Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

2015-12-16-1450300622-8118374-star_wars

Ok so I want to get a couple of things out of the way right up top. First of all, spoilers. Spoilery spoilery spoilers. There are gonna be hella spoilers. Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. The movie’s been out for like a week now if you haven’t seen it don’t read this review. Spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers. Ok, second of all, I’ve only seen this movie once. Normally I wouldn’t mention that while writing one of these, but Star Wars is Star Wars, and it’s a movie that I’m sure will warrant further dissection. I’m sure over the years I’ll watch this movie thousands more times and develop completely different opinions on things in it, but for now these are just my first impressions. Things I liked, things I didn’t, thing that stuck out, and how I felt when I left the theatre. Ok, let’s dive in.

I’ll start with the stuff I liked. There was a lot. I can definitely say I enjoyed myself the entire way through. I was both thoroughly entertained and emotionally engaged throughout the entire movie. I like most of the new characters, my favourite of which was probably Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issacs. He’s not an overly complex character, but he’s a smug quick talking badass. He brings a little bit of what Han Solo brought to the original Star Wars. One of the movie’s biggest crimes is not keeping around long enough. I mean I don’t even think he meets our protagonist, Rey.

Yeah, let’s talk about Rey. I’ve heard some very differing opinions on Rey. People are saying she’s an amazing female protagonist in a world where we don’t see nearly enough. I’ve also heard lots of complaints about her character and backstory being too vague. In a way, those are both accurate. She’s very much the Luke Skywalker of the story, and if you go back and watch Star Wars, Luke’s a pretty thin character too. But he’s not supposed to be too complex. What he is is a vessel for the viewer. Someone who’s bored with their lives, and wants to go out into the galaxy seeking adventure and glory. We’re supposed to imagine ourselves taking the journey in his place, and feel great when he gets what he wants. And it’s not like his character didn’t become more complex later on. One of my favourite things about Return of the Jedi is seeing how this naive young boy has changed after all he’s been through, seeing the horrors of war, and gaining a sombre wisdom in the process. In this new movie, Rey essentially serves the same purpose as Luke did in the original. That’s why I guess I’m ok with her motivations being a little vague, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes over the course of the trilogy. Rey is a simple character, but an effective one. I liked her and related to her and rooted for her and all the stuff you’re supposed to. And yeah, if we’re gonna have the generic protagonist character, it’s great to see it be a kickass independent female, because movies like this have kind of been total sausage fests for the last like forty years. And then we end the movie with her going to Jedi school while also captaining the Millenium Falcon with Chewy as her co-pilot and R2-D2 as her droid? Badass. Incidentally, Daisy Ridley is a totally great actress and also so goddamn beautiful, my god.

Anyway, Kylo Ren was a great bad guy too. I mean they obviously knew they couldn’t top Vader in terms of sheer badass intimidation, so they decided to instead make him an interesting and vulnerable character. I like that he’s young and naive just like our protagonist, that he doesn’t have the best handle of the force at all times, that he lets his emotions get the better of him, and it’s an interesting twist to see someone trying to resist the light side instead of the dark. He’s not a guy with a red face and devil horns who’s evil for no reason, or an old guy who looks like Dracula who’s evil for no reason, or a weird coughing robot in a cape who’s evil for no reason. He’s a character with flaws and emotions and doubts and things that drive him, and Adam Driver’s performance is great. I also like that him being Han Solo’s son is just kind of told to you partway through, as apposed to being a big reveal.

Among other things I liked, the whole movie looked great. It’s one of those movies where almost every shot would make a good poster. From the crashed Star Destroyer in the dunes of Jaccu, to the new Death Star’s laser beam slowly streaking through space to blow up those planets (one of which I’m pretty sure and also really hope was Coruscant), to the barrage of X-Wings sweeping down over the lake on whatever planet that was with the chick with the big magnifying glass eyes, there’s a lot of beautiful cinematography. Probably my favourite action sequence of the whole movie was when Rey and Finn are fighting those tie fighters in the Millenium Falcon right after they first meet. It’s a fun, fast paced exciting scene full of lots of nice character moments. There were a lot of great practical effects, even if a few of them were a clearly tweaked with CGI, but it was a nice middle ground. CGI is never going away but if filmmakers can learn to use it only when necessary and incorporate it naturally it could lead to movies looking better than they ever did with CG or practical effects alone. Hopefully this and Mad Max: Fury Road are the start of that trend. I also thought the humour worked well, even though a lot of people are saying the Whedon-esque quipping was out of place. I mean, you’re right, nobody talks like that in the orig trig, but that’s because those are all like campy 70’s dialogue. It’s not like they could do that again now, so they had people talk like people talk now, and those moments of levity are totally in place with Star Wars. I actually think possibly my favourite moment was when Poe Dameron is being held in front of Kylo Ren and he just goes “so who talks first, I talk first, you talk first?” Either way it’s much better than all the robotic political dialogue from the trilogy that shall not be named.

