December 18, 2008

I'm a little behind Katydid

Sure, I'm not hanging in film school and rockin' the flicks every two days like some people, but I'm doin' my part, massaging the economy, finally getting around to Quantum of Solace, the new Bond flick.

I'll be up front and honest here: I am a Bond fanatic.

Seen every flick in the official run and a couple otherwise (Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again).

Seen most of the flicks multiple times - rented videos, TBS marathons, TNT marathons, SpikeTV marathons.

My rankings of best Bonds at this point are...
  1. Daniel Craig
  2. Timothy Dalton
  3. Sean Connery
  4. Pierce Brosnan
  5. George Lazenby
  6. Roger Moore
I grew up knowing the From Russia With Love was the best of the Bond films - because that's what The Pater Familias always avowed.

And I know now that Russia has been firmly knocked from its perch by the new Casino Royale but not quite by Quantum of Solace.

Casino Royale was a tour de force, a solid 8 on a ten scale masquerading as a Bond flick. This is the necessary sequel, and it is a slightly lesser but a solid Bond offering, leaving him ready to be Bond, James Bond by the end of the film.

We open moments after the previous film closed, with Bond having kneecapped and kidnapped Mr. White, Vesper's contact in the shadowy evil organization which we come to know in this film as Quantum. The film progresses quite quickly from a tight car chase along quarry cliffs to what becomes an on-foot, across-rooftops, dangling-from-ropes chase scene. The second chase scene was, for me, the weakest moment in the entire film as the jump cuts were amped up dramastically (don't ask) to a point that I couldn't tell if Bond was the chaser or the chasee (both characters were white guys in dark suits) throughout most of the sequence.

From there, Bond and MI6 begin to find evidence that this secretive evil organization, Quantum - for whom acronyms are pleasantly avoided, has their fingers in a number of inter-related pies around the world. Bond ditches MI6, exploring his hunches and conveniently following a trail of revenge-related leads up the food chain through Austria and eventually to South America where Quantum is fomenting a revolution and threatening the new El Presidente hoping to cash in on a water shortage that they created and that the director shows us ever so briefly with an admittedly ham-handed scene of Peruvian natives searching their village water supply and finding only the last drying drips and drabs.

Oddly, Bond is not the easily to bed chap of the pre-Royale films. He is, as he was in Royale a charming sort, a characteristic that M lays bare for him after his one conquest is found murdered and covered in oil a la Goldfinger's initial desecration. Craig's Bond shows his not by bedding every female in the room but rather by convincing people to help him in following his hunches which turn out - in true cinematographic convenience - to always be true.

In the end, Bond finds the Quantum leader - for this film and this revolution, at least - and dishes out his revenge. He then tracks down the Quantum grunt who dragged him into the organization's clutches by trapping Vesper at some point during or before Royale. Here, we meet the Bond that our spy has become. He is, in the finale only, restrained, cold, duty-bound, and willing to allow MI6's field soldiers to do their job rather than having to deliver every punch himself and to deliver them each as a sort of payback for whatever happened in the previous set piece.

And the last - the delivery of the Bond we know and need - is the glory of this film and its predecessor, Casino Royale. They have given us a Bond with a backstory, a sense of purpose, a history, something that the previous series lacked.

I am listening to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay a tale of two comic book writers during the 1930s who - near the beginning of the novel - create a character that goes on to be impressively successful, The Escapist. In the process of brainstorming the character, Jimmy Clay informs his partners - and the readers - that "The why is the what" meaning that they need to provide their hero with a reason before they can hope to make anything more than a strong guy who fights crime because it's the right thing to do. Their origin - one of the most well through-out and written origin stories in the comic book genre that I've read - comes to them quickly once they fall upon the general character concept, and that origin provides the motivation that the character needs as well as our entry point to the rich backstory that Chabon is providing.

Her, then, we know Bond's why.

He is an intelligent, talented, brutish individual prone to violence and impulsiveness. "The bad guys" (whomever they are) killed his one true love after trying to get her to betray him. Initially he was out for revenge, but he purged that drive in the Peruvian dessert.

Now it's time to get down to the serious backside kicking.

And I'm already ready for the next Daniel Craig Bond, because this is now my Bond.


achilles3 said...

SO PUMPED you're reading Kav and Clay! It's one of my favs!

joey said...

daniel craig is amazing. knew it from the first time i saw layer cake (with the subtitles on, admittedly. i suck with british accents)

CrimsonMirage said...

Hmm I was going to just wait until this one came out on dvd...but I think after reading that I may actually drag myself to the theaters to see it.

Katydid said...

Yeah, I get to see a lot of movies, but I get to sit through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff. You don't know tedious until you've seen "Battleship Potemkin."

And hey, I haven't even seen "Quantum" yet.

G-Rob said...

Good post, but I have one thing...Anthony Dalton #2? Really?

That is all.

PHSChemGuy said...

Lakes - finished up Kav and to follow...

Joey - Layer Cake blew me away. Absolutely floored. He's done nothing (that I've seen) since then that didn't impress me.

Crimson - it's worth seeing on the big screen. Big bombs, big esposions.

Katydid - then I'm ahead of you by one.

GRob - I'm all down with Dalton. He played the part so darkly, so drivenly, that I found it a nice refresher from the crap that Roger Moore had been spewing for so many years. I like my Bond with a nasty streak not with a wink and a smile.