Die Another Day

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It’s the last Brosnan outing, and since every one of his Bond entries has gotten progressively worse, I’m guessing that this is going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, considering the last one, The World Is Not Enough, was the second-worst Bond film I’ve seen so far in this little project. Oh the things I do for…wait, what am I doing this for, again? Oh, that’s right: to keep the demons at bay for just a few short hours.

We open on the coast of North Korea, where some radical waves are being shredded by…James Bond?!? Can’t be! Shan’t be! Oh, but it is. And I dig surfing (at least its culture and watching it; I lack the balance and swimming skills necessary for the sport itself), so I kind of like watching three agents shredding gnarly froth off the shores of dirty Commie NK. As some guards walk by oblivious, we see Bond whip off his mask and the agents kind of hilariously run up the beach with their surfboards. But those boards have a shitload of C4 and satellites in them, so I’m kind of digging this opening. A helicopter lands, a dude is held up at gunpoint by Bond, who’s dressed exactly like him, and once on the helicopter Bond scopes all the diamonds this dude is smuggling. He plants C4 into the suitcase and then we’re transported to the demilitarized zone, where some dude is kicking the hell from a kickbag. But nope, it’s just some failure that this North Korean army dude is using as a kickbag, and that’s also kind of a cool thing. And the punchline is that it was his anger management therapist. Hilarious.

So Bond-as-Whoever That Guy Was walks up with the briefcase to Kicky McBagger, who’s known as Col. Moon, and this is all about conflict diamonds. Turns out Col. Moon here is an educated dude from Oxford and Harvard, majoring in Western Hypocrisy (take that, society!). It’s apparently some weapons exchange, and they’re hovercrafts, so that’s pretty cool too. This Moon chap seems pretty neat. Maybe I’ve had the North Korean dictatorship wrong this whole time.

So they take the conflict diamonds and some chumper checks them out while Bond quips, “Don’t blow it all at once” because he can’t help himself. But the field report comes back that Bond is a secret agent and Bond looks around all shifty-eyed. Moon takes out a gigantic gun and explodes the helicopter Bond came in, and Bond is kind of fucked at the moment. Whoops! Just then, Moon’s dad radios in and says what the fudge is going on over there? I’m showing up in 5 minutes and there better not be conflict diamonds or banished weaponry all over the place. So everyone starts clearing out and Bond’s about to be executed but he blows the C4 and as usual, everyone panics despite being part of the Army and not freaking out because of explosions is kind of an important skill to acquire in that line of work. The explosion fucks up Zao’s face–one of the henchmen–something fierce and everything in general blows up, and Bond’s going ape with the weapons on one of the hovercrafts. He’s doing the latter-day action hero Bond thing of shooting and killing, but somehow I don’t mind it this time. Maybe it’s the hovercrafts.

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Hovercrafts make everything better.

Speaking of which, Bond gives chase in the hovercraft towards the fleeing Moon (what a poetic sentence), and like most Bond movies, his enemies can’t aim for crap while Bond has perfect aim. I mean, how can you not like a hovercraft chase?  They’re slip sliding away everywhere while Moon uses a flamethrower and Bond shoots mines and a kind of rad rendition of the James Bond Theme starts up.Hopping onto Moon’s hovercraft, Bond continues to kick all sorts of ass and he and Moon fight on the uncontrolled hovercrafts, and this is reminiscent of earlier James Bond efforts. Kicking the hovercraft into high gear, Bond smashes through the wooden gate of a temple and drives the damn hovercraft over a cliff. Except he grabs onto a bell over him, quipping, “saved by the bell.” But whoops! There’s the North Koreans, now unhappy with finding Col. Moon dead and his dad looking at Bond like he was the cause–mostly because he was. The camera pans up and it’s a dissolve cut…To Bond being tortured in a North Korean military camp. Spicy!

