Monday, November 03, 2008


I was going to write about some movies I saw this weekend, but instead I find myself thinking mostly about one that hasn't even opened yet: Quantum Of Solace.

And I wonder if it may be time to let the James Bond franchise die.

Of course, I haven't seen Quantum yet, and Daniel Craig's previous Bond outing, Casino Royale, was one of my favorites. Still, everything I've read about this latest entry in the series suggests that it barely qualifies as a Bond picture. The reviews (what I've read while trying to avoid spoilers), whether pro or con, seem to indicate this is basically a somewhat generic (if admirably downbeat) revenge epic. All well and good, but is that what anybody wants from Bond?

Specifically, what pretty much every review does is compare Quantum unfavorably to Matt Damon's Jason Bourne pictures, and find the new film wanting. The caretakers of the Bond series have unfortunately encouraged this by hiring the editing team and second-unit director of those movies to work on Quantum. It's as if the mid-sixties Bond movies suddenly decided to hire the production crew from the Matt Helm series.

Because, whatever you think of them, the Bourne movies are very much made in Bond's shadow. If you're looking to create a spy-based franchise, you would inevitably look at the Bond series, if only to decide to go in the opposite direction, much as the creators of the Harry Palmer movies from the sixties (which included Harry Saltzman, then one of the producers of the Bond films) consciously decided to create a series that was an anti-Bond, more cerebral and cynical. And those movies were very good, and certainly the Bourne series has its admirers (I'm not among them), but let's be clear: They are clearly made as reactions, or correctives, or whatever you want to call them, to Bond.

But really, where does Bond have to go? From Sean Connery to Timothy Dalton, the series was made by largely the same core team. The Pierce Brosnan era was largely a reaction to the golden days, both an acknowledgment of the past and an attempt to move on. Casino Royale seemed to indicate the series could go in a new direction while still honoring the past, but now we have the second Bond picture in a row to ignore such beloved icons as Q's lab and Miss Moneypenny. True, those elements sometimes seem like relics from another era, but that's the point: these pictures always somehow existed out of time. Or put it this way: Could Craig's haunted, brooding hero really be the same guy from Moonraker? Could he even exist in the same universe?

And if he's not, if he couldn't, is he really James Bond?