Die Another Day
Here's the exact moment when I knew "Die Another Day," the 20th James Bond film, was going to get nuked: Madonna's cameo appearance. And it's not like the woman just walks across the screen and you say, "Oh look, it's Madonna." No, she has a speaking part with actual full sentences. I don't know where the definition of "kiss of death" is in the Hollywood lexicon but "Madonna has a speaking part" is an indication that you're getting close. This woman couldn't be more stiff if she had an icicle in her rectum.
But that was just the kiss of death. "Die Another Day" is plenty awful without Madonna. The blame for this goes to director Lee ("Along Came a Spider") Tamahori, who has apparently never watched a James Bond film before. How else do you explain the utter disregard for and incomprehension of every James Bond convention there is? I don't even know where to begin, but let's try the gadgets.
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) has an invisible car. Seriously, Q (John Cleese) gives Bond an Aston Martin, then prattles on about how it has cameras all over it that allow it to project its surroundings so that it appears invisible. This is just about the stupidest thing I've ever seen, and it would be bad enough were Bond driving it around Kansas or something, but he takes the thing off to Iceland where he's chasing Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and his henchman, Zao (Rick Yune). So there's this invisible car leaving tire tracks in the snow. Fortunately, nobody really notices.
Next, let's talk about the stunts. There are no stunts in "Die Another Day." Tamahori opted instead for computer-generated special effects. If only they could make idiot directors computer-generated, then we'd really be somewhere, but Tamahori manages to utterly destroy the whole mystique of James Bond by employing his Playstation 2 to power the graphics. I swear to God, they're using a Playstation 2 for the special effects. There are at least two jaw-droppingly bad effects. One involves a rocket car that flies over a cliff, but conveniently keeps from dropping into the ocean by a small ice pick thing that digs about an inch into the ice and stops the 300 mph car cold. The effect of the dangling car looks like something out of "Mario Goes Fishing." Bond then rips off the car's hood, drops into the ocean and escapes by surfing away. Unfortunately, it's a little computer-generated James Bond that would have been more realistic-looking had somebody glued Brosnan's face to a popsicle stick and bobbed it up and down behind some blue construction paper.
I should keep going here. After Bond's inviso-car stops functioning, he gets in a car chase, on ice I might add, with Zao. So, at one point, Zao flips Bond's car upside-down and Bond skids across the ice. He opens the sunroof and uses the ejector seat to flip himself right-side up. Okay, that would be great except that WE SEE the ejector seat come out of the top of the car as it's flipping back over, which means that it wasn't attached to the car after it was ejected which means that the seat wouldn't have flipped the car over but simply have ricocheted off the ice and around in the car, killing Bond in the process. Do filmmakers now actually need physicists on the set to explain the most simple principles to them?
Next, let's talk about logical fallacies not involving ejector seats. Bond is tortured by the North Koreans at the beginning of the film. Fourteen months later, he's let out. Then M (Judi Dench) takes away his secret agent status. Bond escapes from his recuperation facility in Hong Kong and runs off to his favorite hotel where he gives the concierge his real name and asks for his usual room. Maybe Bond really needs those frequent flyer miles or something because he seems entirely unconcerned with being tracked down.
As it turns out, Graves is not really Graves, but Bond's North Korean nemesis from the beginning of the film (this is no big secret so don't worry). The threat this guy presents to the world is this huge, laser-firing satellite called Icarus. His big plan is to burn a path between North and South Korea so he can roll some troops in there. Whatever. Just before he starts this process, the CIA operative (Michael Madsen) and the U.S. fire some missiles toward this thing, which promptly destroys them by firing its laser at them. Well, later on, this laser is occupied burning a path through South Korea. I don't know if this helps the military strategists in the Pentagon but I'll say it anyway: FIRE YOUR ROCKETS NOW!! Ignoring that point for argument's sake, since when does North Korea put a gigantic laser-firing satellite into orbit and the U.S. not know anything about it?
I haven't even mentioned Halle Berry, who plays a NSA spy names Jinx. What happened to the sexy Bond girl names? For Halle, I propose: Monique Hittenrun. When Bond first sees her, Tamahori tries to pay homage to "Dr. No" by repeating the scene in which Ursula Andress emerges from the water. Well, in that film, Sean Connery played it cool and came up with a great Bond line. In this film, Tamahori has Bond looking through binoculars. He films the scene in slow motion, apparently giving Bond enough time to whack off. Oh, and don't get me started on the Bond lines and the slow motion. Tamahori employs the same slow-mo effect we've seen in "The Matrix" (and every other martial arts knock-off film in the last three years) because he apparently wants to make Bond film technique cool. The only slo-mo I want to see from Tamahori is the expression on his face as somebody gives him his pink slip. As for the Bond lines, the writers appear to have polled remedial high school students to see what they thought was clever.
But here's the worst thing -- the absolute worst. Bond is betrayed toward the end. Fortunately, he has a gun, and in a last-ditch effort to save himself, he pulls the trigger. Unfortunately, no bullets. And I hate to use the f-word because it really is overused and meaningless in many ways, but here it is really apropos: You have got to be fucking kidding me. James Bond, super spy, apparently doesn't know that his gun isn't loaded. He sleeps with that thing, has had sex while wearing it. You could blindfold Bond and set a human hair on the barrel and he'd tell you by feel what color the hair is. Tamahori thinks he wouldn't know it wasn't loaded?
The only scene missing from "Die Another Day" was the one where Hillary Clinton slices James Bond's penis off and puts it in a jar. The movie, the franchise and the character were utterly emasculated in every other conceivable way.
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