The opening theme starts and it’s a pretty messed-up montage of Bond’s torture in the months in captivity by the North Koreans, which is pretty original for a Bond opening to incorporate the ongoing plot into the opening credits. The other stuff, like the naked flaming ladies dancing around, isn’t so good. The other thing that’s just fucking atrocious is Madonna’s theme song, “Die Another Day,” which was during her awful Music period where everything was whippy-whoppy electronica and stilted, cheesy lyrics with overprocessed production jiggery-pokery. I’m not the biggest fan of Madonna, and I kind of can’t stand her post-1996 or so, and this was possibly the last time she was culturally relevant in the West, so low marks on the theme song. Meanwhile, Bond’s just getting beaten to pieces throughout the credits, which is unpleasant to watch.

Fortunately, the credits end eventually, and 14 MONTHS LATER, Bond–now bearded and gaunt–is dragged out of his cell into yet another interrogation cell. Moon’s dad, the General, says he doesn’t condone what they do here, but I guess he condones it just enough for it to keep happening. Gen. Moon fucks with Bond’s head, saying Bond’s people abandoned him and that things are out of his hands. So Bond’s pretty sure he’s finally going to be executed at this point. He’s driven to a rotten, broken-down village that is probably one of the nicer places in North Korea, and on a bridge Bond says fucking shoot me already, dig? ‘Cause I can’t handle your stanky breath one second longer. Gen. Moon bitches about his stupid dead son and Bond says your awful soldiers should have shot him long ago, now are we ready to execute me or what? Gen. Moon asks who betrayed his son, and Bond says the same dude that fucked me over. Now get with the shooting! Gen. Moon tells him to start walking across the bridge and Bond’s just waiting for the moment he hears the crack of a rifle, but instead the soldiers beat feet back to their truck.

A voice over a loudspeaker on the other end tells him to keep walking, and in the fog he sees another man walking. It’s Zao Moon, that dude he thought he killed, and his face is all scarred up from the shrapnel from Bond’s explosion. Bond said his time will come, and Zao says fuck you, Magoo. Then some jerk American throws some shade at Bond on the other side and Bond is knocked out and scanned for biological agents and other shoot. Apparently he’d been stung a bunch of times by scorpions; they also note that his liver isn’t in too good of shape so, “It must be him, then,” which is a funny slam on Bond’s degenerate alcoholism.

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Bond wasn’t tortured: that was just a fever dream he was having while drying out in rehab.

M shows her face with Bond laying in a hospital bed and she coldly says, “welcome back.” Damn, M. Apparently M is pissed off, coldly saying that “if I had it my way, you’d still be in North Korea.” Apparently Zao was a dick while Bond was in prison, blowing shit up and stealing people’s mail and stuff, and everyone’s all pissed at Bond. They think Bond cracked under torture and was hemorrhaging information, and Bond asks M what she thinks. She says with the drugs they were giving him, Bond wouldn’t know what he was saying; Bond calls bullshit on that, blaming the shady partner that fucked him over. Bond says he’s going after that dirty mofo, but M says his 00 license has been rescinded and that “you’re of no use to anyone now.” Damn, Bond’s taking some major hits on his ego already in this flick!

Fortunately, he also has murderous rage, so that should hold him steady as he goes through a messed-up flashback to the torture he endured while in a North Korean prison. It’s like watching the opening credits again, only this time he goes into cardiac arrest and flatlines because if he can’t legally kill he may as well be dead. But nah, that was a ruse so he can get out of this burg, even quipping “I’m checkin’ out” before thanking a nurse for the kiss of life. Damn, Bond, you’re out of fucking control as usual.

