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It?s astounding to see just how badly Die Another Day was screwed up. For as terrible as it is (and man, it?s bad) it actually starts off really well. Bond is in North Korea posing as a businessman doing an arms deal with Colonel Moon, a spoiled little brat with a powerful father who thinks he?s some kind of dictator. Where it gets interesting is in just how badly Bond messes up - blowing up a huge army encampment, recklessly engaging in a hovercraft chase that results in the death of Colonel Moon, and then being captured by General Moon (the other Moon?s father).
I always liked the Bond stories that would delve into the morality of his job. Is he just a hired gun who happens to be working for the ?good guys?? Is he pretty much a bad guy himself? And this is, again, where the story could have paid off in spades. Upon his capture by the North Koreans, Bond?s very existence is denied by M and the rest of MI6. He?s left for dead. No one is coming to save him, no big operation where other double-0 agents pull off a daring rescue. He had to bite the bullet on this one.
Some fairly light torture scenes are shown, mostly dealing with Bond?s head being dunked in ice water, or showing him being stung by CGI scorpions, but it?s implied that he isn?t exactly staying at the Ritz. By the end of the torture scenes, Bond has long hair and a beard. He?s been there a long time.
A rather back-handed ?trade? occurs between the Koreans and the British government, where Bond is released in return for the, er, return of Zao, Colonel Moon?s right-hand man who was wounded and captured shortly after Bond?s messy assault. Because Zao happened to have been standing right next to a briefcase full of diamonds when Bond?s bombs went off, he now has a face full of diamonds. Why can?t they be surgically removed? Your guess is as good as mine.
And from here on is where the film officially goes to Shitsville, pretty much coinciding with the arrival of Halle Berry?s character, Jinx. What disturbs me most about her character is not the terrible writing, awkward love scenes, inability to look convincing with a gun, or total bastardization of the supposed ?tribute? to Ursula Andress? famous bikini shot in Dr. No. No, what bothers me most is that the geniuses at MGM apparently found her character so intriguing, they wanted to give her her own spin-off franchise, which would run indefinitely just like Bond himself. This was just after all the hooplah with Berry showing her twins in both Swordfish and Monster?s Ball (and lord knows I?m not complaining about that), but the logic behind her own franchise just baffles me.
Luckily Berry proved she couldn?t hold her own franchise with Catwoman, so the Jinx series never got past proposal stages.
But still, we?re left with this steaming turd called Die Another Day. A movie so bad that it led to the studio deciding they needed to bring Bond back to something remotely like reality for the next installment, which proved to not only be a reboot/prequel to the series, but also one of the best films in the 40+ year run of James Bond.
So I guess I can?t be that mad about it, when it led to the greatness of Casino Royale. But still, Die Another Day must be seen to be believed. Actually, scratch that, it?s not really worth seeing unless you are tickled by terrible innuendo.
The babes in Die Another Day range fro hot-and-bland, to bland-and-bland. Halle Berry is undoubtedly easy on the eyes, but I?ve never really seen her show that she?s much of an actress. Even her Oscar-winning performance in Monster?s Ball seems more worthy of respect due to its riskiness rather than it actually being a great performance.
As mentioned before, she plays a character named Jinx. She?s an American agent, and shown as supposedly being Bond?s ?equal?, but anyone who knows the series knows that no female character is ever really equal to Bond. The one major fight Berry has in the film is with another woman, and it focuses more on their skimpy outfits and bouncing...insults off each other, than on actual bruteness. Jinx just doesn?t feel like she could believably take care of herself, especially when she can?t really hold a handgun properly.
The picture above is a snapshot of the ?tribute? they included in the film. With the film being released the year of Bond?s 40th anniversary, they decided to jam-pack the movie with tributes and references. This tribute to the famous shot of Ursula Andress coming out of the ocean in Dr. No is laughable. In the original, Andress just quietly walked out of the ocean, singing to herself and examining the sea shells she had collected. Die Another Day amped it up by having Berry emerge from the water in a huge splash, rubbing the water through her hair and down her body, all in succulent slow motion. It?s hilariously over-the-top.
Next up is Miranda Frost, played by Rosamund Pike. She is the right-hand-girl of our main villain, Gustav Graves.
Oh yeah, and while I?m on the topic, the villain is Gustav Graves (played by Toby Stephens). He?s basically a pompous English goof who thinks he?s the hottest thing since the sun and you just want to punch him in his smug face. Plus he has this ridiculous suit he wears at the end of the film which gives him the power to electrocute people by touching them.
