Lepton of Disappointment

quantumofsolacestill.jpgThe worst thing about Quantum of Solace is that it has to follow Casino Royale. That’s the capsule review I’ve been hearing in the past few weeks: “It’s not as good as the first one, but still okay.” And that’s a shame, because it’s not a bad movie; in fact, it’s still in the top six or seven of the Bond movies (unless you count the Bourne movies as Bond movies). But it’s frustratingly not there. It’s got all the ingredients of a phenomenal Bond movie, but they never quite congeal into something great.

What’s good:

  1. Daniel Craig is still a total bad-ass.
  2. M gets out of the office and does stuff, and the movie wisely builds the relationship between Bond and M.
  3. The Tosca sequence is great from start to finish; exactly the kind of balance of espionage and spectacle you want to see in an updated Bond movie.
  4. The giant computer screen at headquarters actually looks cool and somewhat functional. How it functions is still every bit as ridiculous as it is in any other movie or TV show, but the interface looked like it was designed by someone who’s actually used a computer before, and I didn’t spend the entire sequence smacking my forehead.
  5. Great choice of locations, and they were all shot very well. The franchise-holders get just the right balance between the new, more realistic reboot and the obscene displays of excessive wealth we expect from these movies.
  6. There’s nothing as clever as Bond and Vesper’s conversation on the train in Casino Royale, but there are still some great snatches of dialogue.
  7. Nobody in the cast gives a bad performance. American mustache guy comes closest, but he’s supposed to be annoying. I think we’ve been blinded by nostalgia and have forgotten that Bond movies in the past have traditionally had awful acting.

What’s not good:

  1. The villain’s pretty dull. He’s basically just Roman Polanski with more interest in real estate.
  2. The action sequences were all basically five minutes of 3-second cuts followed by one long shot in slow motion that let you know something dramatic just happened. I still don’t know what made half those cars or boats flip over.
  3. “Strawberry Fields” is a decent Bond girl name, and I still haven’t decided whether I like or dislike that they never actually say her name in the movie.
  4. The death-by-oil slick is fine as a nod to Goldfinger, but not more than that. It just kind of happened, it didn’t really fit in with the story or characters, and it wasn’t even filmed particularly well.
  5. Usually I prefer it when a movie doesn’t talk down to me, but this movie was withholding information. I’m still not clear on exactly how Vesper was tied in with the main bad guy, how they found the main bad guy, Bond’s whole revenge plot, or — well, basically everything of significance except for the girl’s revenge story.
  6. The villain’s ultimate motivation, assuming I understood it correctly, was inexcusably lame and non-threatening.
  7. Considering the above, the whole “the world has lost its moral center” theme didn’t ring true at all. Plus, they kept pounding on that message a little too clumsily.
  8. The theme song sucks hard. It ruined all the momentum that confusing car chase had built up, and distracted attention away from the sandy naked ladies.

Still, it’s a net win, and it did a decent job at keeping the franchise reboot going. As long as they keep Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, and probably Paul Haggis, they can churn out a dozen more of these things and I’ll gladly pay for each one in the theater and on disc.