Swimming across the bay of Hong Kong, he goes to a swanky yacht club in his wet hospital jammies and beard, goes right up to the desk, and asks for his usual suite like a goddamn boss. Fortunately, Mister Chang, his old pal, knows how this crazy bitch rolls and immediately gives him the Presidential Suite. Freshly shaven, in a tux, and with room service eaten and a bottle of champagne guzzled, Bond’s back to his old, handsome self. A masseuse comes in to service him and Bond gets so damn close and kissy it’s ridiculous. But he just does it to find the gun she has strapped to her thigh. He throws an ashtray to a mirror across the room and finds Chang and a camera crew filming. Bond says hey fuckhead, you think I didn’t always know you were Chinese intelligence? You stupid bastard, I’ll kill you! Well, not really, but that’s kind of the gist what with the gun drawn and all. Chang says Hong Kong’s our turf now (historical note: Hong Kong was a British territory until it was handed back over to China in 1999), and Bond says shut up and help me you idiot: Zao killed a bunch of your dudes, so get me into North Korea and I’ll fix this shit. Also I love revenge and need information from that half-faced freak. He says get the hell out, all of you, even you sexy masseuse lady. So I guess Bond really is a changed man. Down at the lobby, Bond goes up to Change and finds passports to Cuba, where Zao is hanging out. Bond says sure, and cut to…

CUBA! Once America’s playground, it still looks fantastic, even in 2002. Bond is decked out in a tropical but smooth number and checks in for some secret spy shit under the name Universal Exports (wink!). The dude behind the counter makes the call and bingo-bango, Bond is back in business. They pass through a sweatshop and meet The Most Interesting Man In The World on a sweet outdoor deck. The guy smokes a cigar and looks at the passport, and TMIMITW and he chat about the greatness of Cuban cigars. I guess they exchange secret code words during this because they get down to business. Bond says he’s looking for Zao and it’s all very urbane and classy like old-school Bond.

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“Vacation? Revenge? Aw hell: why not both?”

With just a call, Bond finds out that Zao is at some weirdo clinic to fix his fucked-up face. There’s some pablum spoken about how goddamn great Cuba is and Bond says whatever, I’m going to borrow this gun and these binoculars, OK? Bond also asks for a fast car and like that, Bond is cruising down the highway in a totes sweet vintage Ford Fairlane while Cuban music plays. Man, talk about class. Even a slick Cuban version of the James Bond Theme plays behind this. Bond drives up to a bar (of course), lights up a cigar, and espies some ugly Australian bloke who’s bullying everyone and heading out to the clinic the next day, so he probably has a date with The Bond Fist Five later. Looking out over the shore with binoculars, he scopes out this mystery clinic across the bay. He also scopes out a woman swimming, and it’s Halle Berry.  She emerges out of the water in slo-mo and recreates Ursula Andress’s emergence from the water from Dr. No and does a pretty damn good job with it, what looking like Halle Berry and all.

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Honestly, I don’t see the similarity. Let me just look a little longer…just a liiitle bit longer…

She calls herself Jinx, he calls himself James Bond, and you can probably guess that they’re going to end up in Sex Town later together. She alludes to how her relationships don’t seem to last, probably because she kills everyone she knows. They professionally flirt and Bond lies about being an ornithologist but she counters by saying that’s a mouthful and there’s nothing but sexual puns all over the place. She asks what predators do when the sun goes down, and he says they feast like there’s no tomorrow, so CUT TO the two of them immediately having le sex because why the hell not? It was a slow night and there’s nothing on Cuban TV. It’s that classy silhouette sex and she pulls a knife and starts eating some fruit and holy moly, Bond, you seem to have met your weirdo kink match. Good for you.

FADE TO dawn, Bond’s asleep alone, so he finally knows what that feels like, and he looks out the window and sees Jinx getting on the boat to the island he’s supposed to be infiltrating. We next see him walking down the hallway with a wheelchair to the jerk from the night before and of course that dude’s treated to a face full of fist while Bond steals his ticket to the clinic while wheeling this unconscious dude onto the premises. In the clinic, Bond scopes out what’s going on and wheels that asshole into a wall, which is hilarious, to create a distraction. Through the window of some dude’s hospital room, Bond gets through the clinic’s security and scopes out the place. There’s cameras and revolutionary artwork, and Bond just disconnects the cameras by pulling its power supply because I guess Cuba’s behind us on security camera technology at this point.

