Archive for November, 2008

Bond Begins

Posted in Reviews - Film with tags , , , , on November 26, 2008 by Nathan Douglas




Below are some thoughts I’ve been mulling around concerning Quantum of Solace.  Be advised it contains spoilers for Casino Royale, Quantum, and the Bourne trilogy, so if you haven’t seen any of those films, I’d exercise caution.  I wouldn’t call this a full review, even if it’s long enough to be one; I do not comment on much of the acting, or cinematography,  or any formal element, really.  It’s just what I’ve been thinking over since viewing it.


Directed by Marc Forster
With: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Gianni Giancarlo, Gemma Arterton,

Thoughts on the film by Nathan Douglas

Rating: ***1/2 (out of 4)

            Quantum of Solace begins with a dreadfully edited car chase, stumbles along for a while, and then somehow finds its legs.  And what legs they are, indeed.

            Let’s get the plot summary out of the way (as if you haven’t read enough of them by now): picking up ten minutes after Casino Royale (2006) ended, Quantum of Solace dives headlong into the brutal journey of vengeance and rage that was instigated by the death of Vesper Lynd, James Bond’s lover and betrayer from Casino Royale.  Bond (Daniel Craig) careens from location to the next, barely stopping to breathe, sniffing out the mysterious organization known as Quantum, a group of shady and powerful individuals who are responsible for Vesper’s demise, and a host of evil plans for world domination of one sort or the other.  Chief in Bond’s crosshairs is slimy businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), an eco-warrior CEO up to no good in Bolivia; along the way Bond crosses paths with Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a firebrand out for revenge of her own.  Storylines converge.  People die.  Things blow up.

            Quantum of Solace is best viewed as “Casino Royale: Part II.”  Put the two of them together, and you have an epic four-hour “Bond Begins.”  This is the first direct continuation of a storyline between films in the Bondverse, and you will need to brush up on your Casino Royale before heading out for Quantum.

Let’s look at some of the complaints against Quantum of Solace:

1) Too much action; not enough plot.

My response: There is a plot.  A lot of it is framework for the action, but there is a plot, and it’s a pretty decent one.  This film is all about two things: Bond’s pain, and Bond’s rage.  The two are manifested in an effective manner through the brutal action sequences.  The plot that exists is not the typical “Let’s take over the world,” plot, but then neither was Casino Royale’s, and everybody loved that one.  Quantum’s plot deals with a much more realistic, prescient scenario than a madman planning to nuke the world from his volcano base.  Instead we have a greedy industrialist trying to take over a nation using control of a valuable natural resource.  Still far-fetched for anyone who doesn’t listen to Coast to Coast AM, yes, but also more likely than the usual Bond villain scheme.

2) Too much action; not enough character.

My response: Hogwash.  This is one of the rare films where most of the action scenes do not play as gratuitous attempts to entertain.  Instead, the fights and chases are the character development.  Bond is in vengeance mode, and the film is about getting him to the point where he realizes that his path of violence and revenge is not going to bring him even a quantum of solace.  With every punch, with every bruise, Bond’s inner state is exteriorized in a display that is heartbreaking to view.  It’s one of the more powerfully depicted visions of brokenness on the big screen this year.

3) Where’s the humour?

My response: It’s there, albeit subdued and in less quantity than previous installments, but it’s there to be found.  I find it pleasing that less time is spent on throwaway lines and more attention is given to integrating humour into the main threads of the story, such as Bond’s verbal ambush of Quantum’s opera house meeting (and Mr. White’s hilarious reaction).  But once again, this is not supposed to be a fun movie.  It’s all about pain.  It’s about how Bond turned from what was something of a human being into a cold shell of a man, ground into the unbreakable agent that we know from 45 years of films.  This is the transformation process, the natural follow-up to the devastation of Casino Royale.  And tonally, I think Quantum hits almost every note perfectly.

Quantum is being panned because of what it is not, rather than because of what it is.  Some critics seem to have forgotten how much of a change Casino Royale was to the franchise, mainly in its omission of various Bondian elements including Q, gadgets, obligatory sex, and cartoonish schemes.  It stripped Bond to almost the essentials and audiences loved it.  Quantum takes the next step.  No, Q is not back.  No, the gadgets are not back (though there is a silly and terribly distracting computer screen straight out of Minority Report that should have been left out).  The obligatory sex is present, but not for very long, and it does sort of serve a plot point.  The scheme is far-fetched but carries a shred of credit in the corporate climate of today’s world.  Quantum, being the immediate continuation of Casino, does not resurrect the missing Bond tropes.  It’s as though folks enjoyed the uniqueness of Casino Royale, but expect the franchise to return to its familiar format.  Newsflash: it isn’t happening.  What we get instead is better than that.