I also thought BB-8 worked well as comic relief. He wasn’t silly and obnoxious like Jar Jar, and they don’t overuse him at all. He’s like a smaller cuter R2. He has some great little moments, but he’s never around when they don’t need him. C-3P0 was used perfectly, too. They realized that by the time we got to Return of the Jedi he was getting a little annoying, and so they just give him enough time to pay fan service without actually involving him too much as a main character. And that first line he says where he interrupts Han and Leia’s reunion to make sure Han recognizes him with the new red arm was actually really funny. Speaking of Leia she was well handled too. I mean that’s about as good as you can get Carrie Fisher to look and act these days, but she was used very appropriately, and actually her reaction shot after Han’s death was the only part of that moment that worked for me. But let’s talk about the best thing in this entire movie; Harrison Ford. There’s no other way to put it. The man is back. I don’t think I’ve seen Harrison Ford give a shit about a movie in like ten years. I forgot how good it is too see him try. This is not just a grumpy old man throwing on a leather and jacket and pretending to play Indiana Jones again, this feels like Han Solo. And not only that, it feels like a Han Solo who’s grown since we last saw him. He’s older and wiser, but he’s still every bit the scruffy looking nerf herder we know and love. 

But now let’s dive into the stuff I didn’t like. My biggest overall gripe with this movie is that it feels wholly unoriginal. Not even unoriginal, as much as predictable. I was really happy with the trailers for the movie, because I thought it was amazing how little they were showing us. I was like “oh wow, for once I’m going to go into a movie and not know what the entire plot is”. But nope. Not only could I predict every plotline a mile away from having seen the trailers, I probably could have done it just having seen the original Star Wars before. Or really any movie. There are zero unexpected twists in this movie. Everything that you think is going to happen happens. There were even a couple of times where I was like “they’re not going to do that, it’s way too obvious” and then they totally did. I mean it’s basically the exact same plot as the original. With how secretive they were being with everything, I thought it would be more like, we think it’s going to end the exact same as episode 4, but then right before the third act there would be some huge left turn that nobody saw coming. I was waiting for it, actually, and then it was just like “oh, they’re just going to have a lightsaber fight and then blow up a Death Star. That’s something I haven’t seen before.” You know, I was watching something online where Max Landis was talking about this movie, and I thought he made an interesting point. He said, look, the prequels are bad movies, but they have tons of visuals, and locations, and character designs, and set pieces that are totally new and original. Whereas everything in this movie is something we’ve already seen in a Star Wars movie. It’s almost like a “best of” montage of famous moments we already know.

In terms of more specifics, I thought Han Solo’s death was really lame. First of all, I saw it coming a mile away. And when I say that, I literally mean as soon as it was announced that Harrison Ford was going to be in the movie. I mean, he infamously didn’t want to do Return of the Jedi. In fact, the whole reason they froze Han Solo in carbonite at the end of Empire was because they didn’t know if he would come back, so they wanted an out in case he didn’t. If Ford didn’t come back, you could say Han died while in carbonite, and we already got our emotional final goodbye seen when he’s getting frozen. And then when he did come back for Jedi, he wanted Han to be killed partway through. He liked the idea that Han was a nobody in the grand scheme of things, and that his death would drive home a point about the costs of the war. It probably would have been better than just having him dick around in the forest like a pussy with nothing to do for the whole second half of that movie, but George Lucas said, and I quote, “there’s no money in dead Han Solo toys”. Then Harrison Ford has spent the last ten years being a grumpy old man and generally refusing to do stuff, especially Star Wars related stuff. And so when he was announced to be coming back, and especially when he was so lively in the press tour, I knew the only explanation could be that he finally got them to kill Han Solo. Now, I’m willing to agree that that’s my fault for being a huge Star Wars nerd and that the average movie goer wouldn’t know any of that, but I feel like it was still pretty obvious. I mean he clearly fills somewhat of an Ben Kenobi role as the wise old mentor, and when has any Star Wars character ever walked out onto a long thin walkway over a chasm to confront the villain and had it end well? Taking into account how obvious it was for so long beforehand, I thought they dragged it out to the point where it lost all impact. I watched Han Solo die and felt nothing. I can’t help but think it might have worked better if he had just been blasted by some offscreen stormtrooper, or been cut off mid sentence by an explosion in mid-battle, or something unexpected like that. Instead it felt like they really tried to make it this big epic moment instead of just letting us react to it ourselves. I hate when movies are super manipulative like that. I care about Han Solo. If you just show me his death from an objective point of view I will feel something from it. Stop telling me where to go emotionally with all the music and the slo mo. Gawd.