Figuring out the revolutionary art is a secret passageway, Bond goes into a literal hall of mirrors in this secret area. Meanwhile, we see Jinx getting something called DNA replacement, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a thing, but whatever Bond movie. She shoots the doctor because that’s her game, I guess, and Bond just kind of walks around while Jinx burns her identifying paperwork and breaks into this dead doctor’s computer. Getting into a surgery theater Bond finds Zao while we see Jinx looking up Zao’s information. So I guess they’re both doing pretty much the same exact thing except Bond’s going to shoot this dude’s fucking face off. Zao looks like shit and Bond squeezes his drip which looks really painful. Bond’s asking who’s bankrolling his surgery but Zao gets a kick in the face to Bond and starts strangling him. There’s some super-cheesy slo-mo for a minute here and then Bond turns on the super-magnet and the room is suddenly on fire. Zao runs out with Bond giving chase while Jinx sets some C4 explosive to a timer and runs out of the office. Jinx asks James what the hell is going on while Bond shoots at Zao. Zao dives out a window but Bond is knocked back by the explosion Jinx set. He sees the dead doctor while Jinx chases after Zao.

Zao runs to a plane while Jinx tracks him with a gun and all of this is very well-organized. Bond blows a fucking hole in the side of the building just as Zao’s plane takes off and he runs after it like he can jump 100 feet in the air. Jinx shoots a couple of dudes in Zao’s helicopter but is stopped by guards. She whips off her dress down to her bikini and dives like a 200-foot dive into the water below where a boat is waiting for her. Bond looks like he just met the woman of his dreams and also finds some diamonds in a hollowed-out bullet.

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“Hunh. Kinda didn’t expect to survive that jump. Well, looks like I survive to...Die Another Day! That’s the name of this garbage, right?”

At his Cuban pal’s office, they inspect the diamonds and find a laser signature on them. They smoke cigars and kind of don’t give a shit about any of this. Meanwhile, Moneypenny overhears M getting chewed out by Mr. Falcon, who’s played by Michael Madsen in his regular I’m-gonna-punch-your-teeth-out delivery. Jerk American says lady, we’re gonna fuck stuff up if you can’t pull yourself together. CUT TO Bond just kind of hanging out in business class on a plane flying back to London, and goddamn “London Calling” by The Clash plays on the soundtrack, which is pretty badass since most Bond movies (all?) don’t have pop songs on the soundtrack that aren’t specifically written for the film. Some flashy dude jumps out of the plane with a Union Jack parachute lands just in front of Buckingham Palace. Some dude named Gustav Graves is getting knighted, and the reporter scrum gives us some exposition about this dude: Icarus program, fencing team, etc. Whatever. Bond is standing in the crowd and looks unimpressed with this dude.

At some fencing thingy, Bond shows up wearing fencing gear and goddamn fucking holy shit Madonna has a stupid role in this movie. Goddammit. Was that one of the conditions of her doing the theme song, that she gets a small role in this? Jesus. Goddamn Madonna. She gives us some exposition about Miranda Frost, who is Graves’s publicist. Stupid Madonna. I don’t know why but she angers me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect to see her in this. Anyway.

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She even gets a cameo in this recap!

Bond meets Graves and they have a snarky little back-and-forth. Graves wants to gamble over a fencing match and Bond, being a raging gambleholic, takes him up. They have a fencing match and since I don’t understand fencing I can’t tell if they’re doing it well or right or anything. Click-click-clack they go, Graves gets two hits on Bond, and Bond ups the wager for the diamond that he picked up in Cuba, tipping his hand at Graves because that’s how Bond does things. They start the round again, now with Graves all pissed off, and click-click-clack, Bond slashes Graves on the wrist like a dick and Graves gets even more pissed.

So Graves says let’s do this the old-fashioned way: with real goddamn swords. First blood drawn from the torso wins. Look, recapping a fencing match is just as useless as recapping a car chase, so I’ll just take it easy for a moment. They fence all over this club, going way out of bounds for this match, and also just punch each other for the hell of it. This match is getting way out of hand really quickly. It’s good fight choreography, I’ll give it that. His publicist stops this craziness and they’re both bloodied. They go downstairs to settle the bet and Bond still doesn’t look very happy. I guess he only is if the person he’s fighting dies.

