Sunday, November 16, 2008

Exfanding Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace movie posterThis weekend I saw the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. QoS picks up shortly after where its predecessor, Casino Royale, left off.

If you've been out of the movie loop for a while, Casino Royale was essentially a "franchise reboot," starting an entirely new continuity of 007 films. It's still got the same basic premise of British superspy James Bond going around the world, blowing things up, killing people, and kicking bad guy butt, but you might be surprised at how serious, realistic (by comparison), gritty, violent, and morally ambiguous the reboot is.

My significant other suggests that Daniel Craig's James Bond is a hitman who only happens to become romantically involved with women, as opposed to the Bonds of yore who were smooth operators who happened to dispatch some thugs from time to time. Consider the difference between the Batman played by Christian Bale in The Dark Knight and any other Batman who came before him; that's more or less what's going on here.

At any rate, this was purported to be a review of Quantum of Solace, so I'll give it to you in abridged format because I've rambled on too much already. (Possible minor spoiler alert.)

What to expect: A series of big action scenes strung together by just enough plot to give the film a direction. By far the most action-packed and least twisty Bond film I can think of.

What I liked: I normally have some difficulty wrapping my head around the plot of any given bond movie (I don't think my brain is configured properly for the intrigue typical of spy movies), but this one was pretty straightforward; the action sequences were appropriately action-packed, and the final action sequence in particular was extremely memorable and well-executed; the redhead was kinda cute.

What I wasn't so fond of: Though I'm a sucker for good action sequences, I'm all about the characters. However, Bond was (understandably) hollow the entire film, and as a result, the interactions between him and other characters almost (emphasis on almost) always lacked... character. Consequently, it felt like an above-average mindless action movie that featured some guy by the name of James Bond.

The main "Bond girl" didn't stand out at all to me for her characterization or... well, that's all we consider when thinking about a Bond girl, right? Anyhow, she seemed mostly there to help direct the plot. The other supporting characters were at least decent if not good, but they ultimately didn't matter as much as they could have because the movie was about action more than it was about them.

And, though the action sequences were good, the shaky camera took away made the action harder to follow, and there were very few "Oh, so cool!" moments. The film was also saturated with chase scenes, which I don't mind, but am not overly fond of.

Lastly, QoS lacked a few of the elements that one comes to expect from a Bond movie. There are no cool gadgets. Not once does he say, "Bond. James Bond." Normally, I might be willing to overlook these omissions because this is, after all, a different direction for the Bond franchise. The problem is that these omissions are accompanied by a mostly flavorless Bond and a fairly thin plot, so there's often nothing to identify that this is a James Bond movie and not a Bourne ripoff or a big-budget, no-name, mindless action flick.

Conclusion: Watch Casino Royale first, and if you liked it at all or just like action movies, go see QoS. I liked the film well enough, but the action sequences and characters didn't draw me in as far as I would have liked, and there wasn't much to distinguish it from any other action film.

[Read the follow-up re-review, if you're interested.]

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