I spent about ten seconds trying to compare the pre-Craig James Bond film series to watching a childhood friend die of a terminal illness, but that friend took my fiancée and had sex with her with Never Say Never Again, so I didn’t bother going on with it. But then I forgave my friend because sometimes he does some funny shit and he’s still a pretty good guy to hang around and have some beers with from time to time. Sadly, he took his own life with Die Another Day, going out in a cocaine-fueled blaze of glory by banging a clown amputee with a Vitamin C deficiency and attaching TNT to his dick (not necessarily in that order). But what does it mean?
The latest Bond adventure finds agent 007 failing spectacularly at a mission when he gets captured by North Korea and tortured over the course of several months by a Madonna song. After finally being taken back by MI6, Bond escapes custody and goes rogue in order to enact revenge on the Korean agents that made his life hell. To do it, he’ll have to journey across multiple countries, ask favors from old friends, and survive the worst science fiction ideas since everything in Alien Vs. Predator. Also, HalleBerry is a CIA agent, there’s some nonsense about conflict diamonds, and Ian Fleming comes back from the dead just long enough to kill himself for what has happened to his character. Oh! And Michael Madsen has a cameo, and HalleBerry has a sword fight with Rosamund Pike in a plane that’s about to crash.
Searched for “huge action movie.” Is this from Takers? I hate that movie. Today sucks…
This being the 40th anniversary of the Bond franchise, the filmmakers chose to fill it with homages and references to the rest of the films. The best of these is Q’s lab, in which an array of gadgets from Bond’s past can be seen, such as Klebb’s shoe spike and the jetpack. Jinx’s introductory scene is heavily reminiscent of Honey Ryder’s scene from Dr. No. It can be fun to spot the homages.
The movie can be a bit of inspired lunacy at times. It’s highly amusing to see Gustav Graves wearing his trademark smirk as he describes how Icarus works, while a John Williams-style epic chorus echoes in the background. It’s all just complete absurdity, and the crew seems to be mostly in on the joke.
While the film does occasionally have a slick aesthetic, other areas of the film are not so good looking. While it might be a bit unfair to judge a 2002 film in 2012, it still bears mentioning that the CGI here has not aged well at all. Nearly every instance is extremely noticeable and while it’s not a dealbreaker, it can be distracting in how excessive it is (particularly the shots in which practical effects could have been used instead). There are also a handful of moments of inexplicable slow motion. It’s not even the cool slow motion, either; it’s the “look, mommy, I just used Windows Movie Maker to reduce the number of frames per second” slow motion that looks shoddy, stupid, and random. A decade later I still haven’t figured out the reasoning behind this.
This movie pushes the boundaries of the absurd and implausible, more so than most science fiction films. In the process, the film could technically be classified as a sci-fi action movie. The main villain is a British dude who used to be Korean before his plastic surgery, and now he has a combat suit that electrocutes people and a satellite that channels the fucking sun into a laser beam. The other villain just has diamonds stuck in his face. There’s an invisible car, a palace made entirely out of ice, and a “dream machine” that gives one the sensation of having had a restful sleep. When it comes to action scenes, there’s a hand-to-hand fight in a room full of moving lasers, a car chase across a glacier where both cars are equipped with weapons, and a memorably horrible scene with Bond para-surfing on a tidal wave. Because the only thing a movie with hovercrafts flying over a minefield needs is Pierce Brosnan outrunning a melted glacier by riding on top of it.
AND THEN HE SLAMS A DEW
All of that spectacle would be all well and good, if it had any reason for existing. SPOILER: Later in the film, Graves reveals that his master plan is to use Icarus to cut through the Korean Demilitarized Zone and invade South Korea, my reaction was: What? He had to build a satellite that concentrates the sun just to be able to invade South Korea? And why the hell does he have a palace literally made out of ice? How the hell did they build it? And why did Graves need to adopt his Caucasian persona to enact his plan? All of it reeks of spy fiction gone wildly off the deep end, its connective tissue long since eroded.
The puns. Dear God, the puns. Die Another Day easily has more puns than the rest of the James Bond series combined, and puts in a solid effort at outstripping most action films of the twentieth century. It’s fairly common to encounter a patch of the film in which almost half a dozen puns get fired off in under five minutes. They’re almost universally bad, from having both “cutting-edge” and “point taken” being used to refer to a hidden shoe blade, to something as jaw-droppingly bad as a villain introducing himself as Mr. Kil—to which Bond replies, “Now there’s a name to die for”—the jokes and puns come at an exhausting level.
Honestly, it’s fun—a lot of fun. But it’s so stupid, so incredibly absurd that you have to wonder what was going through the minds of the writers and producers. When I first saw it I was a teenager—basically a walking erection with a hunger for things blowing up—and I still recognized that this movie was completely ridiculous. Die Another Day owns the phrase “jumping the shark” almost as effectively as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Shit owns the phrase “nuking the fridge.” It’s easy to laugh, but it’s occasionally hard to figure out whether you’re laughing at the movie, or with it.
Take a Drink: every time you question a plot point.
Do a Shot: for every instance of slow motion.
Take a Drink: for every pun (don’t actually do this if you value your life).
Take a Drink: for each reference to a past Bond film.