And both of the secondary villains were ridiculous goofy cartoon characters who almost made me laugh out loud. First we got the angriest most over the top scenery chewing Imperial officer dude ever to make a speech at what looks exactly like a nazi rally. Then, we got a giant CGI video game boss with a melty face. LAME!!!!! The climax was really disappointing too. I liked that we had Fin jump in to fight Kylo Ren and get quickly bested before Rey picks up the lightsaber, even though again it was something I predicted going in. But for some reason the fight between her and Ren just didn’t do it for me. It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly. I did like that the choreography was much more simple than the prequels, but I feel like Kylo Ren was way too easy to beat. I mean I get that he’s injured, and that also he’s somewhat inexperienced, but while I was watching the fight I kept seeing moments where he could probably have killed her pretty easily but didn’t for some reason. Like there are several times when he strikes her blade and it knocks her off balance and leaves her totally open and he just doesn’t make a move. It reminds me of the fight in Empire, where you can tell that Vader is just toying with Luke and could kill him at any minute if he wanted to. But the characters in this fight have completely different motivations. Kylo Ren is super angry and definitely trying to kill Rey. And then she just wins at the end cause of the force? I mean it was one thing when Luke took a moment of silent meditation to help his chances with firing the photon torpedoes down the Death Star’s exhaust port at the end of ANH, but now it can just make you amazing at sword fighting in seconds? It felt a little convenient. That, combined with them blowing up a death star for literally the third goddamn time and it was all a little underwhelming. And don’t be the asshole who tells me that’s not technically a death star. I don’t care what you call it or how big you make it, I know a death star when I see one.

Fin was pretty disappointing too. I mean he was fine, I just wish they had developed him more. It’s ok to have one blank slate protagonist, but you can’t have two. If you’re gonna make it a two-hander one of them’s got to have an interesting character, and he didn’t. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to like him. It’s a super interesting idea for a character, a stormtrooper who realizes what he’s been trained to do is wrong and defects to fight the Empire. Or, I’m sorry, “First Order”, whatever. Stormtroopers have always just been the stock bad guy cannon fodder who you’re not supposed to feel bad about our heroes murdering by the dozens, and  I thought it would be really fresh and exciting to see things from their perspective. Admittedly there’s a tiny bit of that at the beginning, but it’s before we’re even properly introduced to the character. Maybe we could see some arguments as to why the stormtroopers think what they’re doing was right, but instead they’re just evil. Maybe we could see Fin struggle with the decision to abandon his life, and we would have some really compelling reasons for him to eventually switch sides, but instead they just gloss right over it. Maybe he would be conflicted about fighting and killing stormtroopers after having been one himself, but instead he just blows a bunch of them away while escaping from the hanger in the tie fighter and doesn’t even react to it. Maybe he would have an aggressively different perspective on the whole war than our other main characters after having been a part of both sides, but instead his whole arc is just that he kind of has a crush on Rey. I mean don’t get me wrong, John Boyega is great and he’s a lot of fun to watch and he banters well with the other characters, it just feels to me like a missed opportunity to do something really interesting that we hadn’t seen before.

And you know what, that’s a pretty apt metaphor for this entire movie. They took everything you like about Star Wars and reduced it to an equation. It’s all very nice and pretty and well packaged but there’s something kind of empty about it. Even when Star Wars was bad, it was always interesting. It was always exciting. It was always something you hadn’t seen before. Now it’s just a Marvel movie. Now it’s just this product, this thing that they’ve carefully crafted to appeal to as many people as possible. And you know what, they did a great job. A lot of the things I’ve complained about are nerdy nitpicky things, and you can do that to any movie, but in all honesty this movie is really good for what it is. It’s well acted, well shot, has interesting characters, some good laughs, and is all around entertaining. It just doesn’t feel special anymore.

The Marvel movies are a great comparison. When I was a kid, those movie where always a big deal for me. They would only make like one every year or two, and there was only a good one like once every three years. But it was exciting. There were always different. You never quite knew what you were gonna get, and you had plenty of time to try to guess. And then they started making these MCU movies, and at first it was great. They were finally taking these movies seriously, and trying to build a larger continuity with over-arcing plots, and they were even pumping them out more frequently. But along the way something was lost. Along the way someone figured out a formula for this. And now every Marvel movie feels the exact same. And as a comicbook nerd it’s still cool to see these characters up on screen, but the magic is lost. They’re all just so homogenous now. And this Star Wars felt the same way. They figured out the formula and they’re just going to keep pumping these out and they’re all going to be fine but they’re never going to interesting ever again. It’s like the difference between going to a restaurant you’ve never been to before and trying something you’ve never had, vs. getting the usual from your favourite spot. Yes, with the latter you have a consistent guarantee of quality, but it just gets boring after a while. I don’t know, maybe I’m the asshole, it just feels like everything unique and exciting from my childhood has just been turned into corporate cookie cutter bullshit. I won’t be so harsh as to say that this movie has no creative spark whatsoever, J.J. clearly has a passion for the source material, it just feels so smoothed down, like a board room full of execs came around to sand down all the edges and consistently make sure no one was talking any risks at any point.

So at the end of the day, this is a solid movie. I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a good fun modern day action movie. But as a Star Wars fan, as a huge Star Wars fan, as a literally-I-own-eight-different-versions of-the-original-trilogy-on-various-formats Star Wars fan, it just left me feeling kind of empty. Maybe it’s my fault for building it up, or expecting it to feel like the originals, but I just left the theatre like, “Oh. Ok. I guess Star Wars is just a movie now.” And that makes me a little bit sad.

Overall Rating: Also the Luke reveal at the end was total weak sauce/10

 

Spectre Review

#24

2015

Daniel Craig

So we’re finally at the end of this marathon, with the one that’s still in theatres right now. Fair warning, there’s probably going to be some spoilers in this review, so if you want to go in fresh, which I recommend, stop reading about now.

