April 26, 2011
007, Alicia Keys, Another Way to Die, Bregenz, Casino Royale, Daniel Craig, David Arnold, Die Another Day, Film, film music, Finding Neverland, Gemma Arterton, Jack White, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Judy Dench, Madonna, Marc Forster, Mathieu Amalric, Monster's Ball, Monty Norman, movies, Neal Purvis, Olga Kurylenko, opera, Paul Haggis, picture, poster, Quantum of Solace, review, Robert Wade, score, soundtrack
For the first time in the franchise’s long and colourful history has a James Bond film received a direct sequel. After the origin story of the excellent and hugely successful “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace” picks up right where its predecessor left off to explore not only the maturation of Bond himself and his desire for revenge but also the makings of the Quantum organisation which had been hinted at previously. With the super-cool ending of Royale still ringing in our ears, the possible development of such a storyline pleased even old-school Bond diehards that might have demanded the franchise to tell self-contained stories. The choice of Swiss director Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball” and “Finding Neverland”) to hold the reins too hinted at the possibility of intense and intimate dramatic moments as the returning Daniel Craig comes to terms with the loss of the only woman he’s ever loved.
After he shakes off his pursuers, James Bond (Craig) manages to bring his only lead on Vesper’s death in for questioning by M (Judy Dench). However it seems the Quantum organisation have infiltrated even MI6 and he too escapes. Connections lead to Haiti and a business mogul Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is involved in destabilising the Bolivian government for a rebel general. Also after said general is Greene’s ex-lover Camille Montes (Ukranian model turned actress Olga Kurylenko) who mirrors Bond’s quest for revenge. Globe-trotting with a trail of bodies and destruction is the inevitable result. Explosive action punctuates the pictures far more frequently than even previous Bonds have, Forster searching for a counterpoint to Bond’s quiet brooding. From the opening car trash-up through an exhilarating chase across the rooftops Siena to an a very well staged sequence at the Bregenz opera, the cinematography of the choreographed mayhem is of fine craft indeed and this permeates the entire picture. Ever more reminiscent of the Jason Bourne series, the action is gritty and brutal and fits well with the re-imagined image of Bond as an emotional wreck. On this second outing, Craig is secure and professional, assured of both the action and his character.
However, as viewers will realise after about a half hour, the best action in the world, even a fine performance from the lead can be turned to rubble in the absence of plot. Written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (007 regulars at this stage) and based on an original idea by producer Michael G. Wilson, “Quantum of Solace” is quite simply flat in the story (or rather the lack thereof) it wants to tell. What sparse information we actually receive about the Quantum organisation will simply not be enough to whet viewers mouthes. The villain is possibly one of the most boring in living memory. After the initial mystery, the plot hits a roadblock when it actually needs to explain what his evil plan is and thus falls completely on its face. As it meanders about, resurrecting supporting characters from the last film, Forster loses complete control of the picture and the last third becomes an unintelligible mess of half-realised ideas. Its simply covers no new ground and leaves Craig very little space for any development. Furthermore, there was a need to invent Bond after “Die Another Day” but no need whatsoever to do away with almost every Bond convention there is: The iconic gun-barrel opening (which was so well explained in “Casino Royale”) is dropped and Bond is so disorientated he even forgets to sleep with the Bond girl. There’s a short romantic interlude with Gemma Arterton’s (albeit excellently named) secretary but if 007 has lost his mojo there’s got to be something amiss, seriously.
In spite of everything, David Arnold returned once more to produce fine music for “Quantum of Solace.” Though the use of Monty Norman’s famous Bond theme is kept minimal, Arnold appropriately uses Vesper’s theme to give an identity to Bond as much as anything else. His action material meanwhile features more electronic elements than “Casino Royale” but is very well written. Top cues include the opening “Time to Get Out” and “Targeted Terminated” while “Bond in Haiti” and “Bolivian Taxi Ride” add an outlandish flavour which fits very well with the chosen locales. Overall not quite as engaging as his last score for the series but only marginally below, Arnold deserves recognition for carrying the identity of the franchise further musically when other parts of it have been dropped. The title song for the film “Another Way to Die” is performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White. If you thought Madonna’s rendition of “Die Another Day” was painful, get ready to experience the same again. Both are about equally terrible and compete together for the worst song on record. Listen to the score, but the song – run away, run away!
Visually impressive with stylised action but as a fully fledged Bond film, “Quantum of Solace” is absolute tosh. Far too little emotional payoff exists for what was promised. Disappointing that such a good premise was messed up so badly. A third entry will probably bring the Quantum story full circle but if it’s going to be as stale as this one, spare us. We expect better from Mr. Bond, James Bond.
Please don’t forget to rate and comment, y’all. Cheers and until next time.