What surprises me about Quantum, is how far it is willing to go in offering redemption to Bond, and in turn to others.  Casino ended on a somewhat troubling revenge-driven theme, and Quantum plays off of that with a powerfully redemptive decision on Bond’s part.  It’s the fulfillment of what Casino promised: the humanization of Bond.  He can be in charge, he can be wounded, and he can realize the cost and the pointlessness of his actions.  Why is this a bad thing?  Why are audiences and critics demanding that we return to the old days of Bond?  I’m as fond as the old movies as anyone can be, but I don’t miss them.  They don’t break new ground for the character; they don’t connect with viewers emotionally; really, they just aren’t as satisfying film experiences as these new films are.  Bond learns, he grows; he suffers, as we do.  For now, Bond’s days as full-on escapist entertainer are finished.

Far too many comparisons are being drawn to the Bourne franchise.  I submit that Quantum of Solace takes Bourne’s territory and owns it better than Bourne does.  For all of its back story, I found the Bourne series to be emotionally distant.  They are, and remain, very well-made action films, and not much more.  Bourne’s relationship with Marie seemed driven by the usual Hollywood convention of guy-needs-girl-to-hook-up-with, and her death was never as emotionally impacting for the audience as Vesper’s was.  Vesper and Bond seemed to have a real thing going; their relationship seems more natural than Bourne’s.  While the Bourne films were frameworks for extraordinary and perfunctory action sequences, Quantum’s fights are coloured by an emotional complexity, a careful mixture that has been brewing since the first frame of Casino Royale.

There are elements to complain about: the opening chase is a shameful, visual mess; the airplane chase is gratuitous time-filler that belongs in a deleted scene from Octopussy; the title song is one of the weakest of the series; the addition of a bit of sex is forced, tonally out-of-place, and inconsistent with Bond’s state of mind; Forster highlights the Goldfinger homage over and over with sledgehammer lightness.

All of these complaints pale, however, in the overall achievement of the film.  I consider it a success, and a very good success, not because it gave me a good time at the movies (as the usual Bond flick would), but because it moved me.  I never thought a Bond picture would move me, but Forster and his writers have succeeded in doing so.  The emotional hurricane that Bond experiences is manifested to the audience in a very effective way, and his path to realization, and a bit of grace is an inspiring journey to behold.  For perhaps the first time ever, a Bond film has lessons to teach — and they are worth learning.  For this, I am grateful.  By the end of the film, Bond may not have a quantum of solace, but I certainly have more than that as this franchise evolves into better and better things.

Content guide: Quantum of Solace contains frequent, sustained intense action scenes that include brutal (but relatively bloodless) fistfights, semi-graphic shootings, and all manner of vehicular destruction.  Sex between Bond and a woman is implied.  A few s-words are uttered, and Bond drinks alcohol frequently.


“Do you feel like you were meant for something better?”

Posted in News on November 17, 2008 by Nathan Douglas


The newest trailer for J.J. Abram’s film reboot of Star Trek is available at Apple Trailers.

Ever since this project was announced, I’ve been fairly ambivalent about it.  Star Trek needs to be refreshed, but Abrams has yet to impress me in a big way.  I thought Mission: Impossible III was a dull exercise in by-the-numbers action filmmaking, and I attempted for a few months to get into Lost without success; I’ve never been inspired to seek out Alias, either.  Hearing that Abrams was taking on the franchise that I have loved since as long as I can remember (I was a Trekker before I was a Star Wars geek) was somewhat disappointing, given his track record.

This trailer, however, changes a lot of that.

I won’t be convinced that he’s pulled it off until I see it for myself in full.  But this trailer offers glimpses that fuel a hope in me that this reboot will be worth building upon.  I like the redesigned look of things; it has a sleek, futuristic impression with enough retro Star Trek influence to feel familiar.  I hope that Abrams avoids the pit of nostalgia and sets these characters free into their own story, instead of spending too much time paying homage to the old Star Trek.  That’s one of the elements of Indiana Jones IV that drove me insane.  Don’t spend time incorporating forced homages and mythologizing; just leap into the new story and run with it.


I particularly enjoy the look we get at Vulcan and Spock’s childhood.  It seems to be sort of a Rivendell meets Star Trek thing.  Seeing as how the Vulcans are kind of the Tolkienian Elves of Star Trek, that seems appropriate.

