Hildebrandt Rarity?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Quantum Of Solace--Revisited

#22 revisitedWell, it's out. Do I have anything new to say?

First, I should note that it is my first Blu-ray Bond (well, technically a tie, since I purchased it simultaneously with Never Say Never Again). One consequence I hadn't foreseen--my computer doesn't have a Blu-ray Disc player, so I can't do any screencaps. Perhaps by the time The Hildebrandt Rarity comes around, I'll have upgraded my computer.

Secondly, I don't plan to upgrade the rest of my Bond collection to Blu-ray anytime soon. Yes, the picture and sound are fantastic...but unlike the leap from VHS to DVD, the Blu-rays are only incrementally better than the Ultimate Edition DVDs. Particularly with my current AV set-up, which isn't upscale enough to make the fullest use of those incremental upgrades. Plus, the Blu-rays don't feature any additional special features over the UE DVDs. Having already purchased most of the Bond films 4 times already (VHS, widescreen VHS, DVD, Ultimate Edition DVD...damn you, Eon!!), I really can't justify blowing the dollars again for essentially nothing extra. So, until I get a better AV setup and win the lottery, no more Blu-ray for snell.

Finally, I know I'm stupid for not waiting for the next release of a "super ultimate edition" of QoS. But man, this is a disappointingly spare release. No commentary track? Really? No BD-Live support of any kind? Not even a link to a bloody webpage?!? Only 1 teaser and one theatrical trailer?? The "production diaries" are nice, but they were all already available on the internet (for free!), and most are 2 minutes or less in length. Of the 5 "featurettes," 4 are under 3 minutes, they cannibalize each other, and are shockingly light on actual information. For example, despite 2 "on location" featurettes, there's not a single mention of the Chilean mayor who staged a protest to try and stop production. Plus--both "On Location" AND ""Bond On Location" (along with "Start of Shooting") as the titles?? That's pretty typical of the lack of imagination and effort here.

But how has the movie itself aged in the past 5 months? I'll pretty much stand by most everything I wrote back in my original review. That is: good, but far from great. There are flashes of brilliance, and some real excitement.

But like the poster and cover shot on the disc, it's too spare, too bleak, too dry. The movie is so intent on hammering home its themes that it makes no time for dialogue, for relationships, for the Bond panache. Has there ever been a Bond film that has been so little fun to watch?

QoS can't even take time for the proper dialogue. Has there ever been a Bond film so bereft of memorable lines? Has there ever been a Bond film where characters' line just don't sync up with each other or what's going on? Example: in Haiti, Elvis berates the guy guarding the gate, "Pay attention next time!!!" This makes absolutely no sense in the context of the scene. When 007 goes to fetch Mathis, he says "you're the only one I can trust," and Mathis suddenly launches into a soliloquy about the old and the young and right and wrong, which doesn't seem apropos at all to what Bond said. At MI-6, the Forensics Tech starts to tell M, "we've done a forensics analysis of every note and its traceable history," but is interrupted by Tanner, who says "Not in the mood." Everyone steps into the lab, on the forensics tech...proceeds to give a forensics analysis of every bill in Mitchell's wallet. Huh? Did we miss something?? Was a lot of stuff edited out so conversations don't make sense? Or was the script just never properly finished? Either way, you get a sense of a movie that doesn't care about details, and instead is interested in hurtling from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, sense be damned.

Obviously, this applies to the editing of the action scenes, too. I harped enough about this last time. But let me just note that, with freeze frame and slo-mo and rewind at my command, you still often can't tell exactly what the hell is happening. During the rooftop chase with Mitchell, you still can't tell where the characters are in relation to each other--and I still swear that they get their directions reversed a few times. In the fight with Slate in the Haiti hotel room, you can't tell how Slate gets his throat severed--by the fall through the glass? Bond? Accidentally stabbing himself? And of course, in the boat chase, there still no sense at all in how the last boat gets toppled, or what the hell that grappling hook had to do with anything. The garage at the desert hotel just suddenly starts exploding when an SUV backs into a wall...why? If there was a hydrogen cell there, we never saw it (hint, Marc Forster...it's called an "establishing shot"). Either Forster and the editors didn't know how to show us, or didn't care. It was "We've got our action sequence, let's move on!"

