Based on some comments on my box office post and on Scott's review of Quantum of Solace, people want to talk about this. I want to talk about it too. So would someone who saw Quantum over the weekend please explain to me why this random action movie was released under the "James Bond" banner?
You know, there was that scene in Casino Royale where Bond, asked if he would like his vodka-martini shaken or stirred, replies: "Does it look like I give a damn?" At the time I -- and most others, it seemed -- thought this was actually pretty cool, part of Bond's facelift for the new millennium. The franchise retained its essence in that terrific film, but Bond was a little different: a little grittier, a little tougher, a little less studied and exaggerated in his suaveness. Besides, this was supposed to be a prequel. Bond is still learning the attitude and affectations that will eventually make him Bond, James Bond. Not to mention the fact that he ordered that martini after losing a fortune in poker.
After watching Quantum, I think back to the Casino Royale martini scene, and I'm dispirited. Because the truth is, his one petulant outburst aside, James Bond does care how he takes his martini. And I'm worried that the people behind this new, fantastically successful incarnation of the franchise really -- wrongly -- believe that he doesn't.
Bond never gets a chance to order a martini in Quantum of Solace. He doesn't get a chance to do much of anything other than run, chase, kick ass Jason Bourne-style, and cause explosions. The villain doesn't bleed from the eyes, live in an ice castle, or own a white Persian. The Bond girl is essentially punished for having sex with Bond. No one throws any killer hats. With all of the franchise's uncanny charm surgically excised, that leaves Bond as a cold, implacable anti-hero, ruthlessly efficient, unaffected by violence, and able to kill in cold blood.
All of which can, of course, still be fun -- and would have been fun had Quantum of Solace been a competent action film instead of a jumbled and ugly one -- but, as many have pointed out, it's stuff we can get elsewhere, including the technically superior Bourne films. So what's the point? I've cheerfully tolerated a lot of crap from the Bond franchise over the years because returning to Bond's familiar world made me feel warm, comfortable, nostalgic. Now, at the very least, the stakes are higher: if you're going to make an anonymous action movie, you damn well better make it a good one. Quantum didn't cut it for me.
Let me know what you think of Bond's new direction. The box office numbers are great and I doubt there's any going back. But the Internet was made for complaining.