So after Skyfall served as sort of an interesting, paired down character piece, this one feels more like a traditional Bond movie. It’s less about his personal journey and more about the plot, the villains and the action. Which is not to say there is no emotional core to this movie, there still are a lot of good character moments, but it’s back to more what we’re used to. The plot is pretty simple, and is basically just to do with Bond stumbling upon this organization Spectre and then spending the whole movie going after them. This version of Spectre is less like a terrorist group and more like an Illumanati type thing, with a bunch of shadowy board members deciding the fate of the world. They have a man inside MI6, a new guy called C, who’s merging all the world intelligence programs and trying to cancel the 00 program. We’re supposed to not know that he’s working with Spectre, but it’s pretty obvious the whole time. It eventually turns out that Spectre were also behind the scenes manipulating events and controlling villains in the last three movies. Basically every bad thing that we’ve seen happen to the Daniel Craig Bond was their doing. This makes sense for the first two, because all those guys were working together and they explain that Quantum was an arm of Spectre, but are you telling me Javier Bardem in Skyfall was answering to these guys? I mean, if you watch that movie he seems to be working independently. He’s got his own island, he even has that speech about getting to pick his own intelligence missions and being his own boss. And he didn’t really want money or power or to reshape the world the way Spectre does, he was just out for revenge on M for personal reasons. It seems like a bit of a stretch to say that he was manipulated by this board of evil rich people into doing what he did, yet Blofeld takes full responsibility for M’s death. Ah yeah, ok, let’s talk about Blofeld. Bond’s greatest villain is back, and better than ever. He’s played by the always awesome Christoph Waltz, who you may know from Tarantino’s last two movies and also his upcoming one. What’s annoying is that they did the whole “oh yeah, Christoph Waltz isn’t playing Blofeld” thing, and then everyone was like “ok, but he obviously is though” and then they’re like “nope, he’s not” and then you go see the movie and he says his name is Blofeld and it’s supposed to be this huge epic reveal. It’s like, if you know anything about Bond you already know he’s Blofeld, because duh, and if you don’t, then the name Blofeld has no meaning for you. So either way the reveal is pointless. It’s the exact same thing they did with Cumberbatch in that shitty Wrath of Khan remake. But yeah, Waltz is great. Obviously. He’s so much fun to watch and he’s a great rival for Bond. What’s weird is that they’ve actually tied their origins together this time. In this new version, Bond went to live with Blofeld and his dad after his parents were killed. Blofeld became super jelly of Bonds relationship with his father, and so he killed his dad and faked his own death, setting him on the path the megalomaniacal villainy. So Blofeld’s like Bonds former step brother now, I guess. Weird. Anyway, it’s great to see this character back, and I hope he’ll have a bigger part in the next one, because honestly probably this movies biggest flaw was his lack of screentime. I also like that they actually committed to the face scar and white cat, because you’d think after Dr. Evil they’d want to steer away from that. There’s some great action in this movie too, from a helicopter chase in Mexico City, to a plane chasing cars around a snowy mountain in Austria, and a climax in the old blown out MI6 headquarters in London, which this time gets even more blown up. My favourite part was probably the fist fight between Bond and Dave Bautista on the train. Yeah, Dave Bautista, he was Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s like this big henchman dude who had metal thumbnails for gouging people’s eyes out. He’s pretty cool, and the train fight is super brutal and awesome. They also give the supporting cast more to do, which is nice. M, Q, Moneypenny, even that dude Tanner who’s been hanging around for like the last 24 movies but didn’t get any actual significant amount of lines or screentime until the last one, they’re all actually involved in the goings on throughout the movie. I like the new Q, we didn’t really talk about him in the last one, but he’s good and it was nice to see him a little more this time. Oh, and they also made a whole big deal during the marketing about how Monica Bellucci was playing a Bond girl, and how she was the first one to like actually be his age, and how progressive that was. But then she’s in like ten minutes of the movie and he spends the rest of it banging a hot french model half his age. What’s weird is how bad he seems to fall for her. I mean, they really emphasis the connection between these two, and he even runs off with her at the end to (leave MI6? is the 00 program still debunked? it’s sort of vague). I don’t know, I’m not saying he should have just been like “fuck this chick” or whatever, I guess it’s nice that he’s actually emotionally invested in a relationship for once, I just don’t see what sets her apart from any other Bond girl. Overall, I don’t think this movie will stick with me quite the way Skyfall did, but it was a great fun well shot action movie that I can’t wait to see again.