Sadly, we also have no relationship between Bond and Dominic Greene, our villain. This is not to pick on Mathieu Almaric...the script just keeps him and Bond apart the whole movie. Don't forget, most of what Greene does the first half of the movie is out of Bond's sight and hearing, and James hasn't heard Camille's sad story yet. So there's no real sense of conflict. They don't even meet until an hour into the movie, and then they don't really share any dialogue...Bond only says "I'm sorry, Mr. Greene, but we have to go" and "I'm sure they do." That's literally it until Bond drops Greene in the desert at the end. It's a wasted opportunity, because I think Almaric could have been quite a good Bond villain. But you just can't keep Bond and his villain separated the entire movie and expect their interaction to be compelling.

Commenter Tags took me to task earlier for not paying sufficient attention to Strawberry Fields. Sorry, Tags, but I still feel there's no "there" there. Again, no fault to Gemma Atherton. But the entirety of her role is show up at the airport, back down to Bond; go to a particular hotel, back down to Bond; act cool, but back down and go to bed with Bond; unnecessarily trip Elvis down the stairs, and die offscreen. The entire role felt pasted on a "hey, we've gotta have someone Bond can sleep with and crack jokes to, let's write a role quickly" feel to it. Had the character not even been in the movie, it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to how the story played out.

Then again, you can say that about most of the rest of the movie's plot devices: "We've got to do something besides having Bond brooding for an hour and a half!" Mitchell goes rogue, it's treated as if that was unbelievable--and never mentioned again. Oh, the poor Bolivians and their water shortage--except Bond would have gone after Greene just as hard if he'd never set foot in Bolivia, and did nothing to stop the villain's plot. Ditto for Camille--she'd have gone after Medrano just as fiercely even if there hadn't been a coup plot and an unnecessary attempted rape scene. Beam gets his comeuppance, and Leiter is promoted, but it's offscreen--just take our word for it. Everything in this movie is just a prop--the villain's plot, the MacGuffins, the water shortage, the coup, everything. They're just there as window dressing , something to pass the time until Bond can confront Yusef. And if Bond and the writers and director don't really care about them, why should we? That's why there's so little sense of danger and urgency to the proceedings, because the filmmakers never invested themselves in what was happening, and let that lack of commitment come through in the final product.

Which is a shame, because there's a lot to admire in this movie. The location work is great (even though we're not always in the actual advertised location, at least we're not in a studio). The opera set piece is good (although the vaguely referred to action sequence is treated as a barely-tolerated add-on). The stunts, when you can follow them, are exciting. The performances are all top-notch, especially given how little the script gives them.

But QoS plays more like an outline for a Bond movie, rather than a full-fledged 007 outing. The wit, the flair, the excitement are all lacking, or dialed down to a near undetectable level. Where are the moments in which you can look at the screen and say, "That's gotta be a Bond film?" Which is what keeps this a middle-of-the-pack Bond film.


**The jet and helicopter that chased Bond's DC-3...whom did they belong to? Not the Bolivian government, surely. Did Medrano already control portions of the air force? Does Quantum have their own private air force that operates with impunity in Bolivian airspace?

**I griped about this last time, but it's worth repeating: M, the head of MI-6, goes personally into the field for interrogations in Italy, in Bolivia, in Russia?!? Going into the field was treated as something radical in TWINE...

**Fields excuses herself from Mathis and the police colonel to help Bond...she gets there as Bond and Camille are already descending the stairs. By the time Bond gets to the car, Mathis is already beaten up and stashed in the back, with the motorcycle cops ready to ambush him. How'd that happen so quickly, unless 007 and Camille did a lot of lallygagging on their way out?

**It's right on the screen in M's office, as clear as day: Bond's birthday is April 13, 1968. He was in the Royal Navy 86-96, "RNR Defense" 96-99 (sorry, you got me on that one), and MI-6 99-Present. His SSID# is 94612751. So, let's party next Monday for Bond's 41st birthday, eh?

**While we're on freeze frame patrol, Greene's birthday is July 12, 1964. And according to her Bolivian driver's licence, Camille's full name is Camille Montes Rivero, and her blood type is O positive. No birth date is shown, but her license expires on October 23rd, and that's usually on one's birthday, isn't it??

**Yeah, I know they're doing most of the work underground, but it's not like they're Mole People or something--there must have been ample evidence of Greene Planet's drilling and dynamiting and damning. You'd have to have trucks and heavy equipment and probably helicopters and etc on the surface...yet both the Bolivian government and Medrano appear completely unaware of Green's work out there (on land that he doesn't have the rights to yet!!)...