Tuesday 14 August 2012

BlogalongaBond / Die Another Day:
Baaad DAD

Nine seconds into Die Another Day, and something's already not right. There's the gunbarrel, there's the music, there's James Bond turning and firing at the screen: all very familiar and reassuring. And then a CG bullet fires out of Bond's gun towards the audience. This has never happened before. It's disconcerting.
Two hours and seven minutes later, it's painfully obvious that this crass, pointless and generally wanky moment is a metaphor for the whole film. Either that, or Q has equipped Bond with a gun that turns into an umbrella.

It's telling that Die Another Day remains the only one of Pierce Brosnan's Bond films not to be turned into a video game. Why bother? The film already is one, only without the fun of being able to control the characters. Imagine if you could: would anybody not have pushed John Cleese's Q in front of the Aston Martin's motion-sensitive machine guns? At one point Bond even plays a video game himself as part of a virtual reality training session which, as Moneypenny later discovers, has a secret level that allows you to simulate intercourse with a colleague. No wonder the world is constantly at threat from terrorists if all MI6 is doing is designing VR porn for sex-starved secretaries.

In the film's defence, it does have a few inspired moments. To have Bond captured and imprisoned for over a year is a phenomenally bold move, and one that promises to show us a hitherto-unseen side to the previously-infallible secret agent. The long hair and magnificent Brozbeard are to be congratulated too; it's great to see Bond properly fucked up for once, even though fourteen months in a North Korean hell-hole don't seem to have had any effect on his physique. Unfortunately Die Another Day chickens out within half an hour, having 007 back in a Brioni suit with immaculate barnet and Philishaven fizzog, keeping calm and carrying on as if he's been nowhere more traumatic than Brighton for the weekend.

After a while you begin to wonder what the point of all the torture and facial hair was, as it's so quickly forgotten. One possible answer comes in the briefest of comments from M, and it's not a pleasant one:
"While you were away, the world changed."
Given that Die Another Day was released in November 2002, and that Bond films are usually set in the present day, that means he went missing in or around September 2001. The implication that he was absent for the attacks on the World Trade Centre may be a tenuous one, but what's the point of M's comment otherwise? Are the scriptwriters asking us to believe that Bond could have prevented the attacks, or apologising for not having 007 go after al-Qaeda because he was "a bit tied up"? We'll never know, because HOMGZ AN INVISIBLE CAR!!!!!1!

Yep, an hour in, and all pretence that this might be a serious Bond film with some grounding in reality is blown to smithereens. The aforementioned VR training sequence and the transparent Aston Martin blast proceedings further into sci-fi than Moonraker, while a nonsensical wander through Q's room full of old Bond props is painfully nudge-nudge-wink-wink wank. Before you know it you're being assaulted by speed-ramped footage to ensure the film is dated before it even comes out; a henchman whose name is Mr Kil only so that Bond can make a crap gag about it; and an embarrassingly OTT villain who speaks only in over-scripted bon mots (mal mots more like) and spends his spare time wearing an android Peter Stringfellow mask.

All of which bollocks leads us to the piss-flavoured icing on the turdcake: the kitesurfing scene. If there was ever any doubt that director Lee Tamahori thought he was making something for Nintendo GameCubes rather than cinemas, then this CG / green-screen travesty is the bitter, unwatchable proof. Not only is it absolutely fucking awful beyond words, but it didn't even need to happen. Bond drives away from the villain's lair (even though he knows his totty is trapped inside), gets involved in the series' worst ever set-piece, then comes straight back to rescue the girl. The scene exists for no other reason than to curl out a quick stunt, and it smells worse than Bond's fourteen-month-old beard. Its only redeeming feature is the absence of The Beach Boys on the soundtrack.
To detail any more of Die Another Day's faults would be too depressing, so I'll turn to the film's most genuinely enjoyable aspect: Pierce Brosnan's DVD commentary. Recorded just before the film was released in cinemas, Brosnan is heard enjoying the film immensely, possibly because he was watching it while sitting on a bean bag stuffed with his salary and a naked Rosamund Pike. He LOLs himself silly at scenes which are, at best, worthy of the faint raising of a mouth corner, and later goes to almost painful lengths to justify the catastrophic CGI. It's well worth a listen (at least until Pike pops up and starts babbling about nothing), but if you can't be arsed, here are some of my favourite moments:

On the pre-title sequence's hovercrafts:
"These things are very hard to pilot. I mean, it's like trying to drive a bar of soap"

On spotting an old friend:
"Heh! Michael Madsen, my neighbour! We live on the same beach"

On Lee Tamahori:
"Once we started shooting, Jesus, he went like the clappers"

On Fleming's choice of moniker for his hero:
"A well-known story: Ian Fleming was writing the story - Dr. No - and was trying to come up with a name for the character"
Dr. No was Fleming's sixth James Bond novel.