Eric Bana as a Scottish-sounding Romulan cracks me up. 

I like the epic look of the production.  Star Trek has always been about two things: the ideas, and the characters.  That’s what makes it work, and Abrams had better stick to those principles in forming his own film.  But I’m glad that the scale is larger, the stakes seem higher, the canvas is greater.  Some of my favourite moments from Star Trek lore arose out of the bloody Dominion War from the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine; that whole focus on a larger, galaxy-shaping battle taking place helped the show immensely.  


What I don’t want to see lots of in Star Trek, is sex.  Yes, it’s been a part of the show since the 60s, but it has always been discreetly handled (up until Enterprise, at least) and not the main focus.  Maybe it’s me thinking back to watching NextGen as a five-year old; there’s an innocence of sorts that I associate with Star Trek, and I don’t want Abrams to lay waste to that in a phaser spread of hormones.

So, I’m beyond intrigued and actually looking forward to this.  Mr. Abrams, make us proud.

I love Roland Emmerich.

Posted in News with tags , , on November 13, 2008 by Nathan Douglas

The first look at Roland Emmerich’s newest disaster-fest (remember that he’s responsible for Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow) is online here.

It’s pure Emmerich.  If you enjoyed the sea rising scenes in Day After Tomorrow, you will love what’s in store for 2012 (which is being released July 10, 2009).  Funnily enough, it’s the second film in a row by him that is named after a certain date (after the abysmal 10,000 B.C.), and if you include The Day After Tomorrow, the third title in a row to be significantly related to time in some way.

From what I’ve read, this promises to be Emmerich’s most outlandish popcorn work since ID4.  The teaser says enough.  Yes, the word ‘silly’ seems to lose all meaning when it’s up against this, but if anyone knows how to do big-budget, end-of-the-world goofiness, it’s Emmerich.

Click here to read a script review by Ain’t It Cool News.

Ridley Scott’s directing what?!? Also: Things to come, Michael Crichton, and TSO

Posted in News on November 12, 2008 by Nathan Douglas



Sir Ridley Scott will be directing a film based on the endearingly popular board game Monopoly, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Apparently Scott wants to give the film a “futuristic sheen along the lines of his iconic ‘Blade Runner.'”

Ridley Scott turns 71 at the end of this month.  He shows no sign of flagging in developing new projects; if anything he seems to be speeding up: he’s released a film every year since 2005.  I’d estimate that we have a safe 10 years left from him before we can worry about him departing…and he’s spending his time on this?  I’m both intrigued and disappointed; at this point he can pull off just about any film.  Monopoly just doesn’t strike me as compelling source material (beyond doing a financial morality tale ala Wall Street), and at this point, I want every Ridley film to be a classic.  We’re not going to have him around forever.

On that note, I’ve been planning for some time to do a series on Sir Ridley’s films, which includes more than a few classics.  It’s taken a few years, but I’ve seen nearly his entire body of feature film work, and I’m working on viewing the rest so that I can do a comprehensive, film-by-film look at his work.  This will be a long-term series, updated when I get the chance.

Also coming up here at Filmatical: I’ll post some thoughts on Watchmen (the book, not the movie), and capsule reviews of the other films I caught at VIFF.


In addition, I want to acknowledge the passing of Michael Crichton last week due to cancer.  He was 66 years old.  Michael Crichton, along with Tom Clancy, was my gateway into reading grown-up fiction.  I started with The Lost World and moved on to Jurassic Park, which I count as one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I have ever had.  That novel, along with his masterpiece, Timeline, were my close companions during many a noisy bus ride back in sixth grade.  His ability to create sheer thrills and unbridled suspense was masterful, and the way he wove it all with quasi-legit science made it all feel somewhat plausible.  I haven’t read all of his work; around Grade 8 I moved on to different authors, but I’ll never forget those hours spent in the worlds of Sphere, Congo, Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Prey.  He will be sorely missed.

One last word: Last week, some friends and I caught a performance by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra here in Vancouver.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Nearly three hours after settling into our seats, we stumbled out of GM Place with silly grins, overwhelmed and delighted by a night of powerful storytelling, beautiful music, and jaw-dropping stage effects.  If you get a chance to see the TSO, then run to the nearest venue; do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars; just go.  You won’t be disappointed.

These photos I took are enough to give an inkling of what it looks like:





Good times, indeed.  Stay tuned…