTEAD OF GOING FULL-BOND-MOVIE, IT TAKES ALL THOSE FAMILIAR CONVENTIONS AND MAKES THEM FEEL LIKE MERE FLIRTATIONS. THE BAD GUY'S BLOODY EYE, THE VODKA MARTINI JOKE, THE CONVO ABOUT THE UTTERANCE OF HIS NAME, ALL THE BONDNESS IS CERTAINLY PRESENT AND DISCUSSED, BUT NEVER OUTRIGHT META. THE MOVIE SIMPLY PUSHES IT TO THE EDGES SO THAT THE MOVIE ITSELF CAN STAND OUT. WHICH MAKES IT THE MOST PROPER REACTION TO DIE ANOTHER DAY POSSIBLE. WE GO FROM ANTI-MOVIE TO ACTUAL MOVIE. AND LUCKILY FOR US, PART OF MAKING A REAL-DEAL BOND MOVIE MEANS THAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY INTERESTED IN THE GRAND HOLLYWOOD TRADITION OF ENTERTAINING US WITH THINGS ONLY HOLLYWOOD CAN DO.
LIKE GIVING US SOME ACTION SEQUENCES THAT ARE FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
THE FIRST BLACK-AND-WHITE BATHROOM FIGHT, WHILE NOT DESIGNED TO "WOW," IS INSTEAD HELLBENT ON BEING FUNCTIONAL AND VISCERAL IN ORDER TO RIGHTLY ESTABLISH THE NEW TONE. BUT THEN THE PARKOUR CHASE COMES IN RIGHT AFTER AND BLOWS THE DOORS OFF EVERYTHING.
WHILE IT'S SAD THAT PARKOUR KIND OF BECAME A FAD ACTION TACTIC, IT WAS DONE HERE WITH SO MUCH TACT AND GREAT BEAT-FOR-BEAT MOMENTS THAT IT IS EASILY THE MOST EXHILARATING ACTION SEQUENCE HULK HAS SEEN IN THE LAST DECADE. MAYBE MORE. AND IT'S NOT SOME OVERTLY MODERN, CGI-LADEN CRAP-FEST. INSTEAD, IT'S SUBTLE, COMPLETELY ALLOWING IT TO EMPHASIZE THE GRAND TRADITION OF BOND STUNTS! WITH EXCLAMATION! HOW RARE IS IT THAT EVERY JUMP MAKES YOU GENUINELY FEAR FOR THE CHARACTERS? SORRY, HULK CAN'T SHUT UP ABOUT THE PERFECT CRAFT OF THE SEQUENCE: CLEAR INFORMATION WITH GREAT VISUAL A-TO-B STORYTELLING, WONDERFUL PUNCTUATION MARKS, AND PROPULSIVE-BUT-NON-AGGRESSIVE EDITING. WHAT'S FUNNY IS THAT AT THE TIME A LOT OF PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT THIS FILM BEING MADE IN THE IMAGE OF THE BOURNE MOVIES, BUT THAT'S JUST A CASE OF POPULAR BUZZWORDISM. WHEN YOU ACTUALLY LOOK AT THE STYLE THE CONNECTION COULDN'T BE ANY MORE DISTANT, BOTH IN TERMS OF THE ACTION ITSELF AND THE KIND OF MOVIE THEY WERE MAKING. THIS FILM IS ITS OWN.
AND FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THE SERIES, WE HAVE MARTIN CAMPBELL TO THANK.
