Well, given the enormous response to this unrealistic and unsustainable idea of being able to write a post about every single James Bond film from worst to best every single day, I have decided to continue anyway and slog through another one. After all, things can only get better. Right? Right….?
Anniversaries are an easy sell in the entertainment industry. Movie companies cannot wait for every five years to pass so they can rerelease yet another version of their product either to digital or physical media. Back to the Future alone has had close to 26 major releases on DVD and/or Blu-ray, give or take a set or seven. (The last set thankfully added the BTTF Animated Series in order to please everyone in a non-existent crowd that was clamoring for it.) Look at how many times Blade Runner or Star Wars has been released. Monty Python and the Holy Grail has been released in more media forms than anything else in the history of mankind. Shakespeare’s plays come in a close second. At least it was close before the Holy Grail 40th Anniversary Edition came out.
These companies are not fools because they know they just have to repackage the old movie, maybe possibly put a few token special features in, and throw a big “35th Anniversary Mega-Super-Special Limited Edition Director’s Cut Set! Buy It NOW, You Maroons!”-type label on the front of it. And fans eat these things up and re-re-re-rebuy the same thing to have in a holding pattern until the next re-re-re-released version.
The Bond series is no exception to this line of thinking. The series has had numerous double feature releases into theaters or drive-ins over the years. For instance, that’s how I managed to see Dr. No and Goldfinger on the big screen. The series has been on VHS, Selectavison, DIVX, LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and of course Betamax. They have been in constant broadcast rotation, still managing to pull in ratings and revenue.
So no matter the format or how many rereleases in those formats, the Bonds were and are cash generators. Well, except for when they were released in DIVX of course. Remember DIVX which actually made you pay to rewatch the movies you already purchased? The idea! (Heyyyy…wait a minute! Did the DIVX team, bitter over being laughed at, go ahead and develop Netflix? And then every other streaming service known to mankind? Hmmmm… He who laughs last indeed.)
EON productions has not been shy about celebrating the longevity of the 007 franchise as well. When The Living Daylights was released, they proudly talked about the 25th Anniversary of the series. You couldn’t swing a dead Blofeld’s cat around without hitting talk about the 50th Anniversary when Skyfall was out. And then you have the 40th Anniversary…which is where we begin today.
Let me start by saying that I’ve always liked Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. I think he was a great amalgam of the four Bonds that preceded him. He was smooth like Connery, was able to play with humor like Moore, was tough like Dalton, and had his own hair like Lazenby. I do think that he was not done a great service by having some of the worst scripts to deal with. Yet he did what he could with the material at hand and he looked great doing it. He actually showed enthusiasm when given the role in 1994 after being screwed out of it back in 1986. But by 2002, I think his joy had dimmed a tad. Thus we were given the first Bond movie of the new millennium and we were told to go and Die Another Day.
Believe me, it was tough in deciding between A View To A Kill or Die Another Day as the worst Bond movie. Both plots are meh and are quite overblown for even the Bond series. Both have irritating villains and sub-par henchmen. The bad girls in both are unconvincing and the good girls are both annoying. They both have a swordfight that stretches credulity to the limit…oh, wait.
However, Pierce still looks better than his age in this, his last Bond movie. That is more than I can say for Roger who ended up resembling an Ent with Dutch elm disease. I know that Pierce was rather put out because after this debacle, EON was going to reboot the series and he wasn’t invited. Then when Daniel Craig actually gets a script better than almost all of the Brosnan Bonds put together and I can see why he was ticked off. Frankly, with very little tweaking, Casino Royale could have been made into a Brosnan-era Bond movie and would have probably been his best since GoldenEye. After all, Martin Campbell directed both films so there’s a good hand at the wheel. But after invisible Aston Martins, I can understand the reluctance to go back with Pierce. Actually, Pierce didn’t write the script, so no, I cannot understand it. Never mind. I’ll just be frustrated over here in my corner.
I remember not being overly pleased with this entry in the theater and that usually is a big tell for me. If I can’t suspend my disbelief for at least the duration of the running time, there most certainly is a disconnect. Maybe it is me, which I most certainly am myself. Die Another Day certainly hasn’t aged well, which is rather sad considering it only came out in 2002. (Which was only…almost…20 years ago. *siiiiigggghhh*)
But enough negativity for now! I shall dwell upon the positives, sparse as they may be.
The opening sequence with a hovercraft chase under the perpetually gray skies of North Korea is actually quite good. By the way of a side note, have the communists prohibited the sun from shining over North Korea? Is there a giant tarp that was placed to blot out the sky? It would explain why that country is always dark whenever you see those satellite photos of the world lit up at night. Perhaps they have been in a funk ever since M*A*S*H was cancelled. Perhaps their leaders just scream “You do not need the sun for crops! Work harder! Figure out a different way to get a tan!” which of course I translated from the North Korean, but I digress.