Overall Rating: Weird face needle chair that doesn’t actually fuck up any of the things the dude says it’s gonna fuck up/10

Skyfall Review

#23

2012

Daniel Craig

Now this is a great friggin flick. After the mediocre last movie, we finally get a worthy follow up to Casino Royale. But the Bond in this movie is very different than he was back then. They put a lot of emphasis on the fact that he’s an older Bond, at the end of his rope a little bit. Which is weird, because back when Craig was first introduced the whole emphasis of the character was a younger Bond just starting out. It’s like we skipped the entire bulk of his career and went right from Year One to The Dark Knight Returns. I guess it makes sense, if Quantum is set right after Casino, and Casino takes place when it was made, that means he’s been at this six years by the time we get to Skyfall, which realistically is a long time in the world of a 00 agent. I know it doesn’t seem like that long because these movies have been going for half a century, but each mission only takes, what a few weeks, maybe a month, so in six years you would see a lot of shit. But this movie also delves deeper into Bond ever before. His character was very stripped down in Casino Royale, but this is by far the most bare we’ve ever seen him. He’s getting old, and he’s not sure he’s up to the task of doing this any more. There’s a line in Casino Royale about “if you do this for long enough, how much of your soul can you salvage?”. Well, now Bond has been at this pretty long, and he’s forced to question how much of himself is really left. We’ve now stripped away every layer of class and sophistication and are left with only the absolute purest bare bones version of the character. It’s the first time it ever feels like we’re meeting the real Bond, and that’s pretty impressive from the 23rd film in a franchise. And the whole movie sort of centres around this central them of Bond getting older and questioning his place in the world, from the subplot of M being forced into retirement, to all the questions of how much we even need MI6, and even the way the villain is a former agent who was betrayed and left for dead, making Bond question what the future holds for him if he stays in this line of work. And all this doubt is causing him to lose his nerve and is hurting his performance in the field, making the action more high stakes because he’s not at his best. It’s kind of like Spider-Man 2. 

Anyway, all that stuff alone would probably be enough to make this a great standout film in the franchise, but there’s so many other great things too. First of all, Judy Dench finally gets a shit ton of screentime, which is great, because she’s so awesome. Her relationship with Bond is really interesting, and it’s cool to finally see it explored, and it’s a great way for her to go out, instead of just being replaced between movies. We also get a really great villain, in Javier Bardem. As I mentioned, he’s a former 00 agent. M sold him out years ago and now he’s back for revenge. He’s got a fucked up half dissolved face due to a hydrogen cyanide capsule that failed to kill him. He’s a villain who loves to monologue, and he’s a lot of fun to watch, while also managing to be very intimidating, and also somewhat sympathetic. And for the first gay Bond villain, I have to say, very tastefully done. The action is great too, from the chase on the train at the beginning to the whole thing in the subway tunnels in London, to the finale, which everyone makes fun of for being like Home Alone, but I think is pretty cool. Yes, it’s a much smaller more personal finale, but it fits with the movie. The rustic location mirrors the way the class and sophistication have been stripped away from Bond, and it’s fitting that he should have to go back to the place where he became what he was in order to become that again. The other big thing that everyone points out about this movie is how the bad guy’s plan makes no sense. It’s a fair criticism. He has to get Bond to come after him, get captured, explode MI6 headquarters to force them to move underground, build his virus, know that Q would decrypt it while he was in the building so that he could escape into the subway tunnels, all times perfectly to the second so he can throw the train at Bond, and what it all boils down to is that he runs into a building in a police uniform and shoots at M. And misses. I mean, you could have just flown to London and gotten a police uniform, was that whole middle part really necessary? Yeah, it’s kind of dumb. I never said this movie was without flaws. It’s also pretty reminiscent of the Joker’s plan from The Dark Knight, or Loki’s plan from The Avengers, but I would again argue that that’s simply to do with the franchise resembling action movie trends of the time. In 2006, Bourne was huge, so they did it like that. In 2012, the new thing is superhero movies, so there’s a little bit of that in there. No, this movie may not be perfect, and Casino Royale is definitely a tighter story, but it’s got exciting action, intelligent and emotional themes relevant to the franchise, a great cast of both actors and characters, and it’s beautifully shot. I mean, if you can’t appreciate this movie’s cinematography in an era where every other movie you see is just fucking blue and orange all the time, then you’re an asshole. Oh, and on top of all that they finally actually made Moneypenny a strong and interesting character who’s relevant to what’s happening in the movie. This is my favourite of the Daniel Craig movies, and might even be the best overall. It has it’s flaws but it’s a more interesting creative piece of art than most other action movie, and for me that will always make it more fun to watch.