HE SAVED JAMES BOND TWICE. ISN'T THAT KIND OF REMARKABLE? AND REALLY, HE'S HAD A FASCINATING CAREER, HASN'T HE? HE EMERGED OUT OF TV WITH SOME FORGETTABLE LEGAL THRILLERS AND A RAY LIOTTA DYSTOPIAN PRISON MOVIE AND SOMEHOW GOT THE GOLDENEYE JOB. HULK PREVIOUSLY EXPLAINED JUST HOW ACUTELY THAT FIRST FILM BALANCES TONES TO WILD SUCCESS, BUT IT'S WORTH SAYING AGAIN AND AGAIN. AND IN THE WAKE OF THAT FILM HE MADE THE CHARMING-AS-ALL-HELL THE MASK OF ZORRO. AND THEN ADMITTEDLY HE GOT TRIPPED UP WITH A MOUNTAIN CLIMBING ACTIONER IN VERTICAL LIMIT (WHICH ACTUALLY HAS SOME NICE STUFF IN IT), AS WELL AS ANGELINA JOLIE'S VANITY VEHICLE BEYOND BORDERS. THEN ONE ZORROSEQUEL LATER, HE RETURNED TO THE FRANCHISE TO MAKE UNQUESTIONABLY THE BEST FILM OF HIS CAREER. WHERE GOLDENEYE WORKED BECAUSE IT TURNED THE TANGIBLE CRAZINESS INTO A GAME OF SPINNING PLATES, CASINO ROYALE SUCCEEDS WITH A LARGELY STRAIGHTFORWARD, CLASSIC APPROACH TO STORYTELLING. AND WHILE THE MOVIE PLAYS IT STRAIGHT, DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND THAT IT PLAYS IT "GRITTY" OR "REAL" OR "DOUR." THE MOVIE IS AS MUCH ABOUT THE ROMANCE OF JAMES BOND AS IT CAN BE, IT JUST GETS THERE WITH CAREFUL CHARACTERIZATION AND THOUGHTFUL IDEAS. AGAIN, IT'S ALL FUNCTION.
BUT IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE STORY; IT'S WHAT THAT STORY MEANS.
THROUGHOUT THE LAST FEW YEARS, HULK KEEPS MAINTAINING THAT THE WAY TO MAKE A TRULY GREAT FILM THAT ACTUALLY STICKS IN PEOPLE'S BRAINS IS TO REACH THEM WITH RESONANT THEMES AND IDEAS. SOMETIMES PEOPLE ROLL THEIR EYES AT HULK SAYING THAT, THINKING THAT THEME AND SYMBOLISM IS NOT ALL THAT CRITICAL. BUT WHEN A MOVIE NOT ONLY ENTERTAINS US, BUT SPEAKS TO US, OR HAS SOMETHING INTERESTING TO SAY, EVEN IF WE ARE LARGELY UNAWARE OF IT, THEN HULK TRULY BELIEVES THAT IT BECOMES WHAT COMPELS US MOST. IT REACHES DOWN INTO US AND COMMENTS ON OUR EXPERIENCES. WE SUDDENLY HAVE A WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD MORE CLEARLY. AND OFTEN THESE SORTS OF THEMES GO FAR BEYOND THE CLUNKY TOPICALITY OF THE BROSNAN MOVIES (DIAMOND TRADING IS BAD!), BUT INSTEAD ENGAGE US IN MORE INTERESTING WAYS.
WHICH ALLOWS US TO REALIZE THAT CASINO ROYALE IS A FILM ABOUT MASCULINITY.
IT'S ABOUT MASCULINITY IN NEARLY EVERY CONCEIVABLE FORM. WE ARE INTRODUCED TO JAMES BOND THE FREIGHT-TRAIN. COCKY. UNSURE. BARGING THROUGH WALLS. HE EVEN HAS HIS FIRST FIGHT SLAMMING ANOTHER DUDE INTO A URINAL. THERE'S NO PLACE TO PUT IT, IT'S ALL ERUPTING OUT OF HIM. BUT THIS IS THE CONFIDENCE OF YOUTH. IT'S BRASH. UNCONTROLLED. LACKING NUANCE AND POLISH. BUT SOON HE STARTS TO GROW, THROUGH THE MEETING OF A SELF-ASSURED WOMAN. THROUGH HIS EXPERIENCES OF LOSS AND SUFFERING. BUT PLEASE DON'T MISTAKE THIS FILM FOR ONE ABOUT THE MAKING OF A COMPLETE MAN. REALLY, THIS IS AN HONEST LOOK AT THE CREATION OF A DAMAGED MAN. A MAN WHO LOSES AS MUCH HUMANITY AS HE GAINS. A MAN WHO QUITE LITERALLY HAS HIS MASCULINITY BEATEN FROM HIM... YOU KNOW, LIKE WHEN HIS COCK GETS REPEATEDLY BATTERED AND HE'S LEFT IN A WHEELCHAIR? YEAH, THE MESSAGE IS NOT EXACTLY SUBTLE, BUT IT ISN'T MAKING THE MISTAKE OF VERBALIZING THIS STUFF THROUGH DIALOGUE EITHER. THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW A MAN COMES TO DEAL WITH JUVENILE ANGST AND FILTERS THAT ANGER INTO HIS SITUATION, BOTH TO GOOD AND BAD EFFECT. IT'S ALSO ABOUT HOW THAT ANGER MAKES HIM DIRECT THINGS INWARD. AND HOW THAT INWARD RAGE CAN PROJECT OUTWARD IN ALL MANNERS OF MASCULINE BEING.
... THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW JAMES BONDS ARE MADE.
AND WHAT THE FILM REALIZES IS THAT THE OTHER HALF OF THAT STORY IS ABOUT VESPER LYND.
BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE: VESPER IS NOT A WAIF OF VACUOUS PROJECTION, NOR MERELY A VOLUPTUOUS OBJECT OF AFFECTION, NOR A HARPY, NOR A PROP OF FEMININITY, NOR AN AWKWARD SYMBOL, NOR AN IMPOSSIBLE FOIL FOR OUR MAIN MAN TO REALIZE SOMETHING. SHE IS A PERSON, FULLY-FORMED. AND YET SHE IS BOTH STRONG AND FEMININE. NOT IN THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE OPPOSITES, BUT STRONG AT TIMES IN THE WAY MEN ARE STRONG AND STRONG IN THE WAY THAT WOMEN ARE STRONG IN THE GENDER NORMATIVE SENSE. SHE HAS MOMENTS OF WEAKNESS IN BOTH THOSE NORMS TOO. STORY-WISE, SHE IS A FEMME FATALE, BUT SHE ALSO DESPERATELY DOES NOT WANT TO BE ONE. SHE IS BOTH UN-POSSESSED BY JAMES, YET HOPELESSLY POSSESSED TO THE CONDITIONS OF HER SITUATION. AND YET HER EMERGING LOVE FOR JAMES IS A REAL KIND OF LOVE, AT LEAST AS CLOSE AS JAMES MAY EVER SEE. AND FEW THINGS FIT JUST HOW FAR JAMES COMES IN THIS MOVIE, AND HOW FAR HE MAY NEVER GO AGAIN, AS WHEN HE TRIES TO SAVE HER IN THAT WATER, ONE OF THE FEW IMAGES OF JAMES BOND DESPERATELY GRABBING FOR A HUMAN CONNECTION... AGAIN, IT'S NOT AS IF HULK IS TRYING TO ARGUE THAT VESPER LYND IS THE MODEL FOR MODERN FEMINISM, BUT SHE IS INSTEAD A COMMENT ON BOND GIRLS THEMSELVES. FOR VESPER IS SOMEONE WITH TRUE HUMANITY BEING FORCED INTO AN UGLY ROLE. SOMEONE WHO IS PUNISHED FOR LOVING AND FORCED TO BE A PAWN IN A LARGER GAME. THIS IS NOT A STATEMENT OF HOW IT IS, THIS IS A STATEMENT OF HOW AWFUL IT IS. AND IT COMES TO FRUITION THROUGH THE FACT THAT SHE IS A FULLY-REALIZED CHARACTER. ONE WHO SO CLEARLY BOTH PLAYS INTO AND EVISCERATES JAMES BOND'S ILLUSIONS OF MASCULINITY, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY EVISCERATING THE NOTIONS OF THE SACRED FEMININE. AND ALL THE WHILE, EVA GREEN IS ENRAPTURING, MESMERIZING, EASILY THE BEST BOND GIRL SINCE DIANA RIGG. IF HULK KEEPS SAYING THE BEST BOND FILMS ARE ROMANCES, THAN NEEDLESS TO SAY THEY FIGURED OUT ONE HECK OF A BRILLIANT THROUGH-LINE FOR THIS EFFORT.
THE FILM IS THE MOST HONEST KIND OF ROMANCE THE SERIES CAN OFFER: DEEPLY FELT, COMPLEX, TRAGIC AND ALWAYS HINTING AT THE LARGER FORCES AT PLAY. LIKE ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, IT IS WILLING TO DIG INTO THE DEEP TISSUE OF WHO BOND IS AND GET REAL ABOUT THE SERIES' TREATMENT OF WOMEN, EVEN TRYING TO CREATE A RESPONSIBLE APPROPRIATION FOR IT. AND IF THAT APPROPRIATION IS FLAWED, IT'S LARGELY BECAUSE THE WORLD IS FLAWED IN THE SAME WAY. FOR THIS APPROPRIATION IS ONE THAT BOTH UPHOLDS THE ICONOGRAPHY OF THE CHARACTER AND YET ULTIMATELY TRANSFORMS THE MESSAGE SURROUNDING HIM.
IN THAT RESPECT, IT IS BRILLIANT.
