Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bond: A Small Amount of Comfort

Quantum used to be used to mean a small amount. Really. I'm just positive. Somewhere in the '80s it started to be used to mean a large amount, as in, "a quantum leap", playing on the idea of electrons moving from one position to the other without traversing the space in-between.

And now, with Quantum of Solace, we have Quantum being....well, I'm not exactly sure. OK, it's a play on words: Bond, having lost love of his life, pointy-breasted Eva Green, must console himself with round-breasted Olga Kurylenko. (Actually, and fortunately, it's not that obvious, though that's sort of how it would've worked in the old Bond series.)

Quantum is also the reboot's version of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), the super-secret bad-guy organization that was always out to blow up the moon or artificially inflate the retail price of Peeps or whatever.

Anyway, to me the real danger that this new series is has to avoid is campiness, and I give it good marks for that. The Boy noted that in the original (Casino Royale), when James Bond was confronted with an extremely agile suspect fleeing on foot, he made up for his shortcomings with brute force and determination, whereas in this one, he seems to be super-agile and just matching his opponents.

Interesting point. Casino Royale did make Bond seem less super-heroic. And that's a dangerous route to go down. There's a scene where he takes out three agents in an elevator that struck me as a little much.

OK, let's get out of the way first that this is not, in any way, as good as Casino Royale. But it's still better than the other Bond movies on a number of levels: It's not campy. There are virtually no gadgets. (I'm not anti-gadget per se but they're going to have to be oh-so-careful to not lapse into the nonsense the original series went through.) Quantum is both mysterious but has a villainous face that can serve as the focal point of the plot.

Some members of the organization meet at an opera and talk to teach other over something akin to bluetooth, so that they're in the same room but not face-to-face. I've seen some objections to that but I think it's something you could actually pull off with a little money.

The overarching scheme--utility rights in Bolivia--seem somewhat less grandiose than blowing up the moon, and I'm not sure where I stand on that as being a good MacGuffin.

Bond, at least in part seeking revenge for the death of Vesper, ends up tangled up in a plot involving Camille (Kurylenko) who is also seeking revenge on the Bolivian General who's using Quantum to overthrow the government. The CIA wants to get in bed with the future ruler and agrees to "get rid of" Bond on behalf of the Quantum agent (what?).

Can't say I'm crazy about that line. Frankly, I think intelligence agencies are prone to doing bad things--the nature of being able to act in secret with other people's money and official protection--but I didn't need the America-bashing. (Show us as cloddish dunderheads, but at least good-hearted!)

The main shortfall of this movie over the superb Casino Royale is it's relatively unfocused nature. It meanders, relative to the previous film, but it's sort of remarkable in that it manages to suffuse an action film with a certain melancholy without being boring.

Anyway, not as bad as some die-hard fans are suggesting.

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