Graves invites Bond to his scientific demonstration of his Icarus project and Bond unsuccessfully flirts with Frost. He also gets a note while in the club to meet at a certain spot with a secret key, and he goes into a secret little door that leads down a secret flight of stairs to a subway station that hadn’t been used in years. M is there, and they have a back-and-forth about what’s right and wrong and what they’re doing and whatever in general. So Bond asks what the fudge is going on, and she gives him some exposition about Graves and some other plot crap. This is the kind of stuff that bores me in Bond movies. Show, don’t tell; things were going pretty ducky up to this point without stopping things for a chit-chat about what is or isn’t happening. So M gives Bond tacit permission to do his goddamn job.

Later, we get the James Bond music while Bond cleans his gun. He hears two gunshots and finds Moneypenny shot (!), along with everyone else. Bond shoots like a million dudes and I realize this is a training exercise. M is the hostage here and Bond hesitates to shoot but does anyway. And what the fudge? It’s just a virtual simulation that Cleese-as-New-Q was leading him on. He’s pretty goddamn salty to Bond and both of them have a good back-and-forth. Although I’m still missing Old Q, I like John Cleese so much in general that I already like him as Q. They even have a funny callback to the stupid jetpack Bond used in Thunderball. Cleese shows him some new gadgets, including a ring that can shatter bulletproof glass, a new watch (his 20th, Q believes [WINK]), and an Aston Martin Vanquish. It’s a slick vehicle that also can turn invisible, which is kind of silly. Bond is handed the manual but he just tosses it in the air so the guns on the car blow it to smithereens.

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“I bet this can make a ladies’ underwear disappear.” “Oh, grow up, Bond.”

In M’s office, we see that Frost is actually another agent and she shit-talks Bond. M kind of smells bullshit on Frost’s excuses about how she won’t sleep with Bond because women are goddamn helpless around that sex magnet. Anyway, that scene is boring so we’re off to Iceland, where we see Bond zooming down the highway of that frozen tundra to the crazy-looking ice hotel that Graves is holding his demonstration. Speaking of which, we’re treated to a jet landspeeder zooming over the ice and it’s Graves, of course, trying to outdo Bond’s cool vehicle. They have back-and-forth banter and holy shit, is this ice hotel completely incredible inside. They’re both icy nutcakes talking to teach other and Frost goes up to Bond to show him to his room. Also showing up is Jinx, because why not just get every character in the same confined space? (The Economy of Fiction in action, ladies and germs.)

Jinx and Bond do more aggressive flirting, this time dropping their deception and pretty much just stating that they’re spies. Meanwhile, Graves is in some creep mask built for weirdos while a shadowy figure in a leather coat tears it off his face. Hey, it’s Uglyman Zao and it looks like there’s something terribly wrong with Graves. Apparently Graves has some problem and he and Zao have some unknown plot going on. Frost saunters over and there are just double entendres being dropped every-goddamn-where. Jinx is calling herself Swift now, but fuck that: she’s Jinx for the purposes of this recap. Graves takes the stage for his demonstration  and he starts talking about diamonds (which may be forever), and holy smokes it’s actually using some elements of the stupid Diamonds Are Forever plot with diamonds in space and them being used for lasers or something ludicrous. What is this, Batman & Robin? Is Graves Mr. Freeze? Anyway, this Icarus project is about using a silver reflector in space to control the focus of sunlight, so it’s like an opposite Mr. Burns blocking the sun in Springfield plot. Enough of that, though: time to party.

Bond spots two super-creeps packing up the Icarus control panel and he follows them outside instead of guzzling free booze like he’d rather be doing. He makes his car invisible to sneaky-sneak behind them and oh boy, is the invisible effect kind of cheesy. He opens the door to his invisible car, thus defeating the purpose of an invisible car, and peeks into the windows (windows?) that this secret lair has. Windows? Anyway, Graves is inside, where his goon Vlad–who’s doing a bad Peter Lorre impression–is getting Graves’ modified Power Glove ready. Bond gets caught, of course, so he treats this guy to his famous fist soup in a bowl of punch and then kills some other dudes with…steam? I don’t know.