Overall Rating: Like, fucking dope, yo/10

Quantum of Solace Review

#22

2008

Daniel Craig

So, of course, after a great movie like Casino Royale, they have no idea how to follow it up. Instead of just taking this newly established Bond out for some other mission and coming up with a bunch of new unrelated stuff for him to do, they decided to have it take place directly following the last movie, and be all about Bond going after the people responsible for Vesper’s death. As a result, the whole thing just feels like a long epilogue to Casino Royale rather than it’s own movie. It opens with a car chase through Italy, where Bond has Mr. White in his trunk after shooting him and delivering that awesome line at the very end of the last one. Then after the credit sequence we get a scene that’s obviously trying to be the parkour scene from Casino Royale and fails miserably because of tons of shaky cam, quick cutting and CGI. Yeah, let’s talk about the action in this movie. It’s not good. There’s so much goddamn handheld shaky cam. I hate it when movies do that. It’s like they couldn’t actually replicate the close up quick gritty action from the last one so they just figured if they moved the camera around so much that you couldn’t tell what was going on, you’d maybe be tricked into thinking they pulled it off. It doesn’t work, and as a result every single action sequence is a confusing boring mess. The plot basically involves Bond tracking down this one specific guy associated with Quantum, the criminal organization that Le Chiffre was working for, I guess because they still didn’t have the rights to Spectre back yet. He’s got some scheme involving oil and the desert and buying up land or maybe it has something to do with water or whatever who cares. As a character, he’s kind of just a generic slimy European man, pretty lackluster and uninteresting. He sort of reminds me of Le Chiffre but without the eye thing and played by a more forgettable actor. There girl this time is a Bolivian secret agent with a big nasty burn scar on her back, who’s also trying to get the villain for personal reasons. There’s a lot of dicking around in exotic locations, a fight in a fancy opera house, a girl who gets killed by being covered in oil in a visual reference to Goldfinger, and a plane crash where they jump out with a parachute and pull the chord legit like 15 feet from the ground and are totally fine. There’s also a subplot where the Americans are after him, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and is really just a chance to give the new Felix Leiter some screentime. The big climax takes place in the bad guy’s desert hotel, in which he put giant explosive gas canisters in every room and was like “eh, there’ll probably never be a gun fight here”. He’s wrong, and the final fight takes place while the whole thing is blowing up. There’s a fight between him and Bond involving an axe which I would probably call the best piece of action in the movie, though it’s brief. Then they just leave him to wander the desert till he dies of thirst, which is pretty brutal and awesome. The final tacked on end scene is where Bond finally goes and finds Vesper’s boyfriend, who in the last movie she thought was kidnapped by the bad guys, so she did favours for them in exchange for his life, or something like that. It turns out he’s actually working for Quantum and that’s a thing he pulls on a lot of agents. Bond decides not to kill him, instead bringing him to MI6 for questioning, proving to M that she can trust him, and completing his arc of no longer wanting revenge. Even though they ended the last one with him moving on from Vesper’s death by sealing himself off more and focusing on his work, and a whole movie of him out for revenge kind of undermines that entire arc. Overall, this movie isn’t the worst thing ever. Daniel Craig’s Bond is still a total badass and there’s a couple of fun moments, but it was just such a disappointing and forgettable follow up to such a great first movie.

Overall Rating: Filler Bullcrap/10

Casino Royale Review

#21

2006

Daniel Craig

So after twenty movies and almost fifty years they finally decided to throw out all the bullshit and reboot the franchise fresh. Casino Royale was actually the first book in the series, and they actually adapted it on TV in the mid 50s, with the main character being an American secret agent called Jimmy Bond. Because of that, when they started making the actual movies in the 60s, they didn’t have the rights to it, so they just skipped it. Since then, they had run out of Ian Flemming novels and just started making up their own names, but now they finally had the rights back, and how fitting that the launch of this new series would be based on the original book. But let’s talk about this movie. We’re finally up to the final and current Bond, Daniel Craig, and he’s fucking awesome. He’s so much more intense and brutal than anything we’ve seen before. It’s much more true to the original Connery version of the character, where you can tell that all the class and style is just an outer layer to hide the cold killing machine that lies beneath, except this version they delve into it a little more. We see a lot more human moments, and it’s like we’re stripping away these layers from the original version of the character. A lot of this development comes from his relationship with the girl, Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. She’s working with him on his mission, and she refuses to be seduced by any of his bullcrap. There’s a great scene when they first meet and start dissecting each other. She’s a great mental foil for Bond, and it’s fun watching them banter with each other. But yeah, back to Daniel Craig. A lot of people think he’s the best Bond of all of them. I think I still prefer Connery, but they’re hard to compare. Either way, Connery’s performance in the past, it’s not going away, but Daniel Craig is a great new Bond reinvented for the modern era. He’s exactly what the franchise needed and the only other Bond I would call on par with Connery.

