Die Another Day

Friday, April 18, 2008

There are many things that are wrong about Die Another Day, but the main problem has to be that Gustav Graves, the main villain, is a knob. Seriously, how does such a bad performance make its way to the screen? I guess the only explanation is that the filmmakers liked it, which is a scary thought to say the least.

Late in the film, Graves says that he based his entire persona on Bronson's Bond. However, Toby Stephens, the actor who plays Graves, seems to have been watching the wrong tapes, because he plays his super-villain like Roger Moore on steroids – the levels of smarm and arrogance are toxic. But while Moore's one facial expression was to raise his eyebrow, Stephens' one expression is to sneer. In fact, he sneers so much that its almost as if he's perpetually inhaling an eggy fart. Maybe that's why he's so keen to destroy the world.

But how does Graves decide to go about destroying the world? With a secret volcano lair? With nuclear submarines? No, he decides to destroy the world by dressing up like RoboCop's effete little boy. I mean, come on, couldn't the writers think of something better than having Graves put a Light Boy on his face and have him wear Legion of Doom shoulder pads? And that glove thing is ridiculous. He's like Emperor Palpatine, reaching forward to kill people with his Electrified Hand O Death. "Ultimate powar!"

But although Palpatine spouted his fair share of nonsense in the Star Wars prequels, he has nothing on Graves. Gems of half-wit philosophy include: "It's only by being on the edge that we know who we really are. Under the skin." And: "One of the virtues of never sleeping, mister Bond. I have to live my dreams. Besides, there's plenty of time to sleep when you're dead." Needless to say this line is followed by a sneer. But some of the best lines can only be appreciated when they're accompanied by Stephens' terrible pantomime delivery. One of the best is: "Oh look, parachutes for the both of us!" He delivers it like Boris Johnson gone mad. However, the best/worst Stephens delivery is after he gets out of his phallic ice car: "Thruster two cut out again. Get it fixed, will you?" The joy/pain is in the way he says it and the way that he immediately throws his gloves at his engineer and then walks off towards his tasteless ice palace, lunging forward with strides so absurdly long that it seems as if he's got a prickly pear stuck in his pants.

However, the other villains aren't much better. The bloke with diamonds in his face is instantly forgettable and some bloke called Mr. Kil gets dispatched fairly easily. Having said that though, at least he goes in an amusing way: the back of his head gets lasered. And then there's Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost. Sure she's attractive in a hoity-toity, toffee-nosed, gerbil-faced kind of way, and sure she looks great in a sports bra, but as a villain she's pretty dull. She's kind of a lightweight version of Xenia Onatopp. She's just not kinky enough.

And what of Bond's allies? Well, Halle Berry is pretty bland and the other regulars don't have much to do. But although Berry's contribution to the film is negligible, she does get a few decent lines. The best one has to be after Bond's famous introduction. She looks at his crotch and says, "Now there's a mouthful." Juvenile, yes, but I'm a juvenile kind of guy. And she also gets to say "Yo mamma!" after having her breast groped by the Electrified Hand O Death. Mum cussing and gropeage? Always a good combination.

But I guess what's most fun is spotting all the little nods to previous Bond films, what with this being the twentieth entry. Most obviously you've got Halle Berry coming out of the sea like Ursula Andress. But then you've also got a nod to Goldfinger with the lasers, a Union Jack parachute like the one in The Spy Who Loved Me and all the gadgets from past films. However, the nicest little nod is the bird book that Bond picks up in Cuba. The author is James Bond – it's where Fleming got the name of his character.

It's just annoying, though, that this twentieth film is so lacklustre. Even the action is unappealing. I mean, I really like the swordfight (it actually has a bit of bite to it) but everything else kind of falls flat. Just take the hovercraft chase at the beginning. It's not bad but it's just a few minutes of Bond sliding about and shooting a machine gun that has a ridiculously plentiful supply of ammunition. And the car chase on ice is spoiled by the cars having gimmicky gadgets – I'd much rather see a pure chase than more impotent shooting.And that's another problem with the film – gimmicky gadgets. Of course I realise that you have to suspend your disbelief somewhat during a Bond film, but an invisible car? It's just stupid. And the pseudo science that explains it is moronic. "There are lots of little cameras..." No, no, no, no, no.

And while I'm moaning, I also have to point out the horrendous CGI. The para-surfing is an abomination, as is the way that Graves' phallic ice car hits the ice cliff – it looks like it was done with stop-motion. And the burning jet in the boring final sequence looks like it's out of some sub-standard PC flight simulation.

However, although I think it's a poor entry, Die Another Day does deserve credit for one of the funniest things in a Bond film – Monneypenny's use of the virtual reality machine. The schoolboy humour is impeccable. But I can't help but think that such a lacklustre effort doesn't deserve to go off on such a high.

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  1. You know, "DIE ANOTHER DAY" is NOT one of my favorite Bond films. But I get the feeling that you didn't really watch this film. There is something dishonest or vague about it. I get the feeling that you were mainly putting it down in order to come off as witty. Instead, you came off snide . . . but in an unpleasant way.

  2. You felt like I didn't watch it, even though I described how bad the writing, acting, action and effects work were? Yeah, your point is well reasoned and not in the slightest bit idiotic.