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“Is this invisible car idea landing? What do you think, audience?”

Anyway, he’s trying to get kind-of away I guess, but Frost pulls him aside and starts kissing him to make it look like they’re making out, but Frost goddamn hates this dude because she knows what a sexaholic pig Bond is. Anyway, Bond says they’re gone but let’s keep making out, but of course that’s over with. Jinx is now breaking into the secret facility that’s like a biodome of some sort, and she rappels down like Batman. Meanwhile, Frost and Bond are back in his room to make it look like they’re lovers and she gets into bed naked in front of him because what the hell, why not? He gets into bed with her and–despite saying she was not going to sleep with him–she sleeps with him. Great job, Frost. Way to keep strong. Back with Jinxy, she’s sneaking around with a silenced gun and finds Zao in Graves’s creep machine, but she’s shocked in the neck with a stun gun and the effect is kind of hilarious.

After le sex, Bond splits (as usual) to do his spy thing and Jinx is now locked down and getting shocked with more bad special effects. Zao asks who sent her, and Jinx says “your momma,” which would be kind of funny except I’m not sure Halle Berry is a genuinely funny person because she doesn’t deliver the line with the right tone that would make it funny, and Zao–being a fucked-up fellow–threatens her with Goldfinger-era lasers. Outside, Bond uses a laser himself to cut through the ice and Zao and Creep the Hawaiian decides to use the laser option to kill Jinx. Bond, having cut a whole through the ice, kicks through it and uses that wild rebreather apparatus from Thunderball to swim in freezing water to break into the facility. Man, they are just calling back everything in this movie. Somehow, defying the laws of thermodynamics, Bond pops up from the freezing water into a boiling pond inside the biodome and starts his “dashing around holding a gun and pointing it at stuff” move. He spots Jinx just about to get the middle of her head cut in half and he stops it, but then the Hawaiian comes up from behind and smacks the control of his hand and suddenly there are hot crazy lasers everywhere (Note: Hot Crazy Lasers is a pretty good name for an instrumental band). They engage in fisticuffs while these lasers just go crazy. Jinx says some punny stuff but it’s lost in the soundtrack and the sides of beef being punched. Bond’s about to get shanked but instead Jinx gets a hold of the control and–bear with me–shoots a laser through the bad guy’s head from behind, making it shoot out of his mouth. Nuts.

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Pictured: A cut scene from Big Trouble In Little China.

Anywhoo, Jinx says I’m with the NSA, stupid. Are we going to get this shit going or what? They talk about that creep mask thing and I guess Graves is a secret Korean. Jinx literally cuts the dead Hawaiian’s arm off so they can gain access to the inner sanctum and Bond says hey get Frost because she’s on our side, too, and I’m going to go kill some people. In the next scene, Bond gets the drop on Graves and also drops the title. It’s revealed that Graves is Col. Moon, who supposedly died in the opening scene and got gene therapy to become Caucasian (what?) and there’s some other background shit that is lost on me. He bad-mouths Bond and Frost shows up, holding a gun on Graves/Moon. He seems surprised by this, but I bet Frost is going to turn on Bond. And bingo-bango, Frost betrays Bond. She’s the one that betrayed him in North Korea and now Bond finds himself with an empty gun because ha ha, she took out his bullets after they had sex, which I’m sure is some sort of Freudian joke that I’d rather not examine any further. So it seems Bond’s pretty fudged at the moment.

