Top 5 Bizarre and Often Contradictory Criticisms of Quantum of Solace, In Ascending Order of Weirdness, and With Accompanying Questions

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11/17/2008 3:45 PM |

Jesse Hassenger begs to differ.

5. It is not as good as Casino Royale. Taken by itself, this is fair and true. It’s not really as awesome as Casino Royale. You know what else wasn’t as awesome as Casino Royale? Like ninety percent of the other twenty Bond movies, and, I’m just guessing, probably two to three of this year’s eventual Best Picture nominees. Here’s another newsflash: the third Christopher Nolan Batman movie won’t be as good as The Dark Knight. [Ew, really? –Ed.]

4. It is basically just a Jason Bourne movie starring Daniel Craig.

There is certainly a Bourne influence on this rebooted Bond in that the
cuts are faster, the espionage is murkier, and Bond spends a lot more
time running across roofs and jumping through windows. But we’re still
dealing with Bond. He has all of his memories. He has a boss, even
though she gets mad at him a lot. He wasn’t betrayed by his
government, although sometimes there are shady doings a-transpirin’. I
guess I never realized that the Bourne trilogy invented shady
government business and international espionage, which explains why so
many of those paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the seventies end with
Warren Beatty or Dustin Hoffman finding out it was Mothra all along.
Which is to say: what is up with this lionization of the freaking
Bourne movies? The first one is a lot of fun, and the other two are
good enough, but I’m not missing anything when I say Supremacy and
Ultimatum have almost the exact same story, right? And that nothing
all that complex happens in them except the fight/chase choreography?

3. It sheds most of Bond’s trademarks. Okay, big ol’ SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen Quantum and/or any other Bond movies: In this movie, Bond (a.) beds a lady (b.) who is supposed to be an espionage professional (c.) within half an hour of meeting her, before (d.) jumping out of an airplane which he was using to locate the bad guy’s lair which turns out to be a (e.) desert fortress of sorts, (f.) financed by an international secret organization of many bad guys, which this particular bad guy plans to use to (g.) mess with Bolivia’s water supply which forces Bond to essentially (h.) blow it up while (i.) engaging in a massive shoot-out and well as (j.) hand-to-hand combat. Oh, and he totally drinks a martini and wears a bunch of suits, if perhaps less studiously than he did during the Cold War. How much more Bond should this movie have been? Do we need to see Daniel Craig fucking two chicks at once while simultaneously adjusting his bow-tie flamethrower to murder one of them and making a pun about the other’s improbable name?

2. It is nonstop mindless, impossible-to-follow action. I dunno, sometimes the cutting is pretty fast and I probably couldn’t draw a diagram of what happens in the opening car chase, but anyone who’s seen an action movie in the past five years (like, say, one of those Bourne pictures, which are far more abstract) should be able to follow most of it pretty easily. And the action isn’t nearly wall-to-wall. It’s an action movie, but it’s not like Bond will blow up if he dips below fifty miles per hour. I will admit that the first half-hour is mainly a series of elaborate chases, but I will also say that (k.) that is awesome and (l.) there’s plenty of talking and stuff that happens in the middle, if you’re into that. The talking bits aren’t quite as interesting as Casino Royale, especially the women (the wrong Bond girl gets more screen time in Quantum), but that’s probably why the movie has six or seven action sequences: to make up for that! Some people are so ungrateful.

1. It is far too brooding and serious. Again, please refer to items (a.) through (j.). Please also refer to everyone’s complaints that Pierce Brosnan was too flip, lightweight, cartoonish, and generally Moore-esque. This is a more serious Bond, yes. But it’s nowhere near as self-serious as say, that last Rambo movie (and yet it’s also far, far less of a nauseating cartoon). It’s very entertaining; Craig just doesn’t smile as much. Look into his piercing blue eyes and tell me if that’s a problem. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I swear I’m not an easier lay than Christmas Jones. I’m not saying this is the best Bond movie ever or anything, but it’s certainly a decent companion piece to Casino Royale and better than most or all of the Brosnan Bonds (and I liked most of the Brosnan ones). I’m all for a critical eye, and I’d love to read a serious review of this movie that considers its shortcomings compared to Casino Royale in a reasoned and non-condescending way (so Anthony Lane, you’re out), but mostly Bond movies seem to hit the “complain!!” reflexes pretty hard.

However: if any of these five tenets can be twisted around in order to praise Transporter 3 prematurely, count me in.

9 Comment

  • 4. In fairness I think the complaints have less to do with Quantum’s inferiority to the Bourne movies’ perceived awesomeness — which eludes me — than with the sheer nakedness of Quantum’s derivativeness. Thus, 2. Quantum is edited to recapture the feel of the Bourne movies, with no spatial sense whatsoever. Seriously, this movie is edited so terribly, I almost wonder whether the chase scenes are actually assembled from all the non-fitting shots they cut out of the chase scenes, and when they figured out the problem it was too late to do anything about it.

