Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace review

Quantum of Solace - 3 stars

Last night I saw Quantum of Solace, and I am still trying to make up my mind about it. Its easy to say it isn't as good as Casino Royale. But is it fair to compare it to the best James Bond movie in the entire history of James Bond movies? Casino Royale is a Bond movie for grown-ups. The older movies were simple: cool gadgets, hot women, over-the-top villains, and clues that wouldn't be out of place in Scooby Doo. Remember Moonraker? Bond is searching a deserted warehouse, and luckily the bad guys dropped a patch that said 'Drax Space Administration' or something like that. Wow, that was sure easy, wasn't it?

What did I like about Quantum of Solace? First of all, its a direct sequel to Casino Royale. It picks up less than an hour after Casino Royale ended. I don't know why they've never done that before. Each movie is contained in its own universe. Once in a while they would reference his dead wife, but that was about it. Whatever girl he ended up with, she was nowhere to be found in the next movie. Same with supporting characters. Joe Don Baker's Jack Wade character showing up in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies was a rare exception. Even if Felix Leiter was in two movies in a row, he was played by two different actors (John Terry in The Living Daylights and David Hedison in License to Kill).

And don't get me started on the problems with the Blofeld storyline. First Bond meets him in You Only Live Twice (played by Donald Pleasence), then meets him again in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (this time played by Telly Savalas). But Blofeld doesn't recognize Bond, and vice versa. Is this supposed to be a prequel to YOLT? In Diamonds Are Forever Blofeld is played by Charles Gray, and at least this time the characters seem to have a history. Not sure if their history is from YOLT or OHMSS.

If you remember, Casino Royale ended with Bond's girlfriend Vesper Lynd killing herself. Thanks to a text from Vesper, Bond was able to track down the man (or one of the men) responsible for blackmailing Vesper - Mr. White. Quantum of Solace begins with Bond driving Mr. White somewhere where they can talk. Bond wants revenge, and he wants to know who Mr. White works for. Before he can be interrogated, he escapes and we are off on another chase / fight sequence.

There are some cool action scenes in this movie, but they are all edited by Michael Bay. Ok, not that bad - but still, I really wish they would give us an action sequence where the shots lasted longer than 1/16 of a second. Give me a wide shot and let the action play out. There is no reason for the stunt team to get a fight sequence down if they are just going to edit the hell out of it. I was really paying attention and I still couldn't tell what was going on. You get no sense of geography with that kind of editing.

I also felt like Daniel Craig didn't get as much to do in this movie. It seemed like in this movie he had half as many lines as he had in Casino Royale. CR made people say "Daniel Craig is the best actor to portray James Bond." This movie won't make anyone say that. George Lazenby could have played this part.

Back to what I did like about this movie. Judi Dench has more screen time than she did in the last movie, which is always good. Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis) is fantastic. The scene at the opera where we discover more about Quantum is very cool. And I am starting to like Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) more and more. I hope he gets more to do in the next movie. Mathieu Amalric is also very good as the villain. He isn't trying to take over the Earth, just control the water supply for Bolivia. He is very good in this movie. He has very creepy eyes.

I am still looking forward to the next movie. They have laid the groundwork for more Bond adventures, and I like the idea of Quantum as the new version of SPECTRE. We haven't heard from SPECTRE since the 60's, and instead of a new villain every movie, I like having one big group of evildoers to fight. But in the next movie, Bond needs to lighten up.

Oh, and I hope they don't bring Q back. Desmond Llewelyn was Q, and with him gone, there can be no other. As much as I love John Cleese, he is not Q. They should retire that character. If they want to bring Moneypenny back, I'm ok with that.

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