Back in the ice hotel, Jinx is just kind of wandering around looking for Frost and instead she’s locked into Bond’s room like a sucker. Graves says as much and Bond’s stripped of his cool secret weapons. Zao is now in the room thanks to the magic of continuity error and he socks Bond in the gut. On the ground, Bond has his hands on the floor and uses that deux ex glass-shattering ring to shatter the glass floor. Everyone falls, Bond runs, he uses Jinx’s harness thingy to zip to the roof (did she just leave that there?) and then runs down the side of the dome, which looks cool. Bond runs to the rocket car that Graves was using earlier and he zooms away. Now every bad person is acting like a bunch of Scooby Doo villains, which is funny, and the generals that were invited to see the crazy space laser that Graves built get to see a demonstration of it on Bond. Indeed, this is one powerful laser which makes the ice water boil like it’s the death ray of God himself (I’m assuming God has a death ray because he’s God and all). Bond’s trying to outpace this LASER FROM SPACE and that goon Vlad says the Bond’s beating Graves’s land speed record, so score one for Bond(?).

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Come to think of it, God does have a space laser: it’s called the Sun.

At the glacier’s cliff (what is this, the end of Iceland? Maybe. I’m not good with topography), Bond shoots out a hook that saves him from crashing over the side and one of the cheaper effects I’ve seen in these later movies is used to show this. The death laser is still coming his way and Bond disassembles a part of the land speeder to use as…something. The death laser literally cuts an entire section of this glacier off, causing literally tens of thousands of tons of ice to crash down. But what the everliving fuck? Bond’s using a parachute and part of the land speeder as a surfboard to…surf this glacial tidal wave. That’s insane and this is some really bad CGI. But it’s amusingly insane enough for my taste so I’ll give it a pass.

Back at the ice hotel, Jinx gets some bullshit from Frost and Zao and says that Bond’s dead (but he isn’t!). Meanwhile, Bond clotheslines some chump on a snowmobile and zips towards the ice hotel to do his usual saving-the-world thing. Some guards are outside the facility and Bond looks kind of amused about all of this. Well, he did nearly die, so I guess he’ll be happy for a while. Bond remote controls his invisible car to him, sneaks inside in some really bad CGI, and then gets his weapons arsenal out to find where Jinx is. But some idiot on a snowmobile crashes into his invisible vehicle, giving away his location. Zao has a tricked-out car of his own and chases after Bond. There’s a lot of gunfire and all the regular shit but as usual I’m not going to recap a car chase. I will say that it’s pretty cool because they’re driving over ice. Meanwhile, Jinx tries to hotwire the room she’s in to break out, which I don’t understand how an ice hotel like this also has sophisticated electronics inside of it, but then again if I think too much about any of this, none of it makes sense, so my brain goes back into the jar from whence it came.

The crazy space laser goes to melt the ice hotel and kill Jinx while Bond hits Zao’s car, making him skid all over the place. Bond just straight-up hits two dudes on snowmobiles with his car because there’s no time for subtleties, and now Bond and Zao are racing around the ice hotel trying to kill each other in their cool murder-cars. Jinx is drowning but Bond’s just too busy being awesome to care. The space laser is destroying the hotel and honestly, Bond and Zao look like they’re in a video game at this point–a pretty cool video game, but a video game nonetheless. Bond’s invisibility cloak gets fixed and Bond goes invisible, which causes Zao to miss him completely and crash into the ice-cold water. Bond then drives by him and shoots a giant chandelier to crush Zao. So that guy’s dead.

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But Zao will return as Voldemort in Harry Potter: One of Those Fucking Movies!

Meanwhile, Jinx has been underwater for like 20 minutes at this point but Bond just drives through the fucking wall to save her and then smashes his own front window and pulls her inside. Driving like a goddamn demon, Bond crashes through yet another wall and is back outside. Jinx is kind of dead at this point, but he carries her and jumps into boiling hot water with her, which I’m pretty sure would equal immediate hypothermia if she wasn’t dead already, but I guess instead this is going to save her life because it’s a Bond movie. And indeed, it does. And none of her makeup even washed off!

