Monday, May 25, 2009

blinded by uncontrollable cuts

I never thought I'd rant again like I did about Hancock. With Quantum of Solace, Marc Forster and company have piddled gloriously on the fine efforts to rejuvenate the franchise in Casino Royale. A direct sequel may sound like a great idea, but all the writers on the film seem to have failed to give us anything interesting. James Bond was never really an action hero. What we get here, however, is an attempt to counter this notion. Right from the furiously edited chase before the credits, we are hurtled from one action sequence to another. Characters are introduced and revived during moments of relief. Levity is tossed in but the humour, mercifully, never threatens to enter the realm defined by the Brosnan films, whose jokes seemed like post-modern tributes to the Roger Moore films.

Ian Fleming wrote a handful of James Bond stories that explored new territory; they didn't seem to be "typical" Bond excursions -- The Spy Who Loved Me and Quantum of Solace were two of the most striking examples in this pack. It seems ironic that both lost their titles to films that had nothing to do with their content. SMERSH was clearly too old for this generation, but naming the organisation Quantum was/is a stretch. It's just too convenient. It would also be wise to perish any hope of seeing any trace of the meaning of the delectable phrase from Fleming in the film. Bond is still suffering emotionally, but all that was chucked in favour of a dogpile of crash-boom-bang.

all that glitters is oil

The chaos and confusion in the opening chase is, as far as I can tell, enough evidence that Marc Forster (who made the reasonably engaging Monster's Ball, the compelling Finding Neverland and the interesting Stranger Than Fiction) cannot handle action. Having chosen to yield the unhealthy fetish for shaky-cam/jerki-cam and having opted for an editing style that looks like someone was in a real hurry to make it to a conference with Mother Nature should be state's exhibits. The opening chase has received plaudits in many quarters; all I could figure out was that a lot of automotive equipment was trashed and some people died. The feeling of having missed most of the details came later during the second chase -- which ends with Bond shooting the traitor dead. By the time the end (not a bang but a whimper) came, I realised that there was nothing in this film to even match the parkour chase from Casino Royale.

The film has its share of references to older Bond films, the most obvious one being the nod to Goldfinger (with the twist of replacing gold with oil). It also packs tributes to Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much). Mercifully, these references, unlike the hubris that buried Die Another Day, are not distracting. The rest of the film, however, is. Daniel Craig's faithful reading of the character is a saving grace. He remains unscathed by the morass around him, as does Judi Dench. The two deserve better as did all of us who awaited a more worthy successor to Casino Royale.

I fear that Craig's stint as Bond might look like Brosnan's -- starting off well, Brosnan ended up figuring in films that strove define new nadirs in the canon with their growing love for bombastic villains, flashy gadgets, quips and soulless action. Unless they decide to hire someone who disagrees with people like Paul Greengrass, there seems little hope.

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