He’s helped, too, by the fact that this movie is dope as hell on it’s own. It’s dark, it’s serious, it’s exciting, it’s well written, and I would probably call it one of the best straight up action movies of the decade. The opening scene in black and white where we see Bond complete his two kills required to gain 00 status is brutal and fucked up and badass and sets a great tone for the entire movie. From there we get so many great and memorable action moments. There’s the whole airport chase sequence, an awesome car flip, and a part set in one of those Body Worlds exhibits for some reason. The parkour part at the beginning is the one everyone talks about, though, and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s really cool, but what’s great about it is how differently they both move. The guy Bond’s chasing is doing all these insane flips and stuff, but Bond is just using brute strength and speed to keep up the best he can. Me favourite part is when the dude jumps over a wall and Bond just busts through it after him. One of my personal favourite moments is the fight in the stairwell. It’s just so gritty and bloody, it’s one of those fights where you feel every punch. A lot of people have accused these Daniel Craig Bonds of aping the style of the Bourne movies. It’s a fair point. There’s a lot of the sort of close up brutal intense fighting that was made popular in those movie, and MI6 in this one do remind me a lot of the CIA in the Bourne movies, with all their laptops and cell phones and cool lighting whenever they cut back to them, but I would say it has enough uniquely Bond elements to stand on it’s own. And besides, Bond movies have always been a reflection of action movie trends of their eras. It’s part of what makes the series interesting, how much of a time capsule each one is. The plot, which I guess I should talk about, revolves around this big high stakes worldwide poker game. There’s this guy called Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkleson from Hannibal, which everyone tells me I should watch but I haven’t yet. He’s a banker for some high priority criminal organization. He’s lost a bunch of their money, and is trying to win enough at this poker game to pay them off before they come after and kill him. Bond is in the game to make him lose so that he’ll go to MI6 for protection and give them info on his bosses. The whole middle act is this poker game, which makes the whole thing feel very Bond. There’s also a really tense scene where he’s been poisoned and has to restart his heart with a defibrillator in his car. Eventually he wins the game, and then Le Chiffre kidnaps him and Vepser and tortures Bond by whipping him in the balls with a big ass rope. It’s a pretty hard scene to watch, and it ends with the bad guys’s bosses showing up and putting a bullet in his head. Then Bond actually resigns from MI6 to go off and live with Vesper somewhere, when it turns out she betrayed him and was working for the bad guys. There’s a huge final fight in Venice where Bond fights a bunch of guys in a building that’s collapsing into the canal, and Vesper ends up drowning in the elevator. There’s a great moment where he’s talking to M on the phone about coming back to MI6 at the end, and she’s like “if you need anymore time…” and he’s like “why would I need more time? Mission’s over. The bitch is dead.” It’s like the origin of Bond’s whole cold uncaring attitude towards women. He’s learned a harsh lesson; in this line of work, you don’t trust anyone. Then we end on probably the best single moment of the whole movie. The bad guy, this dude who Le Chiffre was working for called Mr White, gets a phone call and we don’t hear who’s on the other end but he’s all “who is this?”, and then suddenly he gets shot in the legs. He starts to pull himself up and Bond comes up holding a gun and putting away his cell phone, and he goes “Bond. James Bond.” And then we cut to credits with the classic 007 theme playing, first time we’ve heard it so far. This whole movie is sort of like a Bond origin story, and now he’s finally fully established. It’s a totally badass and satisfying moment that let the whole world know: Bond’s back. After three and a half decades, these movie were finally good and relevant again.

Overall Rating: We’re back, baby/10

Die Another Day Review

#20

2002

Pierce Brosnan

So the last two movies are what I would call some 90s action shlock. I don’t mind 90s action shlock. I can watch 90s action shlock. Now this one right here, this is early 2000s action shlock. And that’s much fucking worse. Not only is it really ridiculous again, but it’s also stupidly shot and edited. There’s all these weird speed ups and slowdowns and spin arounds and stuff. I guess Mission Impossible 2 had come out a couple years ago and so they tried to get all John Woo-ey with it. It’s bad. The two villains of the movie are a Korean man who’s disguised as a white British dude with a shit ton of money and influence, and a dude with a bunch of diamonds in his face. I did not make up any part of that. The opening act is actually not bad. It starts with Bond in North Korea, doing some secret mission when he’s betrayed and found out. He fucks a bunch of shit up and ends up exploding a bunch of diamonds into one guy’s face, who then becomes the previously mentioned diamond face. Eventually he gets captured and then we go to the title sequence. Which is probably the worst part of the whole movie. First off, the song is by Madonna, and it’s really fucking shitty. It’s one of those things that makes you embarrassed for the whole species when you listen to it. Then the visuals are these weird CGI women made of ice and fire wrestling with each other, and it’s all intercut with Bond being tortured in a North Korean prison. We then cut to fourteen months later, when Bond is finally released. He’s rocking a huge beard and long hair, which is pretty funny. He gets traded for diamond face who was in British custody, and is taken off duty and held by MI6. Of course he immediately escapes and goes after diamond face. Along the way he meets Jinx, played by Hale Berry (hey, another X-Man). She’s an American agent and they essentially try to make her like Bond’s equivalent. What’s really jokes is that her M equivalent is Michael Madsen. They were actually planning to give her her own spinoff between this and Casino Royale, which thank god never happened. There’s a really funny moment where they meet and she’s like “my friends call me Jinx” and he’s like “my friends call me James Bond”. I legit laughed out loud for like three minutes. His friends call him James Bond? “Hey, James Bond, how’s it going.” “James Bond, pass me a beer”. I guess the idea is he doesn’t really have friends, but it’s still a really stupid line. Another weird thing that I haven’t mentioned yet about the Pierce Brosnan Bond is he gets wet all the goddamn time. There are like, two or three scenes in each of these four movie where he gets into water fully clothed and then walks around wet for the next little while. I guess they thought he looked cool coming out of the water, but it happens way too many times. The best part of the movie is this awesome sword fight that happens around the one hour mark. I find with these ones the middle action sequence is usually much better than the final one. I guess with the finale they try to make it really huge and exciting and it always goes to far and hits a point of diminishing returns, but the middle one is sort of more simple and paired down. But yeah, it’s Bond vs. the Korean dude in whiteface. His whole persona is kind of like this parody of Bond, and when the two of them meet socially they get very competitive with each other. The fight takes place in a fencing club, where the two start with a simple sparring match and it quickly escalates into a full on fight with real swords. It’s a good sequence, the other guy is clearly more skilled, and Bond sort of starts on the back foot and has to get the advantage by playing dirty. Anyway, towards the end of the movie we get to the bad guys’ giant ice hotel built on top of a lake in the arctic, which is pretty dumb. Then he unveils his big final weapon, a giant mirror in space. The idea is to reflect sunlight back on earth, to grow crops all year round and end world hunger. Or you know, you could get a bunch of sunlamps and grow food indoors, but I guess I’m an idiot. A bunch of shit happens with Bond and Jinx and the ice hotel and a female MI6 agent who turns out to be working with the bad guys. Eventually they end up on a big ass plane, and the bad guy has a robot armour that looks like halfway between Robocop’s chest plate and the exoskeleton thing Matt Damon wears in that one movie with the giant floating space station. What was it called? Good Will Hunting, that’s it. Anyway a hole gets blown in the plane and the bad guy ends up getting sucked out into the engine. Let’s see, what other stupid crap happens in this movie. Oh yeah, Bond has an invisible car. Oh, and the virtual reality training helmet from Q that Moneypenny uses to simulate making out with Bond at the end. This is a really stupid goddamn movie and I would suggest watching it just to laugh at, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth it. Either way it was so bad that it finally forced a reboot. But we’ll get to that tomorrow.

