Saturday, 8 November 2008

Quantum of Solace (contains spoilers)

Until last night I had been looking forward with a mixture of excitement and apprehension about the Quantum of Solace; it’d had mixed review from people who had seen. Nonetheless it is a Bond film so I was kinda hoping it would at least be half decent; I mean with an established format and a very good actor as the main character, how far wrong could they go? Answer: very. But I suppose every cloud, no matter how black has a silver lining; I now get to spew bile about it here.

The Quantum of Solace is little more than a series of shitty expositions leading into progressively more gratuitously unlikely actions scenes, vaguely held together by what could be described as a plot is we were being very generous. This is no more a film than a heap of metal is a car.

We are used to rather absurd car chases in Bond films, so I wont criticise the opening scene too much, it did seem even more unlikely than most chase scenes we see in Bond film though. Instead of just the one, maybe two high speed chases that we normally get as part of the Bond package we had no less than three, in order; a car chase, a boat chase in which Bond kicked the arses of two top of the range motorboats with a fucking metal fishing boat, and a plane chase in which Bond managed to outmanoeuvre a fighter plane in a big fuck off carrier plane. The car chase was acceptable, the boat chase less so and I almost walked out in the middle of the plane chase. Whichever prick at Bond HQ who decided that the more ridiculous and unlikely the chase the better deserves to be taken outside, put against a wall and shot by a firing squad and point blank range.

The high-speed chases were not the only actions scenes however; we also had a couple of chases on foot and a lot of rather unlikely fight scenes. The second action scene in the film is a chase across the rooftops of a foreign and not very well-off city, deja vu anyone? Just because at worked in Casino Royal does not mean that it’ll work again; this time it just felt like they’d already run out of ideas for chase scenes and so decided to reuse some; I would not be surprised if they had even used some of the footage from Casino Royal; there didn’t seem to be much, if any difference. However, in terms of sheer lunacy, the final action scene takes the bacon. Bond running through a burning building with beams and staircases collapsing without getting more than just a couple of scratches and very sweaty? Come on guy, lets try to at least flirt with Realism for a bit, you don’t have to sleep with her, just talk for a while, look at her, sitting on that table alone and neglected in the corner of the action/adventure nightclub. No wait, she’s not alone, you seem to have left Plot sitting crying in the corner as well you asshole. Ok, this metaphor has gone far enough.

In the first paragraph I said that Bond has an accepted formula; there are certain stereotypes and catch phrases that we associate with the films. This is not a bad thing. Someone at Bond HQ seems to think it is. I don’t remember hearing in the words ‘Dry Martini, shaken not stirred’ or ‘Bond, James Bond’ during the entire film. ‘Bond always get the girl’; is one of the fundamental tenant of any Bond film. Any reason why Bond didn’t get the girl this time? The answer of course is that some twat wants to try to move Bond away from its accepted formula. Why? Because if we don’t change things from time to time, they get stale. Bullshit. The ‘Bond Formula’ is not broken; it works, it is accepted by Bond fans worldwide, why the fuck change it? As ever, when you try to fix something that works perfectly well already, you end up cocking it up. Thank you whoever you are for cocking Bond up.

I know hard-arse bastards and action films go together like sweating panting paedophiles and children’s play areas, but, as the analogy suggests, this is not necessarily a good thing. Now I’m no expert, but I’m sure that characters that seem to show some element of humanness are easier to connect to than fucking robots that never change facial expressions. In fact, come to think of it, the robots in ‘I Robot’ showed more emotion than Daniel Craig did in the Quantum of Solace. I know Bond is meant to be really good at not showing emotion, but it might make it easier for the audience to connect to him if he did. Even when he was throwing himself around in all those horrific action sequences he didn’t show any pain bar a few grunts here and there. No matter what happened he carried on going like a fucking machine. Some might say this shows his great strength, I would argue that Realism has now stormed out of the nightclub in disgust. I think she’s gone to drink herself into a stupor so that she can forget that everyone is ignoring her.

The other characters in the film were actually quite good, or would have been if they’d had more than a few minutes worth of half-hearted characterisation. At no point in the film did I feel that I knew the characters. I walked out of the cinema wondering what the motives of the villain were, who the hell the fucking love interest actually was (apart from than pretty hot) and how they were actually connected. It seemed like the writers were just going through the motions of characterisation so that they could get to another action sequence. Parts of the plot that did not allow for another action sequence were rushed through and most of them just provided more excuses for Bond to go somewhere and therefore set up another exposition for another action sequence. Because of the sheer weight of action sequences, the film felt rushed. As per usual with the film industry, it was squeezed into well under two hours, although the performance was over two hours because of the stupid number of adverts at the beginning and the annoying long opening credits (which is one thing I would like Bond films to do away with). There is no reason to shorten films like this; if you need longer to actually tell the story they take it, you don’t have TV schedules to fit into, just don’t bloody well rush through it for fuck sake.

The most disappointing thing was that the film had potential; the plot actually vaguely serviceable as far as the genre goes, the characters could have been pretty good as well. If they’d actually tried to allow the plot and characters to fully develop instead of wasting their budget on shitty actions sequences, the film could have been pretty good. Instead the monkey who was running the show decided that the accepted methods of film making; such as a focus on the story and the characters within it no longer applied. It seems that most filmmakers these days are under the delusion that special effects and high adrenaline action sequences with more explosions and villains with questionable aim than you can fire and AK47 at can act as a replacement for plot, or characterisation. The truth is that they can only supplement these key features of any story, no matter what the medium. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious twat: movies are still a form of art; they require certain key features that give it some sort of structure. A plot line is not something upon which to hang gaudy actions sequences; it is the core of any film. The actions sequences add to the entertainment, but they are just padding, they cannot replace plot. The whole point of art is to provide entertainment, bad art is bad entertainment and Quantum of Solace is just that; bad entertainment.

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