Yesterday I finally got around to watching the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace.” I kept putting it off for some reason. When I confessed that I’m a big Bond fan and that I haven’t seen the most recent two yet, people kept telling me that “Quantum” was the worse of the two. I got the impression to not bother. I saw “Casino Royale” when it came out and knew they rebooted the franchise, including the Bond formula of storytelling. I was prepared for anything. I have to say that the movie wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I know it’s not the newest in the series but I’m going to put down some thoughts about it here anyway. Besides, I’ve been too “out of it” today to really think of any other topics anyway.
As I said, the movie is not that bad. For the most part it’s actually quite enjoyable. I found that to be true with Bond films overall. If they put the “007” logo on it, it’s going to be at least entertaining; even a bad James Bond film like “The Man with the Golden Gun” or “License to Kill” is still a fun romp on its own.
Still, let’s start with the cons. By this point in a successful movie franchise related to a successful book franchise, and one becomes enough of a fan to absorb all of it, then there’s very few surprises left at this point. The story does carry itself well enough so the viewer isn’t necessarily think ahead of time what the next plot twist is going to be. More often than not, though, none of those twists come as a surprise. The villain’s master plan is quite inventive, but it relates to the oncoming oil shortage. I’m always nervous when it comes to the Bond plots relating to current events that heavily. James Bond has always been escapism, not issues. It’s hard to convey a message in a movie like that. “Quantum” pulls it off, but just barely.
The good guys versus bad guys plot is overshadowed throughout the film, however, by Bond’s struggle with getting over the death of his girlfriend from “Casino Royale.” The human element is a nice touch, but has been done before. The catalyst of the action in “Diamonds Are Forever” was Bond seeking to avenge his wife’s death in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” In “Quantum” Bond’s actions lead to him getting into trouble with his superiors who suspend him from the service… reminiscent of “License to Kill.” Rehashing old ideas in a new light isn’t necessarily a bad idea, especially as we’re in the early films of a series reboot. I just hope that the producers tread these waters carefully.
The film looks and feels like the contemporary big budget action film that it is meant to be. With the reboot comes the temptation to experiment, which this film does to some degree. However, new filming techniques aside, there are some questionable choices. The action scenes are edited so quickly and dizzily one feels that we’re suddenly in a Michael Bay Transformers movie. It feels like a lot of work that went into filming those scenes went to waste. That’s a minor production complaint, however, when it comes to the volume levels. This is the first movie I ever had to watch with the subtitles, as the dialogue was far too low in the mix. If you live in an apartment building as I do you have to be careful with turning up the volume too loudly. One gets the feeling that the director didn’t consider the dialogue important.
That feeling is further exemplified in the movie’s more dialogue-heavy scenes. Often times the actors, particularly Daniel Craig, feel ridged and wooden. They deliver the lines with little body language or emotion. Even the great Dame Judi Dench falls into this category. In contrast the action scenes are ripe with emotion, especially the villains’ frustration as they lose nearly every fight. What exactly is the audience being told here?
Dwelling on the low points in a Bond film might be getting too picky, as the movies are meant to be fun escapism. I am glad that the new series of films are growing up from that, but they still have some growing they need to do for us to start taking them in the serious way they want us to.