"WE GOT THIS"
From Russia, with Love is the fifth novel by the English author Ian Fleming to feature his fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond. Fleming wrote the story in early 1956 at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica; at the time he thought it might be his final Bond book. The novel was first published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape on 8 April 1957.
The story centres on a plot by SMERSH, the Soviet counter-intelligence agency, to assassinate Bond in such a way as to discredit both him and his organisation. As bait, the Russians use a beautiful cipher clerk and the Spektor, a Soviet decoding machine. Much of the action takes place in Istanbul and on the Orient Express. The book was inspired by Fleming's visit to Turkey on behalf of The Sunday Times to report on an Interpol conference; he returned to Britain by the Orient Express. From Russia, with Love deals with the East–West tensions of the Cold War, and the decline of British power and influence in the post-Second World War era.
From Russia, with Love received broadly positive reviews at the time of publication. The book's sales were boosted by an advertising campaign that played upon a visit by the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden to Fleming's Goldeneye estate, and the publication of an article in Life, which listed From Russia, with Love as one of US President John F. Kennedy's ten favourite books. The story was serialised in the Daily Express newspaper, first in an abridged, multi-part form and then as a comic strip. In 1963 it was adapted into the second film in the Bond series, starring Sean Connery.
Not that it matters, but a great deal of the background to this story is accurate. ... SMERSH, a contraction of Smiert Spionam—Death to Spies—exists and remains today the most secret department of the Soviet government.
SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, plans to commit a grand act of terrorism in the intelligence field. For this, it targets the British secret service agent James Bond. Due in part to his role in the defeat of the SMERSH agents Le Chiffre, Mr Big and Hugo Drax, Bond has been listed as an enemy of the Soviet state and a "death warrant" is issued for him. His death is planned to precipitate a major sex scandal, which will run in the world press for months and leave his and his service's reputations in tatters. Bond's killer is to be the SMERSH executioner Red Grant, a psychopath whose homicidal urges coincide with the full moon. Kronsteen, SMERSH's chess-playing master planner, and Colonel Rosa Klebb, the head of Operations and Executions, devise the operation. They instruct an attractive young cipher clerk, Corporal Tatiana Romanova, to falsely defect from her post in Istanbul having, she would claim, fallen in love with Bond after seeing a photograph on his file. As an added lure for Bond, Romanova will provide the British with a Spektor, a Russian decoding device much coveted by MI6. She is not told the details of the plan.
The offer of defection is received by MI6 in London, ostensibly from Romanova, but is conditional that Bond collects her and the Spektor from Istanbul. MI6 is unsure of Romanova's motive, but the prize of the Spektor is too tempting to ignore; Bond's superior, M, orders him to go to Turkey. Once there, Bond forms a comradeship with Darko Kerim, head of the British service's station in Turkey. Bond meets Romanova and they plan their route out of Turkey with the Spektor. He and Kerim believe her story and the three board the Orient Express. Kerim quickly discovers three Russian MGB agents on board, travelling incognito. He uses bribes and trickery to have two of them taken off the train, but he is later found dead in his compartment with the body of the third agent.
At Trieste a fellow MI6 agent, "Captain Nash", introduces himself and Bond presumes he has been sent by M as added protection for the rest of the trip. Romanova is suspicious of Nash, but Bond reassures her that the man is from his own service. After dinner, at which Nash has drugged Romanova, they rest. Bond is woken with a weapon pointing at him and Nash reveals himself to be the killer Grant. Instead of killing Bond immediately, he describes SMERSH's plan. He is to shoot Bond through the heart and dispose of Romanova after leaving a film of their love-making in the luggage; in addition, the Spektor is booby-trapped to explode when examined. As Grant talks, Bond places his metal cigarette case between the pages of a book he holds in front of him, positioning it in front of his heart to stop the bullet. After Grant fires, Bond collapses to the floor and, when Grant steps over him, he attacks and kills the assassin. Bond and Romanova escape.
Later, in Paris, after successfully delivering Romanova and the booby-trapped Spektor to his superiors, Bond meets Rosa Klebb. She is captured but manages to kick Bond with a poisoned blade concealed in her shoe; the story ends with Bond fighting for breath and falling to the floor.
Background and writing history
Breathing became difficult. Bond sighed to the depth of his lungs. He clenched his jaws and half closed his eyes, as people do when they want to hide their drunkenness. ... He prised his eyes open. ... Now he had to gasp for breath. Again his hand moved up towards his cold face. He had an impression of Mathis starting towards him. Bond felt his knees begin to buckle ... [he] pivoted slowly on his heel and crashed head-long to the wine-red floor.
