Thursday, November 13, 2008

James Bond, RIP

I saw a very good action film last Sunday. It was called Quantum of Solace.
Before the film, I was led to believe that this was the latest in the James Bond series but evidently that was not correct.

In the opening scenes, the hero (in an Aston Martin) evades three villainous cars behind him in a breathtaking display of vehicular stunts over a rugged terrain. At the end of the adrenaline pumping sequence, he opens the boot of the car to reveal an abducted man and says, "Time to get out".
In another scene, a beautiful Secret Service agent tells our hero that if he tries any funny business, she would have him chained and jailed. In response, the hero smiles and says, "we will see about that." His companion almost prods him - "Does she have handcuffs?" And our hero laboriously says, "I am banking on it."

FOR GOD'S SAKE, IS THIS WHAT JAMES BOND - THE JAMES BOND - SUPPOSED TO SAY AND DO?

Does anybody among the producers and directors even know what James Bond stands for? Is it only having gigantic sets, orchestrated car crashes and killing megalomaniacs intent on world domination?
If I wanted to total a desert hideout of a villain, I would employ Schwarzenegger and a machine gun. If I wanted to kill millions of enemy soldiers, one Stallone is more than enough. Jumping over buildings is something Vin Diesel does in his sleep. Hell, if I wanted to disintegrate Pakistan, there is always Sunny Deol and his hand pump.
But when James Bond kills a villain with a spear gun, I don't expect him to stop there and gasp for breath. I expect him to say, "I think he's got the point." And then, maybe adjust his tux.
Or when he electrocutes a villain, he finds it "Shocking, positively shocking."
This is why I go to see a Bond movie.

Bond is supposed to terminate mega-villains. Effortlessly. He is supposed to have a gun (a smart Walther PPK, not an ugly machine gun) in one hand and a stunning woman draped on the other. He is supposed to know about the finer things in life. And he has to - has to, has to - have a sense of humour.
Also, if the stunning lady has a stunning name, it will be kinda cute!

So you have Pussy Galore. Holly Goodhead. Plenty O'Toole. Xania Onatopp. May Day. Honey Rider.
And you have Dr Christmas Jones (in The World is Not Enough) about whom Bond famously remarked during an intimate encounter, "And I thought Christmas comes only once a year..."
In Quantum (probably for the first time in the history of Bond movies), the real name (Olga Kurlyenko) of the actress playing the Bond Girl was more exotic than her screen name (Camille). And in an act of supreme sacrilege, a second girl is steadfastly referred to as Agent Fields. Only in the titles is it mentioned that her full name is actually Strawberry Fields.
Bloody hell!
Of course, when Craig kisses her back in an allegedly passionate scene, he does it the way people taste pasta sauce off a very hot ladle. If he is supposed to be charming by just flashing his eight-pack (or is it sixteen-pack?) abs, then somebody has very wrong ideas about the series.

Bond is supposed to be a little heartless about women.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, he left Paris (the girl, not the city!) for several years after going out by saying, "I'll be right back." He had just one love story - when he married Teresa in On Her Majesty's Secret Service - and he is supposed to be a suave rake all through.
To show a person who is grieving for his dead girlfriend for two movies, you need to have Hugh Grant who can mumble and stutter through his non-existent one-liners.
For heaven's sake, Bond got over his wife's death in half a film.

Bond villains are supposed to be big enough.
They try to rob an entire country's gold reserves. They attempt to start wars between superpowers. They try to siphon off billions of barrels of oil. They make off with satellites and nuclear bombs.
And in Quantum, we have a villain who looks like our Engineering Mechanics professor from college and whose ambitions are not any higher. I am not divulging the apparent ambitions of Dominic Greene to avoid spoilers but either I misunderstood the plot or a self-respecting MLA from UP has larger designs than him.
Where is Goldfinger's son? Or Dr No's surviving henchman? Can they please come back and try to assassinate Barack Obama on January 20th?

Dear Producers of Bond Movies -
Do you even realise why we like to see Bond movies? Because he is a childhood hero. He does EVERYTHING that we can never do. Smart guns. Snazzy cars. State-of-the-art gadgets. Stupendous looking women. Unbelievably powerful villains. And he handles all of them so bloody well. We can never do any of this and therefore, we look forward to the escapism of two hours.
Maybe this Bond film (thanks to the absolutely brilliant marketing and PR) will just shovel in the dough by getting millions of women and Van Damme fans to see something they want to see. But for little boys in their mid-30s, it is the loss of yet another childhood hero.
As if that was not enough, even Sachin may retire in another couple of years...

For some convoluted reason understandable to only ladies and Ross Geller, Daniel Craig never says the signature line in the film. Before I saw the film, it was a bit disappointing to know that the iconic line would not be there.
Now, I feel it is a blessed relief. Because the handsome man in the tuxedo could have been anybody in the world but not Bond, James Bond.
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