It is always good to see John Cleese in most everything. Since the sad passing of Desmond Llewelyn as the Bond series’ beloved “Q”, it was nice to see someone that could play a quip and be short with Bond. I hoped that he would last for a long time with the series or at least until they rebooted it. But what were the odds of that happeni…ahem, well, anyway.
Actually surprising was seeing Brosnan getting captured at the end of the pre-credits sequence. After watching Roger Moore for years getting out of these types of shenanigans with some kind of parachute that would fly out of his boutonniere, it was quite interesting to see Bond as a prisoner for 14 months. Most cruel of all was having to witness Bond being tortured and brutalized by having to listen to the Madonna title track.
So much for no negativity, on to the unpleasantness! David Arnold was the best Bond composer since John Barry and his scores actually wanted to use “The James Bond Theme”! Golly, what a novel idea for a James Bond movie! But marketing yet again rules the day and after the title track from The World Is Not Enough failed to fly up the charts, the producers went with Madonna. Oh, and she brought her own people along to compose a rather tuneless techno beat driven irritant. You can achieve the same kind of song at home by hitting a demonstration beat button on your Casio keyboard while singing non-Bond related lyrics. Try it today!
As a side note, is it sad that Madonna’s song for the second Austin Powers movie was actually better than this one? So the Bond producers ripped off the parody franchise that originally ripped off the Bond franchise? Wrap your metaphysical head around that one. The Bond series should lead, not follow and after all the Jason Bournes, the Bonds have struggled to remain in the spotlight. Well, by struggle I mean they only manage to earn close to half a billion dollars with each movie. They could get the other half if they tried just a little harder is all I’m saying.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Wouldn’t it be great to have a legendary artist such as Madonna actually act in your Bond movie?! Apparently none of the producers ever saw Shanghai Surprise or Who’s That Girl or Body of Evidence or Swept Away? Well, does she at least play a singer of some sort? Nah, of course she’s a world class fencing instructor, which just gets added to the pile of unbelievable occupations for Bond girls. Thankfully she has more double entendres with Bond than one can wiggle their eyebrows at, bringing the film grinding to a halt, as if it needed help.
Speaking of which, Halle Berry is in this movie and she plays a sort of female American Bond called Jinx. It says quite a bit if I can believe Halle Berry as a mutant that can control the weather more than believing her to be an elite secret agent. The Bond producers were supposedly livid when MGM killed the Jinx solo movie. The rest of us were shocked that a major studio would make such a smart business decision.
So our bad guy that Bond supposedly killed in the first 15 minutes went from being Korean to being the decidedly non-Korean Toby Stephens due to gene therapy over only 14 months? This is our bad guy? Seriously? The Brosnan Bonds always struggled with convincing lead baddies. From Sean Bean to Jonathan Pryce to Robert Carlyle, there just wasn’t anyone scripted with the intimidation factor of a Gert Frobe or even a Louis Jourdan, for crying out loud. Bond should be able to wipe the floor with Stephens and only for the sake of the ever-maddening screenplay does he survive as long as he does.
Okay, I’ll believe that an Aston Martin has auto-targeting shotguns and it has tires that can dig into icy walls but for me to buy that it can become camouflaged to the point of invisibility makes me scream for the days of Connery when the only gadgets he had was his Scot accent and an elaborate array of hairpieces.
Our female baddie is telegraphed as being a baddie from a country mile away. Rosamund Pike is British and very pretty and that’s about it. Her fight with Halle Berry is the reason why fast forward was invented. However if you’ve made it that far into the movie, why start to rush through that late?
Apparently when a bomb in a suitcase full of diamonds blows up in someone’s face, the only result is diamonds get shot into their cheeks and they can never be removed because…reasons. Or is this an extremely lame Diamonds Are Forever visual pun that I only now just realized and I hate even more for realizing? There are so many side henchmen and evil lackeys in this movie you need a flowchart to figure out why you should care about them. Oh, and Mr. Kil? Get bent.
Before I forget, hey Michael Madsen! Hi! It is always good to see you in a film! Of course when I saw you onscreen, I immediately thought that Mr. Blonde had been recruited by the CIA…which is an awesome idea! (Quentin, get working on this script pronto!) Bye, Michael Madsen! Swell guy! I miss him already…
Bond surfs not just once, but twice in this movie. He also grabs a snowmobile and for a second one wonders if there was originally an idea to blow it up so Bond could snowboard again. Chances are Brian Wilson upped the rights to use “Surfin’ Safari” so it would have been impractical.
Die Another Day wasn’t the best Bond to go out on for Brosnan. He deserved so much better given that his first Bond saved the franchise. Granted, there were a lot of moving parts that made GoldenEye a success, but Brosnan was a foundation for things to come. Windsurfing amongst icebergs was not a fate he deserved.
As a final aside, 3 out of the 4 Brosnan Bond movies have the lead bad guy using satellites as a weapon to fulfill their evil plans. I understand GoldenEye was successful, but you didn’t have to ape it every bloody time. Can’t you just have some evil organization hijack some nukes or have your bad guy try to blow up Silicon Valley? Hey, waitaminute! You know…that’s a great idea!