Quantum of Solace, a reappraisal

Some things, such as wine, get better with age. Quantum of Solace, the most recent James Bond film, doesn’t fall into that category. But after re-watching the movie more than two years after its release, we’ve come to new conclusions, some that reinforce previous observations, some that are different than before.

The movie has ridiculously bad continuity. Eon Productions made a big deal about how Quantum of Solace was a direct sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale. In a 2008 article in USA Today, Eon made it sound like this was a revoluntionary development.

Here’s an excerpt:

More changes to the traditional formula are in store for Quantum of Solace, among them the notion of a true sequel. Bond has always been ageless, and the previous 21 movies stand largely independently of each other, but Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale ended, with Bond working his way up the chain of command of the terrorists who blackmailed his lover, Vesper Lynd.

“We set something up in motion in the last one that we need to keep in touch with in this one,” (Daniel) Craig says.

Apparently, the filmmakers got careless on basic details. At the end of Casino Royale, Craig/Bond wore a three-piece suit. At the start of Quantum, Craig/Bond wears a two-piece suit. Casino has referenes to the story occcurring in 2006. Quantum has referneces to the story occuring in 2008. Vesper Lynd, before her death in Casino, managed to get to Bond the cell phone number of Quantum’s Mr. White. That enables Bond to capture Mr. White at the end of the movie.

Cell phones act as a GPS beacon to anybody who has the number. Either Mr. White is an idiot for holding onto his cell phone for *two years* or Bond is an idiot for taking two years to track Mr. White down. Real answer: the filmmakers were SLOPPY and didn’t bother to take care of elementary continuity issues. You may consider us as being picky for bringing it up, but Eon encouraged such examination through its endless promotion of the “direct sequel” angle.

Other issues: If QoS “directly” happens after Casino, how was MI6 able to move into entirely new headquarters in such short a time? How was MI6 able to buy Rene Mathis a “sorry we tortured you, here’s a new villa” make-up gift so quickly?

The Jason Bourne series ripoffs take up less QoS screen time than you might think. A lot of Bond fans disliked the Bourne ripoff feel of QoS. There’s actually less screen time taken up with such stuff than you might think. The problem: The Bourne ripoff scenes *dominate* the first 20-30 minutes of Quantum — a critical time when the audience first makes up its mind. Director Marc Forster and Second Unit Director Dan Bradley (a Bourne veteran) seem to settle down *for the most part* after that. But, as the cliche goes, you have only one chance to make a first impression.

So does that mean we think some Bond fans have picked on Quantum too much? Au contraire. A few examples of Quantum’s shortcomings:

10:27: M. clearly seems to be shot by the traitorous MI6 bodyguard really in the employ of Quantum. Use a basic DVD player’s pause function and Judi Dench clearly reacts as if she has been shot. She winces, and falls backwards as if she had been shot. Except later, we’re told she wasn’t. Huh?

13:00 (approximately) Daniel Craig may have actually done his own stunt and jumped on top of a moving bus. But the herky-jerky camera angles and editing don’t let you know for sure. If Craig really did the stunt, why not show the audience he did so?

16:30: Based on the dialogue between Bond and M, it seems that M wasn’t shot. But that’s clearly at odds with the image we were shown about 3:30 earlier.

45:30: Bond sends a thug, hanging on for dear life, falling off a building, a ripoff of a similar scene in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, except the Roger Moore scene in the earlier movie is filmed with considerably more style and panache.

47:00 (approximately): M gripes at Bond about the death at about 45:30. We’re shown the thug involved wasn’t actually killed until after he fell (when he was shot by a Quantum henchman). Why didn’t Bond mention this fact to M? Apparently it slipped his mind (what there was of it).

54:00 (approximately): Probably the last moment of the movie that seems remotely Bond like. 007 decides the cheap hotel MI6 has arranged for his supposed cover isn’t to his liking. So he adapts the cover (school teachers on holiday) to school teachers on holiday who’ve won the lottery.

1:10 (approximately): Cheesy airplane special effects, albeit not as cheesy as 2002’s Die Another Day, involving crude CGI effects. But close.

Now, on some 007 fan Web sites, you’ll find message boards where Quantum supporters say critics fail to appreciate Daniel Craig’s fine acting and the intricate plot and how the movie is true to the spirit of Ian Fleming. (For an example, CLICK HERE).

With due respect, that’s ridiculous.

Quantum of Solace is less realistic than a Stan Lee-scripted Marvel Comics story. Bond goes days without sleep, yet has more energy to fight people than Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man or any other super-powered Marvel hero. (He consumes six martinis on a flight from Europe to South America, gets no sleep yet can outfight everybody in sight.)

What’s more, the film’s primary villain, Dominic Greene (Mattiieu Amalric) and his henchman Elvis who wears a Prince Valiant wig (Anatole Taubman) are the whiniest, softest heavies of the 22-film series. And Greene’s hideout is a hotel in the middle of desert powered by fuel cells. The power source for the fuel cells? Maybe nitrogylcerin. Maybe (as a friend of ours called it) Explodium.

In short, the movie may not be as horrible as we thought on first viewing. But those who thought 1971-1985 were the Dark Ages of Bond movies (a roster than includes some HMSS editors) may want to reconsider.

To be honest, that’s not going to happen. Nor will the Quantum fans give up the idea how wonderful the film was. So be it. Differences of opinion make the world go round.