By January 1956 the author Ian Fleming had published three novels—Casino Royale in 1953, Live and Let Die in 1954 and Moonraker in 1955. A fourth, Diamonds Are Forever, was being edited and prepared for production.[a] That month Fleming travelled to his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica to write From Russia, with Love. He followed his usual practice, which he later outlined in Books and Bookmen magazine: "I write for about three hours in the morning ... and I do another hour's work between six and seven in the evening. I never correct anything and I never go back to see what I have written ... By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day." He returned to London in March that year with a 228-page first-draft manuscript that he subsequently altered more heavily than any of his other works. One of the significant re-writes changed Bond's fate; Fleming had become disenchanted with his books and wrote to his friend, the American author Raymond Chandler: "My muse is in a very bad way ... I am getting fed up with Bond and it has been very difficult to make him go through his tawdry tricks." Fleming re-wrote the end of the novel in April 1956 to make Klebb poison Bond, which allowed him to finish the series with the death of the character if he wanted. Fleming's first draft ended with Bond and Romanova enjoying a romance. By January 1957 Fleming had decided he would write another story, and began work on Dr. No in which Bond recovers from his poisoning and is sent to Jamaica.
Fleming's trip to Istanbul in June 1955 to cover an Interpol conference for The Sunday Times was a source of much of the background information in the story. While there he met the Oxford-educated ship owner Nazim Kalkavan, who became the model for Darko Kerim; Fleming took down many of Kalkavan's conversations in a notebook, and used them verbatim in the novel.[b]
I wish to point out that a man in James Bond's position would never consider using a .25 Beretta. It's really a lady's gun—and not a very nice lady at that! Dare I suggest that Bond should be armed with a .38 or a nine millimetre—let's say a German Walther PPK? That's far more appropriate.
Although Fleming did not date the event within his novels, John Griswold and Henry Chancellor—both of whom wrote books for Ian Fleming Publications—have identified different timelines based on events and situations within the novel series as a whole. Chancellor put the events of From Russia, with Love in 1955; Griswold is more precise, and considers the story to have taken place between June and August 1954.
In August 1956, for fifty guineas, Fleming commissioned Richard Chopping to provide the art for the cover, based on Fleming's design; the result won a number of prizes. After Diamonds Are Forever had been published in March 1956, Fleming received a letter from a thirty-one-year-old Bond enthusiast and gun expert, Geoffrey Boothroyd, criticising the author's choice of firearm for Bond. Boothroyd's suggestions came too late to be included in From Russia, with Love, but one of his guns—a .38 Smith & Wessonsnub-nosed revolver modified with one third of the trigger guard removed—was used as the model for Chopping's image. Fleming later thanked Boothroyd by naming the armourer in Dr. No Major Boothroyd.
As with several of his works, Fleming appropriated the names or backgrounds of people he knew or had heard of for the story's characters: Red Grant, a Jamaican river guide—whom Fleming's biographer Andrew Lycett described as "a cheerful, voluble giant of villainous aspect"—was used for the half-German, half-Irish assassin. Rosa Klebb was partly based on Colonel Rybkin—a real-life member of the Lenin Military-Political Academy about whom Fleming had written an article for The Sunday Times. The Spektor machine used as the bait for Bond was not a Cold War device, but had its roots in the Second World War Enigma machine, which Fleming had tried to obtain while serving in the Naval Intelligence Division.
The idea of the Orient Express came from two sources: Fleming had returned from the Istanbul conference in 1955 by the train, but found the experience drab, partly because the restaurant car was closed. He also knew of the story of Eugene Karp and his journey on the Orient Express: Karp was a US naval attaché and intelligence agent based in Budapest who, in February 1950, took the Orient Express from Budapest to Paris, carrying a number of papers about blown US spy networks in the Eastern Bloc. Soviet assassins were already on the train. The conductor was drugged and Karp's body was found shortly afterwards in a railway tunnel south of Salzburg. Fleming had a long-standing interest in trains and, following his involvement in a near-fatal crash in 1927, associated them with danger; they also feature in Live and Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun.
The cultural historian Jeremy Black points out that From Russia, with Love was written and published at a time when tensions between East and West were on the rise and public awareness of the Cold War was high. A joint British and American operation to tap into landline communication of the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin using a tunnel into the Soviet-occupied zone had been publicly uncovered by the Soviets in April 1956. The same month the diver Lionel Crabb had gone missing on a mission to photograph the propeller of the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze while the ship was moored in Portsmouth Harbour, an incident that was much reported and discussed in British newspapers. In October and November that year a popular uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet forces.