Overall Rating: I wish I could have Died the Day before watching this shitty movie/10

The World Is Not Enough Review

#19

1999

Pierce Brosnan

I used to have this one on VHS as a kid. I must have rewatched it probably three times in like a month there. As a result, it’s actually the only one of these Pierce Brosnan ones I remember from my childhood. I actually saw the next one, Die Another Day, with my Dad, when it came out, but my only memory is how much he hated it. That was the same year the first Spider-Man movie came out, and I became so focused on that that everything else is a blur. Anyway, the plot has something to do with the daughter of some dead billionaire king or something, and the whole big twist is that she’s really the bad guy. It’s very “see, it’s the 90s, we can have female Bond villain, look at how progressive we are”, but the problem is that used it as too much of a gimmick. She sleeps with Bond early on, and then there are several times towards the end of the movie where she’s like “You won’t kill me, you love me!” and shit like that. And as if constantly using sex as a weapon wasn’t enough to totally undermine her whole character, they give her male partner guy all the blame for turning her evil. Nope, couldn’t possibly have been her own decision, she only wants to destroy the world because she was manipulated by a man. Whatever, it’s a fucking Bond movie, maybe I’m over thinking the politics, I’m just saying it’s funny when stuff from the 90s thinks it’s being progressive when it clearly isn’t, and this is a great example of that. The dude bad guy, tho, is played by Robert Carlyle. You probably don’t know that name but you’d totally recognize his face. He’s the main dude from The Full Monty, and he’s in a shit ton of other stuff. He played Hitler one time in a shitty tv miniseries that they made us watch in grade 10 history class, and what’s weird is that he does it with a British accent. Like, I get they’re just doing the thing where everyone from Europe is just vaguely British sounding, but dude it’s Hitler. The guy had like a very distinct and memorable accent. He’s good in this, though. He’s totally hammy, but you can tell he’s having a lot of fun with it, and that fun translates to the audience. His character has a bullet in his head slowly pushing down more on his brain. He doesn’t have long before it kills him, but as he dies it destroys his pain sensors, making him harder and harder to fight the closer he gets. It’s a good excuse for him to go maximum nuts all the time. Unfortunately, he’s not in very much of the movie. But speaking of ridiculous performances, fucking John Cleese is Q now. Let me repeat that. John Cleese, of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, was goddamn Q in the 90s. In this one he’s not actually called Q, they introduce him as the real Q’s assistant, and we never hear his name. Then in the next movie, he takes over as Q. The original Q actually died before this movie came out, so I guess they were setting up his retirement ahead of time. He gets a really nice exit though. He says to Bond “I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed” And Bond goes “and the second?” and he goes “Always have an escape plan” and then he pushes a button and suddenly the circle of floor he’s standing on detaches and lowers him down offscreen. It’s a nice final tribute to the series longest running cast member, but let me repeat; his replacement is fucking John “it’s not pining for the fjords” Cleese. I don’t even know how to wrap my head around it. It seems like something from an acid trip that you thought was real but wasn’t. Anyway, there’s a boat chase in London, a bomb defusing on a moving inspection rig in an oil pipeline, and a helicopter with a swinging saw blade that cuts a car in half. There’s also a finale in a submarine and part with a ski chase. God damn it. This movie is pretty crappy, but it’s got a couple good moments, and overall is a step up from the last one. Oh, but wait, I forgot to mention the best part. So Denise Richards is in it, right, and her character’s name is Christmas, which is stupid, but so then at the end her and Bond are fucking and he’s like “I thought Christmas only came once a year”. That’s gotta be one of the dirtiest jokes yet in one of these. Almost saves the whole movie. Not quite though.

Overall Rating: Man, I forgot how hot Denise Richards was. As soon as I’m done watching crappy Pierce Brosnan Bond movies I’m gonna go look up that one scene from Wild Things/10