So back to Miss Frost. She?s a total ice queen (get it? Frost...ice queen). She really doesn?t serve much of a purpose other than being a woman that is apparently unattracted to Bond, but in the Bond universe that pretty much makes her a lesbian. History shows that any woman who isn?t genuinely attracted to Bond from the start is playing for the other team (Pussy Galore, for instance) but even so, once Bond gets his sweaty little mits on them, they see the light and decide they want to be with him forever and ever.
Frost isn?t like that, though. She never really falls for Bond, though she does sleep with him at one point due to the old ?have sex with him to get information? ploy.
And finally we have Madonna playing Verity, Bond?s fencing instructor. Again, terrible innuendo ensues, and she is trying way, way too hard to be sexy in the 30 seconds she?s on screen, you almost feel bad for her. What happened to you? You used to be MADONNA...now you?re just...ugh, Madonna.
There?s really not much here in the way of babes. Rosamund Pike seems a little too comfortable playing the heartless queen of ice, and Halle Berry is frequently voted as being the worst Bond girl ever (even beating out Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist).
There are so many gadgets in this movie it?s ridiculous. This is partly why I?m glad they decided to resort back to the ?old school? Bond of just a gun and his wits. I like gadgets, but not when they get ridiculous, such as the surf board/parachute/pistol/communications array thingy that Bond uses in an incredible escape. As a glacier is melting, it creates a tidal wave that Bond must evade in one of the most laughably bad sequences in all of Bond history.
Honestly, the CGI in this scene would make a PlayStation 2 game feel embarassed.
Next up we have Bond?s watch. Of course, he needs a new watch in every film, and always with some arbitrary excuse related to his last mission, where Q gets ticked off at him for ?never bringing equipment back in pristine order.? This new watch has the typical laser beam and explosives.
Bond also has a new car. It?s an updated Aston Martin, and this one has a cloaking device! Neat-o!
I should also probably mention the ice palace that Gustav Graves builds as his central hub of evilness. Apparently it?s a real place - a hotel, if I?m not mistaken - but in the movie it just sucks, like everything else.
The rest of the gadgets are references to earlier films. When Bond enters Q branch we see tons of equipment used in the other films, most notably the tinfoil jet-pack from Thunderball.
The number of gadgets in the film - and all their ridiculous uses - go hand-in-hand with how over-the-top the series had become by this point. When Bond gets in a fistfight in a room full of lasers against a huge henchman named Mister Kill, you know you have problems.
Distinctions From Other Films
-Theme song, ?Die Another Day?, sung by Madonna - it is also the first time that the opening credits sequence is actually part of the film?s plot, as this is where all the torture scenes are included...[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoKzHD046E4]can be seen here[/url]
-First appearance of John Cleese as Q; in The World is Not Enough he was Q?s assistant (codename ?R?)
-First film in the series to feature a bullet zooming by the camera during the gun-barrel sequence at the beginning
-First ever love scene between Bond and Moneypenny (though it turns out to have been a computer simulation)
-The sex scene between Bond and Jinx is actually the first sex scene shown in the series - before that, the sex was always implied (they?d go to bed kissing, camera fades out, then back in on them getting out of bed)
Um...the terrible paragliding sequence?
Well, I guess you could say the car-chase on the ice is a signature scene.
But really, there?s nothing too memorable here, other than some bad effects. Most of it is best forgotten.
Memorable Quote of Villainy
There are so many hilarious quotes I wish I could share. Here?s one example of the terrible innuendo which occurs on and off throughout the film...
MIRANDA FROST: Mr. Bond. And Miss...?
JINX: Swift, "Space and Technology" magazine.
MIRANDA FROST: Really? I take it Mr. Bond's been explaining his Big Bang theory?
JINX: Oh yeah, I think I got the thrust of it.
But for a quote of villainy, let?s try this on for size...
GRAVES: Armed and very dangerous.
And that was in reference to himself. Wearing this.
Die Another Day just isn?t good, like this picture of Pierce Brosnan.
It wastes great ideas by including some terrible ones, and making what could have been a neat morality tale into an overdone CGI-fest with one of the worst scripts in the whole series.
I really can?t bring myself to give it a complete fail, because that stuff at the beginning really showed some promise. But Lee Tamahori shows once again that his big-budget action movies are totally inept, and should be avoided at all costs. Please keep this man away from the franchise from now on.
Rating for Die Another Day - 2.5 out of 10
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