    As for 5, 3, 1, I dunno, I tend to agree with A.O. Scott inasmuch as if I wanted to go see a “good” movie about the “serious” “emotions” of a “relatable” “character”, I would not so much go see the movie written by Paul Haggis and directed by Marc Forster.

    You are correct about Dan Craig’s dreamy eyes however.

  • I think there is a bit of a damned-if-you-whatever at work here RE: Haggis and Forster (or whoever winds up making these movies), especially when trying to change the pace of the series. If you hire a hack-for-hire, there are complaints about the same-old effect, with the producers hiring someone to design a product, not direct a movie. But if you hire someone really good, you’d get snorting about why so-and-so would waste his time on something as depressingly impersonal and spirit-crushing as Bond.

    So if you hire someone in the middle — which is basically who should be doing Bond movies as far as I’m concerned, these not-quite-hacks who nonetheless don’t make interesting movies even close to automatically — you get hit with “what, I’m supposed to take this seriously now?! Good God.”

    I know we critics are supposed to abhor the middle ground, but it seems to me that’s exactly what’s warranted here. It’s not an arty reinvention that takes Bond far too seriously, but it’s a little more human than the cartoonier Moore/Brosnan years. So you get a director who’s tasteful and fairly professional but not exactly known for his galvanizing vision. And you get an action movie where you know a little bit more about Bond’s emotions but it’s not so self-serious that he doesn’t jump out of planes and sleep with girls named Strawberry Fields.

  • Did they actually say her full name in the movie? I feel like they didn’t, like they were embarrassed or something.

    I dunno, I see your point about “where you know a bit more about Bond’s emotions,” it’s just that I… don’t really see the point of knowing a bit more about Bond’s emotions. I mean, A Christmas Tale opened this past weekend, too, and that’s more than enough movie for all your emotional needs. Not to get all high culture/low culture about it, but, you know, I think in this era of Cultural Studies (next hot thesis topic: video games!) we sometimes muddy the waters a bit. Or, as David Fear said, “this is Batman, not Bergman.” And there is a difference.

    I think too that this would be an easier thing to keep a handle on if the average 21st century action director was, you know, a competent action director. But he’s not, he’s Bret Ratner. (Come back to the five and dime, Martin Campbell; you handled some great sequences in Casion Royale. It’s not much, but it’s everything.)

    P.S. Because it seems worth mentioning, I don’t remember caring much for the Brosnan ones I saw, either; they seemed gimmicky rather than genuinely diverting a la the Connery ones. I do like Brosnan, though, primarily as a light comedian.

  • People who say “this is Batman, not Bergman” always strike me as the type of people who can’t really tell (or care to tell) the difference between the Adam West camp version and, say, the animated series, or the best comics. It’s usually used to imply that any movie with any kind of “low culture” connection without pronounced, self-aware camp overtones is unbearably pretentious. Is it really so terrible to inject a little bit of recognizable human behavior into an action movie, just because there’s a French movie playing on three screens that is probably a better family comedy-drama than Quantum of Solace?

    (That’s a general problem I have with the TONY film critics. They’re awfully highfalutin’ considering they work for a magazine that does a sex issue three times a year.)

  • See right after I typed this I was like, “I should go back and add that yes of course I know that the great American auteurs were working as mainstream commercial genre filmmakers (and that cultural studies and devotion to the lowbrow is how we found that out).” Like, for instance: Michael Mann has the same sometimes stoic, sometimes rowdy sense of male camraderie, and easy command of vernacular film grammar, as Howard Hawks. (Lordy day what an awesome movie is this Miami Vice.)

    So it’s not really a matter of whether low culture is or isn’t a suitable vehicle for this kind of content. But, you know, it should be judged on the basis of how well it actually does it. (In a lot of ways Batman-Bergman is a terrible pullquote because it implies that there is a high-art/low-art — or “films” vs. “movies,” ich — dichotomy. I prefer to use the quote to imply that there’s a difference in execution.) So:

    “Is it really so terrible to inject a little bit of recognizable human behavior into an action movie, just because there’s a French movie playing on three screens that is probably a better family comedy-drama than Quantum of Solace?”

    No, but it is pretty terrible to pretend that the movie helping to restrict the French movie to just three screens is any kind of substitute for what it provides. People wouldn’t be complaining about the seriousness of Quantum of Solace if it’d pulled it off — everybody dug Casino Royale. (Probably because everybody’s crushing on Eva Green, but still.)

  • I have a huge crush on Olga Kurylenko. There, I said it.

  • Mark’d better quit a’stompin’ on that thar new Bond film or the countreh folk’ll start hatin’ us fer our big words agin.

  • No, no, not now that we’ve elected Obama. We can condescend to popular culture with impunity, now that we’ve rejected anti-elitism.

    This is surely correct, right?

  • Well if y’all put it that way, I reckon it’s so