James Bond is the culmination of an important but much-maligned tradition in English literature. As a boy, Fleming devoured the Bulldog Drummond tales of Lieutenant Colonel Herman Cyril McNeile (aka "Sapper") and the Richard Hannay stories of John Buchan. His genius was to repackage these antiquated adventures to fit the fashion of postwar Britain ... In Bond, he created a Bulldog Drummond for the jet age.
To make Bond a more rounded character, Fleming put further aspects of his personality into his creation. The journalist and writer Matthew Parker observes that Bond's "physical and mental ennui" is a reflection of Fleming's poor health and low spirits when he wrote the book. Following on from the character development of Bond in his previous four novels, Fleming adds further background to Bond's private life, largely around his home life and personal habits, with Bond's introduction to the story seeing him at breakfast with his housekeeper, May. The novelist Raymond Benson—who later wrote a series of Bond novels—sees aspects of self-doubt entering Bond's mind with the "soft" life he has been leading when he is introduced in the book. Benson identifies Bond's fear when the flight to Istanbul encounters severe turbulence from a storm, and notes Bond's apparent nervousness when he first meets Romanova; he seems concerned and guilty about his mission. The other characters in the book are also well developed, according to Benson. He considers that the head of the Turkish office, Darko Kerim Bey, is "one of Fleming's more colourful characters"; Kerim is a similar type of dependable and appealing ally that Fleming also created with Quarrel (in Live and Let Die) and Colombo (in the short story "Risico"). Parker considers that Kerim is "an antidote" to Bond's lethargy, while the essayist Umberto Eco sees the character as having some of the moral qualities of the villains in the series, but that those qualities are used in support of Bond.
From Russia, with Love is one of the few stories by Fleming in which the Soviets are the main enemy, although Eco considers Bond's Russian opponents "so monstrous, so improbably evil that it seems impossible to take them seriously". Fleming introduced what was a new development for him, a female opponent for Bond, although much like the former adversaries in the series, Rosa Klebb is described as being physically repulsive, with poor hygiene and gross tastes. Eco—and Anthony Synnott, in his examination of aesthetics in the Bond novels—consider that despite Klebb being female, the character is more akin to a "sexually neuter" individual. Red Grant was Fleming's first "psychotic opponent" for Bond, according to Benson.Charlie Higson—who later wrote the Young Bond series—finds Grant to be "a very modern villain: the relentless, remorseless psycho with the cold dead eyes of a 'drowned man'."
According to Higson, Fleming spent the first four novels changing the style of his books, and his approach to his characters, but in From Russia, with Love the author "finally hits on the classic Bond formula, and he happily moved into his most creative phase". The literary analyst LeRoy L. Panek observes that the previous novels were, in essence, episodic detective stories, while From Russia, with Love is structured differently, with an "extended opening picture" that describes Grant, the Russians and Romanova before moving onto the main story and then bringing back some of the elements when least expected. The extensive prose that describes the Soviet opponents and the background to the mission takes up the first ten chapters of the book, and Bond is only introduced into the story in chapter eleven. Eco identifies that the opening passage introducing Red Grant is a "cleverly presented" beginning, similar to the opening of a film.[c] Eco remarks that "Fleming abounds in such passages of high technical skill".
Benson describes the "Fleming Sweep" as taking the reader from one chapter to another using "hooks" at the end of chapters to heighten tension and pull the reader onto the next. He feels that the "Fleming Sweep steadily propels the plot" of From Russia, with Love and, though it was the longest of Fleming's novels, "the Sweep makes it seem half as long".Kingsley Amis, who later wrote a Bond novel, considers that the story is "full of pace and conviction", while Parker identifies "cracks" in the plot of the novel, but believes that "the action mov[es] fast enough for the reader to skim over them".
Fleming used known brand names and everyday details to produce a sense of realism, which Amis calls "the Fleming effect". Amis describes "the imaginative use of information, whereby the pervading fantastic nature of Bond's world ... [is] bolted down to some sort of reality, or at least counter-balanced."
