Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vodka Martini: Classy, Not Mutilated

My soul is in agony, a huge chunk having just being bitten into by a repulsive, denigrating sound that tries to pass itself off as a good, meaningful part of a longstanding film tradition that used to stand as a bastion of what Hollywood is capable of. I just listened to Jack White and Alicia Keys' 'Another Way to Die,' slated to be the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Perhaps being raised on the suave superspy in his many incarnations has left me jaded, unable to let go of a tradition that has long since been watered down and become in desperate need of revitalization. Or perhaps the artistic mongrels who accepted this nails on chalkboard have completely lost their minds.

I remember the fantasy and invigoration that used to come with the opening credits of 007 films, songs like Goldfinger and Moonraker that instilled in the audience a sense of possibility, exploration and adventure. They prepared us to go once more into the breach of mystery and mayhem with our favorite secret agent and once again experience all the gadgets and all the glamour, ready at once for dazzling special effects and scintillating femme fatales. 'Another Way to Die' however, manages only to beep bop around in the skull and speaks more of drunken dancing to a jukebox than waltzing around in a tuxedo with a Walther PPK stuck in a shoulder holster. Those who wrote and more importantly those who accepted this song have forgotten what it means to make a Bond movie, it is not about hip dancing tunes but about heart pumping anticipation, ready to leap off buildings and into danger, not bobble heads and certainly not rapping hip-hop of a modern beat many times removed from the classic and classy sophistication that at least should be what separates James Bond from the rest of us mere mortals.

Of course, I really shouldn't be as surprised as I am by just how terrible and far off the song is from what Bond is supposed to be, given what the films have become. I am not a member of the forgetful majority who thought Casino Royale was the greatest of the Bond films. I am in fact a member of the faithful who believe it was the very worst. Daniel Craig is not James Bond, he is not Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore and he is certainly not Sean Connery. His Bond is angry and uncouth, he has no passion, no smooth self awareness and certainly no super spy class.

As one MI6 tech puts it in Never Say Never Again, Bond needs "gratuitous sex and violence." What we got instead was a cheap knockoff of modern spy thrillers when it should have maintained the cornerstones of what has separated Bond from the rest for the last forty years. Bond needs gadgets, women, strange and implacable villains, cigar smoke and death traps. Bond is enjoyable, taut and ready but never to the point of breaking. Above all, Bond cannot take itself too seriously, lest it be just another Bourne. I like Jason Bourne, his are some incredible films, but they are not and should not be confused for a model that would work well with 007. Certain films do need a healthy dose of realism, but it is the impossibility and the controlled absurdity that has kept Bond fans glued to their seats for decades. If they wanted realism, they would have ceased watching such films long ago. Not every movie is or even should be made as realistic as possible lest we forget that movies, and in particular Bond movies, are about fantasy, of accepting the extraordinary as possible.

Casino Royale was not a bad movie, and the same will probably be true of Quantum of Solace. Separated from the James Bond name and mythos, they would be fine action-thrillers. It is even true that Die Another Day cast a dark shadow over the name of Bond, but that was no reason to forget everything that has made Bond great for more than twenty movies. There are no gadgets and no fun loving espionage. Just because a movie is good does not mean it is a good Bond film, or any other franchise for that matter. Sequels need to remain true to what made their inspiration great, not cast it aside and grasp onto the nearest tacitly similar model, such is the way to make copycats, not movies. My faith as it were, is shattered, I can only hope that some day a true James Bond will return us to that which Ian Fleming had in mind when he introduced us to M, MI6 and Moneypenny.


Spike22333 said...

I totally agree with you man..that intro song for the new bond movie was utter rubbish. Its not the very worst...but its definitely getting there. I almost foamed my mouth from the sheer disapproval.

Bryan said...

I just remember thinking, 'wow, I'm watching a movie,' it was a very real slap to reality because it did nothing to set the tone, feel and vibe of a Bond, it was just, there.