March 14, 2011
Action, Adventure, Epic/Historical, Fantasy, Film
3D, Alexa Davolas, Andromeda, Aphrodite, Armageddon, CGI, Clash of the Titans, Craig Armstrong, Crimson Tide, Elizabeth McGovern, Film, film music, Gemma Arterton, Greece, Hades, Hans Zimmer, Iron Man, Kraken, Liam Cunningham, Liam Neeson, Lord of the Rings, Louis Leterrier, Mads Mikkelsen, Massive Attack, Michael Bay, movies, Neil Davidge, Oscars, Perseus, Pete Postlethwaite, picture, Pirates of the Caribbean, poster, Ralph Fiennes, Ramin Djawadi, Ray Harryhausen, review, Sam Worthington, score, soundtrack, The Rock, The Transporter, Transformers, Warner Bros., Zeus
Just because we haven’t had enough of sequels and reboots already, Warner Brothers felt it necessary to push out a remake of the 1981 film of the same name into a spring season desperately lacking in good action material. Not that the original adaption of the Perseus myth was much good either, but it is fondly remembered by some for Ray Harryhausen’s quite excellent puppeteering effects. For the remake, the monsters of ancient Greece would be created in the computer, and Warners appointed director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter), assembled a cast with considerable talent and invested significant buck that included a late conversion to 3D to cash in on the post-Avatar hype. On arrival however, it quickly became apparent that the film would fail to fulfil even the lowest of expectations and come to represent the very worst that Hollywood has to offer. It is, to apply mythological rationale, a scourge of the underworld.
Perseus (Sam Worthington) is raised by the fishermen (Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern) who found him with his dead mother, unaware that he is in fact a Demigod, the son of Zeus himself (played by Liam Neeson). After they are killed, Perseus finds his way to the city of Argos, the population of which are angry with the endless squabbles of the Gods. Angry at loosing the humans’ love, Zeus sends Hades, God of the underworld (Ralph Fiennes) to threaten the city. If the king’s daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), whose beauty has been compared to that of Aphrodite, is not sacrificed in three days, then Hades will unleash the most terrible beast he has created, the Kraken. After learning of his true lineage, Perseus leads a band of warriors that includes Mads Mikkelsen and Liam Cunningham to exploit a possible loophole in Hades’ plan and thus save the city. There’s a bunch of other stuff, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all just an excuse to cue one battle and action sequence after the other. Forget such worn out things as plot twists, clever dialogue or, dare we imagine it, character development, “Clash of the Titans” doesn’t need brains, this is about brawn, sculpted abs and overblown action. In many ways it’s masquerading as “Transformers” with mini-skirts, steroids and scorpions but on examination, Michael Bay’s flicks are highly intellectual stuff compared to this.
Not only is the action exceptionally brainless, as it’s presented without any cohesive flow, construction or narrative, the film presents a mish-mash of bits taken from different (and often more accomplished) films: The scorpions and their masters bear resemblance to the Oliphaunts in “The Lord of the Rings” while several gags and of course the Kraken are blatantly borrowed from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The Kraken may be a genuine feature of mythology but its implementation in the latter was infinitely more frightening than some of the shoddy CGI and green-screen work on show here. Furthermore, the film becomes an exercise in wasting as much acting talent as possible. Imagine the possibilities with two masters like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes on screen as arch enemies Zeus and Hades. Similarly Sam Worthington, complete with buzz-cut and Australian accent delivers a performance that is so cold he may as well have been turned to stone by Medusa. Never, not once does he, or the screenplay for that matter, make any attempts at believable exposition. And Gemma Arterton’s Io is about as interesting as the lacklustre conversion into the third dimension. What, beyond the promise of a large cheque would force these actors to take on projects like this, is beyond comprehension. A disaster like “Clash of the Titans” simply isn’t worth wasting your time, because not only does it show disrespect for the original (a poor thing in any remake), it is in effect giving the finger to the viewer who was dumb enough to see it. After all, it made Warners over $150 million at the box office. There are dumb action pictures that are well made and entertaining, this is a dumb action picture that is badly made and the most unbelievable bore.
Originally set to score “Clash of the Titans,” was Scotsman Craig Armstrong who had worked with Leterrier before on “The Incredible Hulk,” and who was in desperate need of such a large-scale film to show off his talents. As is the way in Hollywood however, Armstrong’s music was rejected at the last minute, making way for yet another of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control offspring. Ramin Djawadi and a team of ghostwriters provide a score that is just as cheap as the film, hammering out the same sound prevalent since “Crimson Tide” way back in 1995. Quite apart from the fact that the sound of electric guitars (a “collaboration” with Massive Attack’s Neil Davidge features) and synthesised bass has nothing whatsoever to do with ancient Greece, this music is just a cheap and botched repackaging of a familiar sound, more headache-inducing than everything that went before with the exception of Djawadi’s equally obnoxious “Iron Man.” There’s no point describing anything about it, you can listen to “The Rock,” “Armageddon,” “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” and you won’t notice the difference.
To call “Clash of the Titans” poor fare is very much an understatement. You’ll be glad to know that sequels are already in the works so we’ll only have to suffer through the same again twice more. Somewhere in the film’s flabby middle, and in a small attempt to insert a witty line, Liam Cunningham is asked how old a certain creature might be. His reply: “I don’t care.” And neither will you.
I suggest you never see this film. If however you did happen to like it, please leave a comment and tell me why I’m wrong. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or share this review with your friends. Just hit the buttons below. Thanks and all the best!