The cultural historians Janet Woollacott and Tony Bennett consider that Fleming's preface note—in which he informs readers that "a great deal of the background to this story is accurate"—indicates that in this novel "cold war tensions are most massively present, saturating the narrative from beginning to end". As in Casino Royale, the concept of the loss of British power and influence during the post-Second World War and Cold War period was also present in the novel. The journalist William Cook observes that, with the British Empire in decline "Bond pandered to Britain's inflated and increasingly insecure self-image, flattering us with the fantasy that Britannia could still punch above her weight." Woollacott and Bennett agree, and maintain that "Bond embodied the imaginary possibility that England might once again be placed at the centre of world affairs during a period when its world power status was visibly and rapidly declining." In From Russia, with Love, this acknowledgement of decline manifested itself in Bond's conversations with Darko Kerim when he admits that in England "we don't show teeth any more—only gums."
Woollacott and Bennett argue that in selecting Bond as the target for the Russians, he is "deemed the most consummate embodiment of the myth of England". The literary critic Meir Sternberg sees the theme of Saint George and the Dragon running through several of the Bond stories, including From Russia, with Love. He sees Bond as Saint George—the patron saint of England—in the story, and notes that the opening chapter begins with an examination of a dragonfly as it flies over the supine body of Grant.[d]
Publication and reception
Personally I think from Russia, with Love was, in many respects, my best book, but the great thing is that each one of the books seems to have been a favourite with one or other section of the public and none has yet been completely damned.
From Russia, with Love was released in the UK as a hardback on 8 April 1957, by the publishers Jonathan Cape. The American edition was published a few weeks later by Macmillan. In November 1956 the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, had visited Fleming's Jamaican Goldeneye estate, to recuperate from a breakdown in his health. This was much reported in the British press, and the publication of From Russia, with Love was accompanied by a promotional campaign that capitalised on Fleming's raised public profile. The serialisation of the story in The Daily Express in 1957 provided a boost to the sales of the book; a bigger rise in sales was to follow four years later. In an article in Life on 17 March 1961, the US President John F. Kennedy listed From Russia, with Love as one of his ten favourite books.[e] This accolade, and its associated publicity, led to a surge in sales that made Fleming the biggest-selling crime writer in the US. There was a further boost to sales following the release of the film of the same name in 1963, which saw the sales of the Pan paperback rise from 145,000 in 1962 to 642,000 in 1963 and 600,000 in 1964.
From Russia, with Love received mainly positive reviews from critics.Julian Symons, in The Times Literary Supplement, considered that it was Fleming's "tautest, most exciting and most brilliant tale", that the author "brings the thriller in line with modern emotional needs", and that Bond "is the intellectual's Mike Hammer: a killer with a keen eye and a soft heart for a woman". The critic for The Times was less persuaded by the story, suggesting that "the general tautness and brutality of the story leave the reader uneasily hovering between fact and fiction". Although the review compared Fleming in unflattering terms to Peter Cheyney, a crime fiction writer of the 1930s and 1940s, it concluded that From Russia, with Love was "exciting enough of its kind".
The Observer's critic, Maurice Richardson, thought that From Russia, with Love was a "stupendous plot to trap ... Bond, our deluxe cad-clubman agent" and wondered "Is this the end of Bond?" The reviewer for the Oxford Mail declared that "Ian Fleming is in a class by himself", while the critic for The Sunday Times argued that "If a psychiatrist and a thoroughly efficient copywriter got together to produce a fictional character who would be the mid-twentieth century subconscious male ambition, the result would inevitably be James Bond."
Writing in The New York Times, Anthony Boucher—described by a Fleming biographer, John Pearson, as "throughout an avid anti-Bond and an anti-Fleming man"—was damning in his review, saying that From Russia, with Love was Fleming's "longest and poorest book". Boucher further wrote that the novel contained "as usual, sex-cum-sadism with a veneer of literacy but without the occasional brilliant setpieces". The critic for the New York Herald Tribune, conversely, wrote that "Mr Fleming is intensely observant, acutely literate and can turn a cliché into a silk purse with astute alchemy". Robert R Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times, also disagreed with Boucher, saying that "the espionage novel has been brought up to date by a superb practitioner of that nearly lost art: Ian Fleming." In Kirsch's opinion, From Russia, with Love "has everything of the traditional plus the most modern refinements in the sinister arts of spying".
See also: James Bond (comic strip)
From Russia, with Love was serialised in The Daily Express from 1 April 1957; it was the first Bond novel the paper had adapted. In 1960 the novel was also adapted as a daily comic strip in the paper and was syndicated worldwide. The series, which ran from 3 February to 21 May 1960, was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky. The comic strip was reprinted in 2005 by Titan Books in the Dr. No anthology, which also included Diamonds Are Forever and Casino Royale.
