The Quantum of Solace (Movie) Review
Quantum of Solace is the extremely disappointing follow-up to Casino Royale and serves as a stillborn transitory state as the franchise seeks to move from Royale’s reboot to something closer to the status quo of the Bond series.
This film has a ton of problems, from director to editor to recycled plot elements to a bad title song and worse title sequence, but the biggest problem is the film exists more as a cipher than anything else. The big bad villains of the classic Bond films would be S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the terrorist outfit headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Thunderball and named in all the films leading up to it. The trouble with S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is the cinematic rights are part of that dispute with former Ian Fleming collaborator, Kevin McClory, that kept Bond off the screens for several years in a lawsuit.
In the original books, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. came in towards the end of the series, whereas most of the villains of the early novels were backed by the KGB (even Live and Let Die’s drug smuggling operation was backed by the Russians in the literary version). With S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in dispute, the producers have decided to introduce a new global terror organization, this time with a bit more emphasis on cash and dirty corporations. Quantum of Solace exists to introduce this new group of villains and apparently form a trilogy with Casino Royale and whatever the next film will be.
Director Marc Forster was an amazingly un-intuitive and wrong hire as director. I’d love to know what made someone think he could go from “Finding Neverland” to _either_ an action movie or an espionage movie. Quantum of Solace fails in both genres. The scenes never seem connected enough to bring any tension to chasing down the villains. The action sequences are plagued by too may quick edit cuts and hand-held cameras, changing perspective too quickly to be able to appreciate the stunt work. One of the early action sequences is a remake, of sorts, of the urban running chase at the beginning of Casino Royale, except it isn’t nearly as well done. Forster also has the “I wear black and make art movies” tendency to want to intercut his action sequences with other scenes. Oh, a horse race intercut with Bond chasing somebody. Wow, a violent scene from an opera intercut with a fight. I’m sure Forster’s sophomore film professor at NYU would have found that profound, but I wasn’t watching this film in class and it only served to remind me of a friend who went home for break, shot completely random sequences, edited them together and got an A because her professor found profound meaning it. Ah, film school. And you wonder where some of this crap comes from. Bring back Martin Campbell to direct. Failing that, get Ridley Scott or Tony Scott. A Bond film should not be shot by a first-time action director.
That covers the bad directing and very questionable editing. The problems weren’t with the lack of gadgets, just bad and dull presentation.
The song and title sequence were a surprising matter of tedium. Jack White’s title song inexplicably seems to be taking many of its cues from “You Know My Name,” Chris Cornell’s theme from Casino Royale, then R&B’d up a bit. Didn’t work. At all. Couple this with the most boring title sequence since the films returned with Brosnan and you’ve got a double-barreled dud where most of the films have turned expository credits into entertainment. Let’s face it, is there another film series where you look forward to the titles like Bond? White can very quietly not be asked to do another song for the franchise and we’ll all be better off.
I’m going to have to add a little spoiler space to get into the myriad of recycled plot elements that convince me this was cobbled together and tossed to the director. If you’re skipping the spoilers and intend to see this film, let me hope that you’re going to see a matinee, not a full-price screening.
So many recycled plot elements, where shall I begin?
Much of the thrust of the would-be plot is Bond’s quest for revenge after the death of his one true love, Vesper at the end of Casino Royale. Bond on a rampage after his lady’s murdered? Where have I heard that before? Oh, right. That’s You Only Live Twice, only it was his wife that got shot, whereas Vesper technically killed herself. While S.P.E.C.T.R.E. isn’t part of the book or _named_ in the movie, Blofeld is the target in both.
The rooftop chase just after the title sequence is very derivative of the chase just after the titles in Casino Royale.
Bond fighting with the bad guy as the enemy base blows up around him? How stale is that? I’d say The Spy Who Loved Me was the best film version of that little Austin Powers-parodied schtick.
Bond goes rogue, gets disavowed and chases after the villain? Yawn. Sounds a lot like both License to Kill and Die Another Day.
Clueless piece of eye candy from the embassy shows up to be the sidekick, briefly. Let’s see. Filmwise, Man with the Golden Gun’s Mary Goodnight is probably the biggest cinematic example of this.
The biggest slap to the face of a Bond lover has to be said eye candy sidekick found on Bond’s bed drenched in oil, just like Jill Masterson was painted gold in Goldfinger, with the lame addition of “having oil in her lungs” to try and make it seem more an homage than another piece of ill-considered recycling.
And to top off the all the derivative elements, this filmed lacked one of Ian Fleming’s strengths that has been frequently exaggerated since his death: the actually interesting villain and/or super-henchmen. No Odd Job, Goldfinger, Dr. No, Jaws (easily the best post-Fleming creation), or Pistols Scaramanga here. Not even a real stand-in for Blofeld. Just a mildly geeky corporate crook. Boring.
The Bond movies have always been at the worst when they strayed from the source material. This was a mash-up of elements not well structured and poorly executed. Even the title was cribbed from something else. Damn near color-by-numbers from scene to scene.
We can only hope, now that S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s replacement has been named and Felix Leiter now in his proper place with the CIA, the next installment will get back to something interesting with, just maybe, some actual plot development.