Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Despair

We went to see Quantum of Solace yesterday afternoon. I don’t check reviews - either written or podcast - but do watch the headlines of same just to get a general sense of what the professional critics think of a given movie. In this case more critics had panned the movie than had liked it, but there seemed to be votes in both directions.

I went in hoping for solace from the critics, but came out desolate, disappointed, in despair.

This movie was chase, fight, chase, character interaction, fight, chase, fight, chase, chase, character interaction, explosion... Roughly in that order, and with the character interaction approximating about 3 minutes of the first 30.

While it is certainly true that we always expect a Bond movie to be filled with action, in this movie it just went on and on. There was little in the way of story or character development, or perhaps the story and character development were just in the way of the chases, fights and explosions. It’s further true that in a Bond movie we don’t expect Bond, M, or the Bond girl to show much if any character arc, but in this movie they just didn’t show any. The villain didn’t show any either.

There can actually be some story and character development even in Bond movies. This is part of why we like the series. Casino Royale had that - a mix of story and character shaken in amongst the fights and chases, and it helped us learn about the new Bond and helped us learn about the other characters in his universe. There was story that kept us watching to see what was going to happen and where it was going.

In this movie though, within 7 minutes we knew all we would ever learn about the characters, and we knew where the story was going. Late in the movie it even got to the point where - though some of the audio was garbled and we couldn’t make out the exact dialogue - it didn’t matter because we knew the characters’ motivations and could read the telegraphy of their next actions.

As in any Bond movie there was a lot of money up there on the screen, and there were some expensive above the line people too, so this movie obviously cost a lot to make. (I don’t have the interest to look up what it cost.) So if you go to these solely for action and explosions, this is your movie.

In addition to my complaints of too much vapid action, let me also register a complaint about how the action is shot and edited. In all the fights, chases and explosions throughout the movie most of the shots were too tight and the edits too damn quick. We liked that in the first two Bourne movies, but it wore out its welcome by Bourne 3 and it’s tired now. Appeal to the producers: please ask your directors use a few more middle shots and let us watch them for a few seconds. In Slate’s review of the movie - snarkily titled 000 (read Double-Oh Zero) Dana Stevens notes that the likely problem with this movie was that the director has made mainly tearjerkers, which is not a job requirement for a Bond movie director.

And my final rant: Why use a Ukrainian actress to play a Bolivian? Were there simply no South American actresses available for that movie? Her accent in English was funky, and they couldn’t have her speak any Spanish (or at least very little).

And my last (only?) kudo? They used my All Time Favorite airplane, a Siai Marchetti SF-260 - and it was even done up with military hard points and gun pods.

(The picture linked above was the best example I could find of the airplane with gun pods. Even so, you can just barely see the barrels of the .30 cal pods peeking out from under the leading edge of the port wing. This site has a history of the SF-260, and the SF-260W or the “Warrior” variant of the basic SF-260.)

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