The film From Russia with Love was released in 1963, produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and directed by Terence Young. It was the second Bond film in the Eon Productions series and starred Sean Connery as Bond. The film version contained some changes to the novel, with the leading villains switching from SMERSH to SPECTRE, a fictional terrorist organisation. In the main it was a faithful adaptation of the novel; the ending was changed to make clear Bond's survival. Benson declares that "many fans consider it the best Bond film, simply because it is close to Fleming's original story".
The novel was dramatised for radio in 2012 by Archie Scottney, directed by Martin Jarvis and produced by Rosalind Ayres; it featured a full cast starring Toby Stephens as James Bond and was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It continued the series of Bond radio adaptations featuring Jarvis and Stephens following Dr. No in 2008 and Goldfinger in 2010.
Notes and references
- ^"Ian Fleming's James Bond Titles". Ian Fleming Publications. Archived from the original on 7 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
- ^Fleming, Ian (11 September 1955). "The Great Riot of Istanbul". The Sunday Times. p. 14.
- ^"Bond's unsung heroes: Geoffrey Boothroyd, the real Q". The Daily Telegraph. 21 May 2009. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- ^ abCook, William (28 June 2004). "Novel man". New Statesman. p. 40.
- ^Synnott, Anthony (Spring 1990). "The Beauty Mystique: Ethics and Aesthetics in the Bond Genre". International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. 3 (3): 407–26. JSTOR 20006960. (subscription required)
- ^ abSternberg, Meir (Spring 1983). "Knight Meets Dragon in the James Bond Saga: Realism and Reality-Models". Style. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press. 17 (2): 142–80. JSTOR 42945465. (subscription required)
- ^ abRichardson, Maurice (14 April 1957). "Crime Ration". The Observer. p. 16.
- ^ abcBoucher, Anthony (8 September 1957). "Criminals at Large". The New York Times. p. BR15.
- ^Sidey, Hugh (17 March 1961). "The President's Voracious Reading Habits". Life. 50 (11): 59. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- ^Symons, Julian (12 April 1957). "The End of the Affair". The Times Literary Supplement. p. 230.
- ^ ab"New Fiction". The Times. 11 April 1957. p. 13.
- ^ abKirsch, Robert R (28 August 1957). "The Book Report". Los Angeles Times. p. B5.
- ^Fleming, Ian (1 April 1957). "From Russia, with Love". Daily Express. p. 10.
- ^Brooke, Michael. "From Russia with Love (1963)". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- ^"Saturday Drama: From Russia with Love". BBC. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Amis, Kingsley (1966). The James Bond Dossier. London: Pan Books. OCLC 154139618.
- Barnes, Alan; Hearn, Marcus (2001). Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion. London: Batsford Books. ISBN 978-0-7134-8182-2.
- Bennett, Tony; Woollacott, Janet (1987). Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-416-01361-0.
- Bennett, Tony; Woollacott, Janet (2009). "The Moments of Bond". In Lindner, Christoph. The James Bond Phenomenon: a Critical Reader. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 13–34. ISBN 978-0-7190-6541-5.
- Benson, Raymond (1988). The James Bond Bedside Companion. London: Boxtree Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85283-233-9.
- Black, Jeremy (2005). The Politics of James Bond: from Fleming's Novel to the Big Screen. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-6240-9.
- Butler, William Vivian (1973). The Durable Desperadoes. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-14217-2.
- Chancellor, Henry (2005). James Bond: The Man and His World. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-6815-2.
- Eco, Umberto (2009). "The Narrative Structure of Ian Fleming". In Lindner, Christoph. The James Bond Phenomenon: a Critical Reader. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 34–56. ISBN 978-0-7190-6541-5.
- ^Diamonds Are Forever was published in March 1956.
- ^While in Turkey, Fleming wrote an account of the Istanbul pogroms, "The Great Riot of Istanbul", which was published in The Sunday Times on 11 September 1955.
- ^The narrative describes Grant as an immobile man, lying by a swimming pool, waiting to be massaged; it has no direct connection to the main storyline.
- ^Sternberg also points out that in Moonraker, Bond's opponent is named Drax (Drache is German for dragon), while in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) the character Marc-Ange Draco's surname is Latin for dragon, and in From Russia, with Love Darko Kerim's first name is "an anagrammatic variation on the same cover name".
- ^Kennedy's brother Robert was also an avid reader of the Bond novels, as was Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence.