SPECTRE

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goldeneye

#17Goldeneye was different.

In many ways, the 6 year gap (caused by ridiculously convoluted legal squabbles) after Licence To Kill caused a major shake-up in the franchise. Some old friends left, some new blood came on board. But it was somehow something more than that.

In an era of a "New World Order," the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dawning of the technology and communication era, what would Bond mean? In the first post-Anita Hill Bond, how could we have the same attitude towards his womanizing?

And the franchise itself could have been in turmoil, as many of the old family had moved on. Cubby Broccoli was retired. Richard Maibaum, who had had at least a hand in the script of all but three of the Eon Bond films, had passed away, as had Maurice Binder, creator of so many memorable title sequences. John Barry was nearing retirement, and was no longer interested in doing Bond films. John Glen ,who had directed the previous five movies, was directing a British sci-fi TV show, and would soon retire; everyone else who had ever directed a Bond film was either long retired or passed on. The "old guard" was gone.

Yet the influx of new blood brought something that the franchise had never really seen before: a "modern" Bond. No, they didn't "deconstruct" Bond , not really, or radically change direction. But for the first time, we were given an examination of what the concept James Bond meant in contemporary times. Note that I didn't "re-examination," as the franchise had never really shined the onscreen spotlight onto Bond and his role in the previous 30+ years.

This is especially clear when watching all the 007's back to back. Never before had we seen Bond's female companion seriously questioning why he was doing what he was doing...oh, she still went along with him, but she made him think about his actions. Never before had we seen a Bond and an M question each others usefulness and methods, actually questioning their roles in the 1990s. Never before had we had so much as a line of dialogue from another Double-O...now we have two of them talking non-stop about what all the martinis and women really meant. Hell, we now even have Bond declaring what he has to do to "keep himself alive."

Was this an intentional move by the producers, to make Bond more "human" and "relevant" in the 90's, to shore up the franchise by keeping it tonally consistent with other movies out there? That after a long gap and with a new Bond, it was the perfect time to shake up the formula a bit? Or was it just what the new writers happened to want to write about this time?

One hint by be to look ahead a teeny bit: in all of the Brosnan movies, they made things more "personal" for Bond. Despite Bond's declaration to M that it was "never" personal, in the Brosnan era we're given: 006 as a friend who betrayed him, Carver kills Paris, Elektra uses Bond in a way never seen before, and Bond is out for revenge on whomever set him up in Die Another Day. True, at times things had been made personal for Bond before (especially Licence To Kill), but just as often there had been "just doing my job" where Bond finishes off the villain calmly and saunters away for the pre-end-credits sex pun. But for the Brosnan films, it was as if there was a new directive--find a way to make the plot personal.

This time around, we can thank the writers for doing so in such an effective way. Michael France wrote the original screenplay, and got a "story" credit; Jeffrey Caine rewrote it; Kevin Wade gave it an uncredited polish; and Bruce Feirstein turned in the finished product (France has been made comments about feeling "under credited", so I'll not stir any pots with any attempts to say who is responsible for what. Let's just applaud them all, shall we? Fun fact; France's next--and only--screenwriting credits were Ang Lee's Hulk, the Punisher movie with Thomas Jane and The Fantastic Four. Uhhh, ouch?).

Regardless, the idea of giving Bond a mirror image to fight, someone his equal and opposite, was so obviously brilliant in retrospect that you wonder how in the world no one thought of it before. The idea of a rogue Double-O works on so many levels. It gives Bond a mastermind whom we know to be his match in training and skill, not a bloated milquetoast multi-millionaire who has to rely on henchmen for everything. It causes Bond, and the audience, to examine his loyalties, by showing us there's another path he could have taken. And best of all, it gives Bond some guilt over the death he feels he "caused," and how that guilt turns into destructive hatred when he finds out he's been used and betrayed. Making 006 the early sacrificial lamb AND the ultimate villain was simply a master stroke. Think of it this way: we have a villain who never calls him "Mr. Bond," just "James." Now that's radical.

Falling faster than the NYSEThe teaser itself fulfills the standard of being its own mini-movie, while still elegantly setting up the main plot. And a grand mini-movie it is, too, introducing us to our new 007 in with an exciting mission, extraordinary stunts, and a bit of pathos, as well. The action is thrilling, the Arkangel set great (and the models, as well). Just listing everything that goes on in these few minutes--the bungee jump, the infiltration, the meeting up with 006, the sabotage, the discovery, the "murder" of 006, the tense stand-off, the escape, the chase, the jump after the plane, the explosion--still puts most other action movies to shame, even in 2008. And with a few simple lines of dialogue, we establish Brosnan firmly as James Bond. Unlike with Connery and Moore, they actually put the new Bond in his own teaser the first time out, in action, and the audience immediately gets over whatever cognitive dissonance it might have had over the new man in the role. The Goldeneye teaser is clearly one of the best in the series' history.

By the way, have you noticed that the Brosnan teasers never have women in them, M and Moneypenny and Cigar Girl excluded? Connery, Moore, Dalton, they often started or ended with Bond getting some…but never in the Brosnan era…just pure business. See, George Lazenby: It DID happen to the other fella.

The structure of the movie is a bit unusual for a Bond movie. After the teaser, we don't start with a briefing from M, or even a mission (it's unclear why he's in Monaco...is he there specifically to look after the Tiger helicopter, or is he just there for pleasure and stumbles into it?). Instead, in a bit of a tip-off to the movie's approach, he's undergoing a psychological evaluation ordered by M, while having fun driving aggressively. That's an underlying metaphor for the movie--we're going to examine the underpinnings of what Bond's about, but we're damn well going to have fun doing it.

After playing around in Monaco a bit, we still don't get our scene with M. We have a long interlude, where we're meeting many of our players, bringing others back in, and setting the stage for what our actual plot is. Ourumov and Onatopp come back, and we meet Boris and Natalya. This movie takes a lot of time and care to build its supporting cast. Boris is presented as a quasi-likable jerk, with no indication that he's one of the bad guys. And we see Natalya as smart and resourceful. And Goldeneye is unique in that we spend more time getting to know the Bond girl before she meets Bond than in any other movie--only From Russia With Love even comes close, really. And so we get henchmen and allies who are characters in their own right, already established before they take sides; they're not merely appendages of Bond or the villain.

Hot, hot, hotFinally, we get to the obligatory scenes at MI-6 headquarters. First, we welcome Samantha Bond as our latest Moneypenny, and it's a gross understatement to say that she's a marked improvement over Caroline Bliss' mousy weeper. This is a Bond/Moneypenny relationship for the 1990's, where she can give as good as she gets. This is no one-way unrequited crush, but sexual-tension filled verbal fencing between equals, where both parties know what they want but don't go for it, because that would ruin the fun. And her final line, where his punishment for "sexual harassment" is to "make good on all his innuendos," actually sets the scene for his conversation with M (although most people missed this).

Ah, yes, the first meeting with Judi Dench as M. Much, much hay was made of this in the media. The scene was she calls him a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" was the clip played ad infinitum on every news show, every preview, and blathered about in every review. Of course, what everybody seemed to forget was that Bond was also calling out M here, in terms he didn't really mean, as well. It was two dominant predators marking their territory, sorting out their new working relationship, trying to put each other in their place. The fact that the scene ends with M's wan smile and a request for him to "come back alive"has the same effect as Moneypenny accusing Bond of sexual harassment and turning into a proposition a sentence later: harsh words coating softer feelings. As to the sexual misogynist dinosaur business, it's pretty clear that she doesn't seriously mean it, especially in later movies, where she's encouraging him to use his sexual wiles and appreciative of his "blunt instrument"qualities.

I've got an Oscar...did Bernard Lee ever have one? Well?!?Did you realize that this was Judi Dench's only scene in the movie? It surprised me upon re-watching. Such is the dominance of her performance, her small role feels like it fills up the whole film. That's why the lady won an Oscar, guys. I do wish they had given her at least one more scene--I would have loved to see her reaction to the revelation that 006 was alive and now a criminal mastermind. In following the irascible Bernard Lee and the underrated Robert Brown, Dench surpassed any reasonable expectations and took M from a stock character to a newer, more vital, more involved role than we had ever scene. So good was she, that when they decided to toss everything out for the Casino Royale (2006) reboot, they kept her as M, even though that made no sense within the series' murky continuity. But hell, how can anyone object? She's that good.

So Bond takes off to hunt down the Goldeneye, putters around St. Petersburg, and we finally get the great reveal (spoiler alert): 006 is the bad guy. The movie did an excellent job of hiding this, making us believe Ourumov was the ultimate bad guy up until this point. The shock on Bond's face, the quick shift to anger at being betrayed, completely shift's the movies direction in an instant, as we begin an hour of a doctoral dissertation on "compare and contrast the good Double-O agent to the bad." From this point on, the main plot, the hunt for the Goldeneye, the threat to London, all take a back seat to the Bond/Trevelyan clash (which blunts whatever disappointment we might feel when it's revealed that the plot is just an over-engineered bank robbery). It's good licence to kill versus bad licence to kill.

Mine's bigger, JamesAnd oh, 006, how evil you were. Alec "Two Face" Trevelyan's first “death” helped set the tone for how Bond lived the rest of his life, and his return shook Bond to his core, while giving him a foe who knew him as well as he knew himself, someone who could out-think him and out-fight him (maybe). The easy camaraderie they showed in the teaser made it that much more painful later. Sean Bean plays Alec note-perfectly, giving us a man we can believe was both Bond's friend and later deadliest foe. You don't suspect him at all in the teaser...in fact, you can even picture him having his own secret agent film series. Of course, thanks to Goldeneye, now in every movie with Sean Bean, you assume he’s the traitor (Lord of the Rings, Ronin, etc.) or an evil bastard.

(I will say, however, that I wish they had leaned a little bit less on the crutch that he was a Lienz cossack. While it's historically true that a number of cossack factions did fight with the Nazis in WWII and were turned over by the British to Stalin, the movie hammers it so much that it comes perilously close to ethnic stereotyping--"every cossack is automatically a traitor, always." There's a difference between a great motivation and an inborn tendency towards evil behavior, and the clumsiness of the movie blurs the line a bit, I think.)

And extra kudos for the way Bean is able to show how narrow a line a Double-O walks. Every bit of evil he indulges in--the greed, the sexual sadism (he's into Onatopp's pain games, the particularly icky kissing and licking of Natalya), the laser-like focus on revenge--are all things critics have accused Bond of at various times in the franchise's history. Bond manages to avoid crossing the thin tuxedoed line that Trevelyan has dashed across with glee. Bean is playing Bond tweaked just a few degrees to the wrong side, but never carries it over the top. The fact that his accent and delivery is almost exactly the same as Timothy Dalton's only helps sell the point.

As for the plot, I do have some serious questions, which I'll address in the notes below...not everything seems to make sense. But director Martin Campbell, who has now become the go-to guy for First Bond Movies, manages to keep things moving briskly, never giving us time to question too much. The pacing is excellent, and Campbell keeps cutting between various locales and characters (virtually unprecedented, except for the villain, in the series) to keep our interest piqued. Campbell has a facility with both the action and drama, as well as the comedy and love scenes. Bravo.

I do have to question, though, how many goddamned explosions there are. I'm not sure how much to blame the script and how much to apportion to Campbell. I like explosions as much as the next guy, but lordy, how much is too much? In Goldeneye, four (yes 4) villainous headquarters explode. Arkangel blows up in the teaser, Severnaya explodes (in several stages), Janus' train HQ blows up real good, and the Cuban base really, really blows up good (again, in several stages). Meanwhile, some Soviet MIGs explode, Russian cop cars explode, the Tiger helicopter explodes, Bond's tank blows up when the train hits it, Onatopp's helicopter explodes, the antenna engine explodes...Bond's plane into Cuba is shot down, but miraculously doesn't explode!! All well done, great effects and model work...but really, it was overkill. Check out the cover of the latest DVD release in the first picture in this post--no girls, just a big explosion!!

Speaking of models and effects, farewell to Derek Meddings. His work was almost always top-notch, and here they give him tons to do. He was more than up to the challenge, which made his death prior to the movie's release all the sadder. Perhaps if he had were still around, we wouldn't have had some of the CGI abominations in DAD. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I miss Stephanie Zimbalist...I've gone a long time without saying much about Pierce Brosnan himself, because I am having trouble figuring out how to frame it. In full disclosure, I have to acknowledge that I was dead-set against his becoming Bond back in 1987...I thought that, based upon his Remington Steele work, that he would just be a younger Roger Moore, another comedy-lite 007. Well, either I was wrong, or the intervening years really added intensity and, well, balls to his persona. I'll let you decide which. (If you think the latter, than ironically NBC actually did him a favor with their dickweed move of not letting him become Bond in 1987.)

Brosnan is not the best actor ever to have the role, but he has been given more acting to do than most of the others, over the course of his tenure. That alone immediately helps him to stand out a bit. To that extent, Brosnan benefits enormously from the "modernizing" of Bond, as he gets to explore motives and emotions prior Bonds were never given a chance to.

And he acquits himself quite well. As I said earlier, the writing helps by putting him in a situation where were inclined to accept him as Bond immediately. But it's not entirely that--Brosnan embraces the role with gusto, and as a result the audience accepts him quite easily as James Bond. And he takes that acceptance and pulls us into his performance. At times I'm tempted to say that he comes across as a blend of Connery and Moore, somewhat more comfortable than Connery with the comedy, but more at ease with being the hard-nosed killer than Moore was. That's overly simplistic, of course, but given that many peoples' reaction to Dalton was that he was too grim and serious, it's no surprise that Brosnan and the producers pulled back a little bit. But Brosnan invests himself in all aspects of the role, and seems equally comfortable with some of the tonal shifts the movie pulls. Whether lovin' or fightin' or introspectin', I never see Brosnan (or Remington Steele) up there, I only see Bond. That's a victory.

One prime example is in one of the many great set pieces, the tank chase through St. Petersburg (OK, most of it was actually filmed in England...still). It's very well done, even if it does go over the top just a smidgen a few times--but unlike Moore, Brosnan never gives into the silliness, never winks at the audience (unless you count the tie-straightening moment). He plays it right down the middle, and you believe that he believes that it's all deadly serious, which sells the sequence perfectly.

And speaking of set pieces, how about the final fight between 006 and 007? For the parts inside the transmitter, Brosnan and Bean did all of their own stuntwork (except for one shot) in an attempt to recreate some of the feel of the train car fight in FRWL. I applaud the cojones, and it's damn successful, thanks to the emotional context the film has built around these characters. Who would want to see Bond beating the crap out of Stromberg, for example? But such is the enmity between these two, the cathartic physical fight is necessary both for the characters and the audience. Bravo.

One note to future screenwriters, though--can you guys ease off on all the (bad) sexual puns? There's cute, and there's overload, and some were just terrible. Even Pierce couldn't pull off a lot of those...

I should have taken more programming coursesNatalya, as played by the vivacious Izabella Scorupco, is one of the most “normal” of any Bond girl, a sort of Hitchcockian every-woman suddenly swept up in momentous events. The fact that the screenplay spends so much time with her early helps with this. And she handles herself very well, showing courage and resourcefulness without suddenly becoming a superwoman and losing the character. She bickers with Bond, but not in a pointless or mean-spirited way. She questions him, but also knows how to be of great value. Her abilities save the day, but in a wholly believable way. And she and Bond have great, believable chemistry. A top-tier Bond girl.

I pretty much suck at everythingWe have a motley crew of henchmen this time out, and at times they play more like a triumvirate a la Kronsteen/Kleb/Grant in From Russia With Love. But Onatopp and Ourumov clearly become subservient once Janus is revealed as 006. Those two do end up comimg off a tad weak, after the large build-up they received early in the movie. After Severnaya is destroyed, Ourumov doesn't really have a lot to do, and his demeanor from that point--drunk, panicked, subservient--don't make any more likable (for a henchmen). Plus, he isn't terribly good, is he? He let's Bond destroy Arkangel (surely that wasn't part of the plan? See Notes below), he fails in his attempt at the cover-up in front of the committee, his panicked killing of Mishkin is desperate and lucky...and of course it turns out that he didn't even kill 006 in the first place, so much of our hatred for him was misplaced. It's an odd downhill arc, from presumptive big bad to bumbling henchman, with no clear indication as to why 006 is his boss, rather than the other way around. Better luck in hell, I guess.

Oh, Jean Grey, what happened to you?Xenia, Xenia, Xenia. I loves me Famke Jannsen to death...but rather than grow on you, her Onatopp also doesn't wear well in the movie, never sustaining or building on the interest we have in the first half hour. The fault's not Jannsen's, as the screenplay just has her repeating the same tricks over and over again. The third time she tries to squeeze someone to death with her thighs, and the umpteenth time we see her gain sexual satisfaction from pain and death, the act has grown a tiny bit tiresome. After her exciting drive with Bond in the opener, and their fun repartee at the baccarat table, we expect a lot more to come, but it's as if the writers have lost interest. Xenia has what, maybe 5 lines of dialogue for the rest of the movie? Part of it is the shift in focus to Trevelyan, but part of it is that the writers just let the character stagnate into another wordless goon. She's not a bad henchmen, but she could have--should have--been a great one.

How many soon-to-be X-Men are in this damn movie??Boris, of course, rocks the world.

I would be remiss if I didn't vent some spleen at the coyote ugly score by Eric Serra. Just to be clear, John Altman and David Arch are credited by some sources as having "provided the more traditional symphonic music," while the soundtrack credits say Serra wrote everything while Altman merely arranged and conducted the symphonic portions. So there's enough blame to spread around, I think. The zangy, off-kilter, discordant synthesizer riffs were already 10 years out of date when this movie was released, and are even worse now. Listening to the opening car chase or opening teaser is actually painful to me, and I can say this because the soundtrack is playing as I write this. And check out the stupid treacly piano backdrop that tries to sneak in when 006 reveals himself to Bond in the statue graveyard. Blecchhh. There are a few decent parts; I do like the kettle drum effects, for example. But not nearly enough to save this terrible, terrible score.

Which leads me to say that maybe, just maybe, I underrated the theme song in my rankings. Not one note from the song (written by Bono and the Edge, performed by Tina Turner) ends up within the movie proper, which is a shame as it's a fairly good song, especially when isolated from the rest of the soundtrack. Plus, maybe it's a better mix on the latest DVD release or just better equipment on my part, but the song actually sounds much better on screen than on the soundtrack CD. Hmmmm...

A final soundtrack note (3 paragraphs about the soundtrack?? Have you gone mad?!?!): the song played over the end credits, "The Experience of Love," is written and performed by Eric Serra, and is THE MOST ABSOLUTELY GODAWFUL THING EVER COMMITTED TO VINYL, CD, DVD, 8-TRACK, CASSETTE, OR ANY FORM OF SOUND MEDIA EVER. Ahem. Sorry about that.

Much more to discuss below, but I think that in summary, Goldeneye is very clearly a wonderful debut for the Brosnan era, a film with a swagger about it that (in most eyes) immediately put to rest the idea that the franchise's time might have passed. This is a movie with enough self-confidence to take on all of the pop culture critiques of the franchise and answer them, while still remaining the Bond we know and love. The story is Bond, while being original, and not merely cannibalizing past films. The new regime comes out hitting on all cylinders, and the result is a top tier Bond film, a wonderful return from a long cold winter.

Oh, and it made a pretty bitchin' video game, too.

SNELL'S RANDOM NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:


Less random this time, actually, as initially I want to focus on some confusing points of 006's plans and how they came about.

**How, exactly, did this plan come about? Did Trevelyan approach Ourumov out of the blue, and say, "Help me fake my death and I can join you?" Did he already know Ourumov, or did he approach him after he found out that they would be infiltrating Arkangel?

**And what, exactly, was the endgame? Was Trevelyan planning to join the communist party? Was he planning to go black marketeer/weapons dealer even then? Did he foresee the forthcoming collapse of the Soviet regime, and figure now was a good time to start building a power base? Did he know about Goldeneye that far in advance, and already had his whole scheme mapped out? (and if so, why wait so long to implement it? Unless he was waiting both for the Tiger helicopter to be invented and Ourumov to be promoted to head of Space Command??)

And what, exactly, was Ourumov supposed to gain from this?? "Help me fake my death and nine years from now I'll make you rich?" "I'll give you lots of secret information to help you advance your career??

**Now, the plan depended on either Bond escaping, or being captured and escaping, or being captured and traded back to the British later (a la DAD). If Bond isn't going to go back and tell the story, there's no reason for faking your death, right?

Yet they don't seem to be too concerned about keeping Bond alive. The guards are all armed with real bullets...and they fire an awful lot of them at Bond. And Ourumov seems content to let Bond drive his motorcycle off a cliff. It seems like sheer luck Bond survives, rather than design, and if he dies, the whole charade is moot.

**Speaking of which, for someone who can "anticipate Bond's every move," did Alec really expect James to quietly surrender, or let himself be captured without a huge fight? I guess he didn't really know Bond that well...

**As to the fake death itself, we don't see the actual shot to Alec's head, but the next bullet Ourumov shoots, at his own soldier, is a live round. Did his gun have just one blank and the rest live? Were they all live, and he just shot to the side of 006's head (and thus, embarrassingly, fooling Bond with a movie stunt special effect)?

**I'd always thought that it was pretty odd that, after allowing a chemical weapons facility to be blown up by a British agent, Ourumov was able to get promoted to head of space command. But Goldeneye is a freeze-framers paradise, and here's Ourumov's biography from M's display screen:
Rehabilitated by GORBACHEV in 1987 following destruction of ARKHANGEESK facility...In spite of being given command of SPACE DIVISION, by Gorbachev, OURUMOV is believe to have been behind the Gorbachev coup but the inquiry was dropped after the suicide of a co-conspirator.
Well, isn't that interesting. I wonder why Gorbachev would have rehabilitated him...it doesn't seem to have been because of loyalty, as Ourumov later betrayed Gorby and fancied himself the next "Iron Man of Russia" (as opposed to the Iron Man of America, Tony Stark). Unless...was Gorbachev in on the plot? Did he protect Ourumov because it was his plan to bring 006 over?!? "Help me bring 006 over, and I'll make you a general?!?!"

Can we read the files on other villains, please?But then 006 turns on Gorby, pushing Ourumov into running the coup against Gorbachev?!?!? Wow, he really must have been a Lienz cossack. OK, I'm getting perilously close to fan fic here...

And since we now that Ourumov betrayed Gorbachev AND betrayed his country to steal the Goldeneye (and kill the Defence Minister!!), he's got a lot of nerve thinking that Lienz cossacks are dirty traitors...

**OK, one final fan fic moment: M's screen says Arkangel was destroyed in 1987. Now it's silly to try and make sense of Bond timelines, and there's no reason to assume that The Living Daylights actually occurred in 1987...but 006 working for the Soviets might explain how Russian General Koskov knew so much about MI-6 training exercises, knew where secret British safehouses were, and why Koskov would specifically request Bond. Was Trevelyan behind the "smiert spionum" ploy???

**You would also think that, having a Double-O on the payroll, the Soviets (or at least Ourumov) would have been able to thwart an awful lot of MI-6 missions. But that might have been a tip-off that Trevelyan was still alive, so maybe he was very careful about what he doled out...

**Maurice Binder may have been gone, but Daniel Kleinman's opening credit sequence is stunning, updating Binder's look while remaining faithful to the style. Bikini clad women smashing up Soviet statues...oh, so perfect.

**More freeze frame stuff: the information Moneypenny transmits back to Bond regarding Onatopp's boat, The Manticore, says "Manticore is possibly heavily armed to military level." Hmm, we sure didn't see anything like that...Maybe we could have had that boat blow up, too.

**Interesting technology, by the way. In the 15 seconds it takes Bond to walk back to his Astin Martin, Moneypenny has a) received the transmission, b) looked all the stuff up, c) gone to M to get her orders, d) put together all the info into convenient report form, e) recorded a summary message for Bond, and f) transmitted it to him. Uhh...how? Don't ask, don't ask, just enjoy...

**Bond takes down an assailant with only a towel. That, ladies and gentleman, is freaking awesome. It would also be a Brosnan trademark, using some ordinary innocent household item to take down armed thugs, and then casually drop it...

**Pro-tip for a secret agent in a hurry to prevent something far away (like a helicopter being stolen): use your cell phone. Call ahead, alert the armed troops. If you don't have a cell (why??), the boat must have a radio!! Don't just rush over there yourself, when you can't possibly get there in time!! One little squawk and you could have prevented the whole fiasco from happening...

**That was a Canadian admiral who Xenia seduced and killed, whose ID they used to get into the ceremony. Doesn't that mean we should have seen some Canadian secret service action?!? Eh??

**Hey look, the real MI-6 headquarters!! No more Universal Exports storefronts!!

Look, we've gone public!!**In most of my reviews, I've mentioned how the movie relates to the Ian Fleming work. Well, we're done with that, folks. It's been mined. "Goldeneye" was the name of Fleming's Jamaican estate. Otherwise, everything is spun from whole cloth. They've cannibalized all the Fleming left, except for some short story called "Quantum of Solace," and they would never use that...

**Both England and the Soviets had the EMP resistant microchips back in 1985, in A View To A Kill. Guess they ended up not working so well, eh?

**Why does so much of the action center in St. Petersburg as opposed to Moscow?? Yes, I know, that's where they got permission to film, but still. I guess I can accept the Russian Space Division is headquartered in St P (M's screen said so). I can accept the the Russian Defence Minister and that unnamed committee might go there. But from the maps we see, there must be dozens of cities closer to Severnaya than St P. Why would Natalya go all the way there, ill-protected from the weather and on a dog sled?

Seriously, she could have gotten virtually anywhere more quickly than St. Petersburg**The requirements for the computers Natalya pretends to be interested in buying: 500 meg hard drive, and 14.4 kps modems. Ah, living back in Flintstones days...

**You would think that if 006 was as smart and clever as he kept saying he was, we wouldn't fall into the stupid trap of leaving Bond in an escapable death trap, like the helicopter or the train. But nope, Alec isn't any smarter than any of the other megalomaniacs Bond meets.

There's a good question: do other Double-O's meet as many world-conquering villains as Bond? Or is he just lucky?

**Hey, Minnie Driver!! A great cameo...except for us Americans, because almost no one in America had ever heard of her when this movie came out...

Pretty thankless role, even for a cameo...**Hey, Robbie Coltrane!! Valentin is a pretty good supporting character, and he has a good deleted scene on the DVD, too. I'm not sure, though, that this bit part justified a return in a greatly expanded role in TWINE...

Who you callin' Cracker?**Oops...Wait a minute...Janus' identity is such a secret, but Valentin knows he's a Lienz cossack?!? How? He's never met the guy. Even 006's evil allies didn't know!! Was it on Trevelyan's Facebook page or something??? Was Alec just going around dropping hints in the Russian underworld, telling folks "you don't know my identity, but I'm a Lienz cossack!!"??? Why would he advertise something that would brand him as untrustworthy to anyone dealing with him? Maybe it was his accent that gave him away...

**Hey, Joe Don Baker. Really? As I've said, I'm no fan of the man, and whenever he has to portray anything besides redneck bluster he's really pathetic (watch his "Please, no" when Bond makes him reveal his tattoo...worst delivery EVER). I'm not sure why he's here, unless the producers felt that the relaunch of the franchise required making Americans look like chumps again. Or maybe it's a make up for the terribly crafted role he was giving in TLD.

Joe Don Baker's best side...Still, he does no real harm, and at least we'd never see the character again...

**Great, great sets. The Soviet statue gallery is so spooky and perfect it is frightening, and the perfect spot for 006 to reveal his "resurrection."

Like the Vegas neon sign graveyard...The interiors of all of the complexes that blow up are pretty damn good, too. Until they all blow up.

**Hat tip to Tcheky Karyo, who makes a great impression in a tiny role as Defence Minister Mishkin. The lost art of interrogation, indeed...

...I should have played The Master**Not to get cranky, but the BMW was most useless product placement ever!!! All of the good car stuff gets done with the Astin Martin. Despite Q's lecture, all we see of the damn car is a leisurely ride down a dirt road in Puerto Rico. Supposedly, BMW was thrilled with all the publicity they got, which turned into more sales, but it's hard to see why. Dramatically, they'd get more for their money next movie...

**Presumably Bond checked in with London before going to Cuba after Trevelyan. Shouldn't M have sent some more support for Bond, at least one more person, rather than relying on one untested Russian civilian and whatever plausibly deniable aid the Americans might provide? At this point it should be obvious that some of Trevelyan's scheme has got to be revenge against England, and we know there's a deadline...so sending Bond in with no support is a pretty foolhardy move.

**Bond**Jack Wade's final line, "Maybe you two would like to finish debriefing each other at Guantanamo," sure sounds a lot more ominous these days, eh?

**Score: 2. Caroline (the psychologist "evaluating" Bond) and Natalya. Cumulative Bond Score: 47

And, as always:

Much more quickly this time, tooTune in next week as Bond faces the power of the press.

6 comments:

  1. "Sean Bean plays Alec note-perfectly, giving us a man we can believe was both Bond's friend and later deadliest foe. You don't suspect him at all in the teaser..."

    Sadly, I suspected him in the credits when I first saw the movie. IIRC, he's second-billed, and I just thought no way would he be there for just a small (but excellent) role in the teaser. I wish they had concealed that better.

    "In most of my reviews, I've mentioned how the movie relates to the Ian Fleming work. Well, we're done with that, folks. It's been mined. 'Goldeneye' was the name of Fleming's Jamaican estate. Otherwise, everything is spun from whole cloth. They've cannibalized all the Fleming left, except for some short story called 'Quantum of Solace,' and they would never use that..."

    Wasn't most of 006's plan/character lifted from the Moonraker book?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wasn't most of 006's plan/character lifted from the Moonraker book?

    Not really, and only in the vaguest possible way, Anon.

    In the novel, "Drax" was a German (with an English mother. He was a loyal Nazi party member and soldier. Late in the war, he became part of the Werwolf operation, wherein German troops would pose as Allied troops and commit acts of sabotage against their advance. Something went wrong, "Drax" was caught in an explosion, and when they found him in a British uniform and a heavily scarred face, they just assumed he was one of their missing comrades, Hugo Drax.

    The evil Nazi assumed Drax's identity, built a fortune, and his company was responsible for building Britain first ICBMs. For the first test flight, Drax put a Russian nuclear warhead on board and programmed it to crash into London as revenge for Nazi Germany's defeat. (Spoiler alert: Bond stops him).

    So, at the margins, there is a superficial resemblance: Both try to blow up London for past WWII crimes. But Drax was never raised in England, never an MI-6 agent, and never a close friend of Bond's (indeed, they had an intense personal dislike for each other). Trevelyan never adopts someone else's identity and never becomes a billionaire, as did "Drax." And Drax didn't fake his death (as a Britisher) to become a criminal mastermind elsewhere.

    Actually, a much closer movie parallel to the book's Drax is Colonel Moon/Gustav Graves from Die Another Day. Moon is a foreign enemy of the state, has himself remade into an Englishman, amasses a fortune in mining, and launches a rocket that is secretly a plan to destroy S. Korea. That's pretty much straight from the book's Drax.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, thanks for the info. That's what I get for not reading Moonraker yet trusting the interactive Bond dossier. Although to be fair, the dossier said "loosely" based on Drax, which I misremembered as "mostly."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Random babbling:

    :: One man's trash, another's treasure: I like Joe Don Baker in this movie, and I didn't see him as an American chump; I liked how he tries to poke a hole in what he sees as stuffy British protocol, making fun of the tradition of secret passwords.

    :: If only the producers had brought in David Arnold one movie earlier for the music! But he wasn't quite yet the hottest name in film music when this movie was made, so we got the electronic crap-fest by Eric Serra. Ugh.

    :: For titles of movies, there are a lot of good titles to individual chapters in the Fleming novels! There's a chapter in the Casino Royale novel called "A Whisper of Love, a Whisper of Hate" that I always thought would make a great Bond movie title.

    :: I've started to think that Q's department's official name should be "Department of Doing Cool Stuff with Cars, Watches, Pens, and Lasers".

    :: Bond is the official greatest multitasker in human history, when he displays his ability to (a) keep the villain talking, (b) keep an eye on the clock, and (c) keep careful count of the number of times the twitchy villainous underling has clicked the soon-to-be-exploding pen.

    I look forward to your thoughts on TND -- a movie I like as an action movie, but not quite as much as a Bond movie.

    ReplyDelete
  5. GoldenEye is a very underrated Bond movie IMO, especially with the recent Casino Royale hype. I know I am in the minority but I love Eric Serra's score for the film (yes, even the closing credits theme) and even knowing it sounds too similar to his score for LEON, I still think it's a far better score than the last three David Arnold put out. At least Serra doesn't try to imitate Barry, much like the best on-Barry Bond composers such as George Martin, he does his own thing.

    I agree with most of your comments on the film, it is the only real stand-out Brosnan movie and if all of his movies had been this good there would be no reason to complain. The "personal" mission thing got old really fast though and really hurt his last three films. He does very well as his first Bond turn.

    I quite like it how the film behaves itself in a way compared to the later Brosnans that had one action setpiece every ten minutes, no real action setpieces happen here after the PTS until the tank chase. We actually have time to know Natalya, Boris, Orumov, Trevelyan, Xenia, etc... before the last half of the movie where the action starts.

    I disagree about Xenia, perhaps I am biased due to my love for Famke but IMO she is the franchise's very best villainess. I love every moment of hers and I do wish she was used a bit more in the second half of the film. However, if you read Michael France's sightly different original script, her role was a lot smaller and she died very early on (during the chase in St. Petesburg).

    (****1/2)

    Please read my comments on your reviews as I will start backtracking them...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent review. I have read that many Dalton fans think that Pierce was also channeling a little of Timothy or that the part of Bond scripted seemed more of a fit for Dalton's style of characterization. One of the biggest nitpicks I have of this film is in the teaser. What happened to the dam? It is nowhere in sight when Bond flies away. This inconsistency always bugs me when I watch the film
    Brent

    ReplyDelete