On Halle Berry's first scene:
"It's a classic sequence. It's an homage to... (very long pause as Brosnan tries to remember the name of the film to which the classic sequence is an homage) ...the old Bond movies... Ursula Andress..."

On the film's use of CGI:
"There's more CGI than any other [Bond] film. Lee wanted to push the envelope in that area, and quite rightly. The great thing about Bond is that the stunts are in camera. The stuntman is there, performing the stunt. I think you get a lot of that in this movie but you also get the CGI effects"
Is anyone else confused?

On the use of "London Calling" on the soundtrack:
"Great... The Clash. Classic song, classic movie"
Just to clarify, he's still talking about Die Another Day here.

As Bond picks up Rosa Klebb's shoe from From Russia With Love:
"There's Olga Klebb's shoe"

On the kitesurfing scene:
"That works, I think. I believe that"

But P-Brozzle saves his best comment for the end credits. Obviously asked by someone how he thinks James Bond should progress into the new millennium, he demonstrates a colossal lack of foresight with this analysis:
"I think the character should keep going in the same way it's been going for the last twenty years. It would be great to get darker and more to the bone of what this guy is about, but I don't think it would be as successful. But it's really not up to me."
Thank fuck it wasn't.

Peter Lamont's production design
You've got to feel sorry for the guys in the engine room of a bad Bond film, and Peter Lamont is on the receiving end of all my sympathy. His location work is outstanding - Cadiz in Spain, standing in for Havana, is remarkably convincing - but his sets are literal works of art. The sweaty, stifling Cuban cigar factory (shot in exotic Hackney) is a triumph of realism while the villain's mental, Ken Adam-esque ice palace is quite the opposite - appropriately surreal, grotesquely OTT and entirely correct for the insanity of its owner.

And finally: Not everyone hates Die Another Day. In fact, some people quite like it. Some people really like it. And some people have their entire bedroom decorated to look like it.
And before you ask: No. This is not my bedroom.

BlogalongaBond will return with Casino Royale

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here


  1. Thank god you got that one out of the way.
    How long until Casino Royale?

  2. You still made me chuckle into my authentic martini even though I am one of the ones who really likes this. Despite agreeing in many if the points about the bad stuff. I really love OTT 007 like this, YOLT and Moonraker. Kudos. And Brozza? Bless him.

  3. Oh thank GOD I was not the only one who thought that surf scene was absolute wank. Literally the worst CG I'd seen since Harry Potter's first flying outings. Dated before it'd even left the cinema! And it really, really didn't make much sense. Entertaining review, as always. Can't wait to see what you think of the Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace Dichotomy in tone, as I like to call it. (OOOoooh look at that big word I just pulled outta my ass)...

  4. Those snippets from Brosnan's commentary were hilarious. But I don't see how anyone could like TWINE better than DAD. At least this one tries to be fun.

  5. Guess what they are making DAD into a video game! It's part of the upcoming 007 Legends game

  6. Blue Straggler10 May 2014 at 01:03

    I think this is the worst of the lot. YOLT used to fight against Moonraker and AVTOAK for that honour, but all those films (especially Moonraker) have at least one aspect that could convince me that they might in fact be someone's favourite. DAD lacks this. Weirdly, the only top notch aspect of it is Toby Stephens. His character lacks credibility and he gets some awful dialogue, but as an actor, he does pretty well with what he's given - which is some sort of weird "evil Richard Branson" role. I found him to be extremely effective. Ros Pike was great too until pathetically succumbing to Jinx's "street knifing" in the fight.

    But - yeah - it's shit overall

  7. DAD might be ridiculous at times but despite that I enjoy parts of it. It's not all that bad before the ice palace. I personally find it more entertaining than Moonraker.