If this had not
been a Bond
movie it would have been.... acceptable
Steven Notley, creator of Bob the Angry Flower, said in one of his movie reviews that the problem with this movie is that the real world headed Bondward and the Bond franchise responded by running away from the real world. This is the largely echoed criticism that follows so many movies, the fear of reminding people of the real world and losing money (remember Spider-Man reputedly had a scene removed because it featured the World Trade Center). Unfortunately the choice of villain in this one has come back to bite the Bond team, but more on that later.
As a movie Die Another Day has some cool things going on, but it just fails on a few counts to be believable in the context of the James Bond world. We're expected to believe that in a world where MI6 knows everything they fail to do a background check on an agent, who turns out to have been at Cambridge with the son of the North Korean general. This simple oversight is of course fueling the whole movie, but it just feels weak - weaker still is M's "If you'd only told us...." line to the head of the CIA - Bonds MI6 relies on the CIA for information about what goes on in he UK! Weak! Just like how someone can have gene therapy to change their appearance and then build a sattelite laser all in the space of 14 months - when it's just been established their ill-gotten gains were all spent on fast cars and hovercraft (and just how the hell did the US not spot this base in the demillitarized zone? I know in the Bond universe the United States are frequently incompetant, but this is a stretch).
Another grating point is the idea of surfing into North Korea - I felt like I'd walked into XXX. Bond escaping a collapsing glacier via a parachute and makeshift surfboard was okay but still felt like a desperate grab for some new market share. The whole movie seems to be struggling to maintain a bunch of things that other Hollywood movies have - This is the third Bond movie in the last four to feature an Englishman as the villain. Technically Gustav Graves is not English but the outward presentation is all you notice. There's also a shot of a rank of sports cars in bright colours which raises another question - how did they all get there. Later you wonder why someone who obviously knows he's not meant to have all those flashy symbols of Western decadence is so eager to help the regime.
Opportunities are missed all round, when you have four villains it's hard to work in enough of them to give a satisfying movie. With the Main Bad Guy, the Evil Girl, the Freakish Henchman and the Oddjob Copy you're hard pressed to have good fight scenes for all of them. Surprisingly Oddjob Copy gets the best, and Freakish Henchman the worst - he falls into some water and gets crushed by a chandelier. Evil Girl exists so Good Girl can fight her, since women can't beat up men, y'know, and the fight scene is an excuse to show off some midriff. Actually that's what women in Bond movies are for but it still felt bad here, possibly because I can smell gratuitous a mile off.
Speaking of feeling bad, if you didn't like Street Fighter you're going to have flashbacks - the bad guy ends up with a suit of armour that electrocutes people. Ugh. Why does he need it, he could kick the crap out of Bond anyway - but Bond survives electrocution, which was a moment reminiscent of a Schwarzenegger movie. Another bad choice of events is Moneypenny reduced in status from "Woman who flirts with Bond" to "Woman who is after Bond" and she gets stuck as comic relief at the end. Dissapointing, as though she wasn't a particularly developed character to start with this makes her seem like just a horny secretary.
End Massive Spoilerage
The worst thing is the response the movie has garnered. Here's a quote reportedly from the North Korean "news agency"
"The film represents the real intention of the US keen on war as it considers the North as part of an 'axis of evil', fans up division and confrontation between the South and the North and insults and makes mockery of the Korean nation"
Despite misinterpreting (or misreporting) the movie as a United States propaganda vehicle it is a good point - There are people who will interpret this sort of film wrongly (one hopes that George W. Bush isn't this stupid) and support any action against North Korea. It's sad to say so, but movies should be more careful when using a current political situation. As for "mockery of the Korean nation" it's obscure, but probably a comment based on the presence of two psychotic Koreans backed by a group of warmongers - or likely just the fact North Korea is in the movie. I'm trying to be impartial but regardless of how much we don't like comments like "axis of evil" North Korea is still no shining, happy place. Judging any movie on what others think is a little silly, but this one has that uncomfortable feeling that it's grabbing a cheap target.
Hey wait a minute, where did North Koreans get a copy of a James Bond movie? Poor continuity in the real world! Yes, they probably just fired a statement off without seeing it.
13/1/03: As an aside, the fourth article in the list says Kim Jong-il is a film buff and Bond fan - Truth or fiction? Truth stranger than fiction?
That aside, South Korean activists are not happy with the timing of the film, and South Korean audiences in general are upset with the setting for the closing shag - a Bhuddist temple or shrine (I wouldn't know, but it's what they think that matters). Also upset about the representation of Korea the ticket sales flag and theatres are aparrently dropping it.
It's clearly a poor choice on the part of the producers to show the villainy in their movie so closely tied to a real group - in fact remembering back to all the real Bond movies only one has a political group linked to the actions of the villain - Goldfinger, featuring Asian backers for his plan, though it's not very clear - he might just have been after a handy nuclear weapon. Any Bond movie with the KGB involved usually has them as side players, and SPECTRE was substituted for Russia in some movies.
As I said at the start of this peice, if it had been any other action movie it would be possible to shrug off most of the movie as generic fluff, but as a Bond movie you have higher expectations. I wouldn't show this to people who have never seen a Bond movie - this one is for the die-hard fans so they can say they've seen 'em all. Hopefully the next one will feature a more subtle plot and less bandwagonish scenes - Closer to The Living Daylights than Moonraker.
- Steven Notley's review - http://angryflower.com/dieanoth.html
- Admittedly crap article - http://xtramsn.co.nz/news/0,,3782-2065211,00.html
- But The Guardian one is worse - http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,12589,868313,00.html
- Another NZ article - http://xtramsn.co.nz/entertainment/0,,3802-2068115,00.html
If anyone has any more articles about poor reactions to this movie please let me know.
Someone is no doubt about to /msg me that there was a Russian bad guy in Octopussy, The Living Daylights and A View to a Kill - go and watch them again, the villains are rogue agents. In For Your Eyes Only the Russians are after the SEATAC but they have paid some freelance guy to get it. All the movies represent a criminal, terrorist or fanatic group (Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me fall into the latter group).