Why the garden variety James Bond fan is an idiot.

23 December, 2008

Let me preface this by saying that I didn’t like Quantum of Solace very much. In a nutshell, I thought it was the best Jason Statham movie ever made, but it didn’t quite hold together as a James Bond film. I don’t think the series is suddenly perfect just because it has taken a more serious direction and has a brilliant actor in the title role. Even Casino Royale — the best 007 outing since The Spy Who Loved Me — was not without its flaws.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I was always under the impression that poor storytelling, production values, performances etc. were some of the things that made a given movie “bad.” While most films are criticized according to said criteria, James Bond has a different set of rules (Taken from Empire Magazine\’s forum.):

Gunbarrel Opening

Pre-title sequence resulting in a miraculous (gadget aided) escape

A brassy theme song

Sexy Main Titles

Moneypenny banter

M briefing (What do you know about… – Bond gives encylopaedic knowledge)

Q-branch “Pay attention 007”

Glamourous locations

Bond helped by a foe (Zhukovsky in both GE & TWINE)

a Casino scene

Walther PPK

Bond in a black tuxedo

“The name’s Bond… James Bond”

Bond perhaps wearing his Commander naval uniform

“Vodka martini. Shaken not stirred”

Supervillain

Henchmen

Bond beating the Supervillain at some game (fencing, horseriding, poker etc)

Felix Leitter or another CIA helper

Despicable Plot to blow up the world

Bond Girl who dies (the sacrificial lamb)

Bond Girl who is 007’s equal

Sharks or piranah

Supervillain disposes of a minion in a gruesome manner for betraying him

Car chase with a twist

a Train fight

Bond doing something Bondesque with something hopeless (like driving a 2CV and outwitting the bad guys)

Bond being captured and left for dead but escaping

Bond quips

A few Bond innuendos

For the climactic fight, Bond is dressed all in black like in Connery’s days

Bond v Supervillain

a Countdown clock that stops in time (or even at 007)

Blowing up the Supervillain’s lair

Bond v Henchman after destruction of lair

Bond and Bond Girl being discovered by the authorities only to escape again!

Final Bond quip (“Keeping the British end up”)

In other words, I could sit down and bang out the stupidest piece of shit in the history of screenwriting — The kind of dreck that would give Robert McKee a stroke. — but as long as I utilized every single one of those clichés, I would have a satisfying Bond film on my hands. Hmm… Remember the episode of Extras where Ricky Gervais was accosted by one of his fans in a pub? “I love everything about it,” he raved like a lunatic. “The wig, the catchphrase, the glasses…brilliant! The wig, the catchphrase, the glasses…brilliant!”

Fuck that.

Whatever happened to telling a good story? We’re talking about Film 101 here. Clichés are fun, and maybe Quantum of Solace could have used a sprinkling here and there, but they should never define the quality of the film. Ever. I don’t care if it’s a James Bond film or a Martin Scorsese film.

I blame the Pierce Brosnan era. It’s not his fault — He had the four worst scripts of the series to work with. — but literally all they had going for them were the clichés. That’s it. But somehow nobody had the guts to stand up and object until Die Another Day — “The crowning turd in the water pipe,” as Blackadder’s General Melchett would say. — was released. Now all I hear is nostalgia for the good old days when mediocre filmmaking took a back seat to formulaic bullshit.

Imagine if the internet had been around in 1973 when Live and Let Die came out. Everyone would be engaged in a whiny circle jerk about the fact that Roger Moore’s hair color is wrong. Roger Moore isn’t well built enough. Roger Moore doesn’t order a martini. Roger Moore doesn’t talk to Q. The Bond Girl is a virgin. Paul McCartney is too rock-and-roll for Bond. Oh man, Bond is copying blaxploitation movies! Ick! And this is the quintessential “fun Bond” we’re talking about.

I wonder if Batman fans were this anal when Christopher Nolan came along. Something tells me most of them woke up and smelled the coffee after Joel Schumacher. Too bad most Bond fans aren’t that erudite. It’s shocking, I tell you. Positively shocking.

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