So now we’re at a US Military command center in South Korea and Jinx and Bond are getting their shit together and now everyone’s pals. So apparently North Korea is mobilizing forces while Michael Madsen continues being a dick, his default acting mode. Apparently Graves is going to blow up all the mines in the gigantic minefield between North and South Korea so the North can lead a ground attack. (Fun fact: thanks to the thick minefield between the two countries, that area is filled with pristine nature. Maybe man’s destructive tendencies can bring about an ironic sort of salvation for our environment? You think about that for a while and then come back to the recap. Maybe go outside, take a walk, and wink at a tree.) Jinx and Bond are then suited up to jump out of a plane into North Korea to get Graves/Moon and stop the Icarus project. Got that? Because there’s so much goddamn plot to follow here. These two kooky spies drop into North Korea and at Bad Guy Headquarters in Pyongang, they see that the US have launched a missile towards Icarus. So he just uses his giant space laser to blow the durned thing up. I mean, of course. What’d you think was going to happen? M throws some shade because she hasn’t spoken in a while.

At the North Korean military base, they spot Frost and Graves and Bond tries to assassinate him, but he screws the pooch on that one so they have to somehow get on the plane that Graves is on. Running up to the plane, Jinx and Bond look like action figures next to this giant thing and I guess they can run 70 miles an hour because they jump into the wheel well. On the plane there’s a bunch of crazy stuff, including a helicopter and two sports cars. The command center on the plane features a bunch of military bigwigs and then there’s Graves, dressed up like a Universal Soldier. Anyway, Graves is General Moon’s son and Jinx and Bond go snooping around. Back between this touching father-son reunion, the general finally gets that it’s his son who did some BS gene therapy to look Caucasian, and Graves uses his Power Glove to turn Icarus on to destroy the minefield between North and South Korea. Back on the plane, I guess Bond and Jinx are making some progress but that goddamn space laser is fucking shit up like nothing else along the 38th Parallel. On the plane, Jinx and Bond kill a couple of dudes and Graves is having a great time showing dad how well he’s doing. The general seems freaked out by all of this but Graves is having fun. So General Dad pulls a weapon from one of the military dudes’ sides and holds them all at gunpoint because he sees that his son has gone Coo-Coo for Coco Puffs.

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To be fair, any grown man dressed up like he’s appearing on the cover of Nintendo Power will come across as kind of crazy.

Jinx punches out the pilot and takes the controls while things take a nasty turn between Dad and Son. The general is about to shoot his son but instead Graves electrocutes him with his power glove and then shoots his own dad. I’m beginning to think this guy has a few issues. Bad blurry slo-mo follows his father falling to the ground, and whoops, Bond fucks up by shooting a goddamn window and depressurizing the cabin. A bunch of bad guys fly out the window, which is kind of amusing, and Jinx is having a hard time keeping this bird in the air. Bond kicks Graves in the face a few times and they fight while falling sideways, and somehow Jinx gets this plane from out of its nosedive. But whoops! Frost shows up dressed like a female Street Fighter character for some reason with a sword in hand, disarming Jinx.

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“What? Sonya’s an empowering female video game character!”

At swordpoint, Jinx puts on autopilot while Bond and Graves try to smash each others’ faces in. That darn space laser continues to blow up everything all over the place on the ground and makes the monitors explode in the US base’s headquarters, causing everyone to jostle like they’re on the deck of the Enterprise in the middle of a space battle. On the plane, more shit goes sideways as they fly into the Icarus laser and Jinx and Frost fight while tons of pieces of the plane just fly off. There’s a lot of ducking and knifing and other shit happening and seriously, why is Frost dressed like a Street Fighter character now? (Answer: demographic research.) There’s sword fight after sword fight, kicks to the face between Bond and Graves, and wow this is also turning into a video game. Jinx ends up stabbing Frost in the chest with a knife that’s stuck through a copy of The Art of War just after Frost says, “I can read your every move,” to which post-stabbing Jinx quips, “Read this,” which is a pretty good retort, but then needlessly tacks on, “bitch,” which seems out of place for a Bond movie. But this is now Bond in the 21st century so I guess I can’t take anything for granted at this point.

Bond’s getting the shock of a lifetime as Graves electrocutes him with his power glove and then punches the living daylights out of him (hey, I can do callbacks, too). Laying face-down on the ground like he’s had too many vodka martinis, Bond is shaken, not stirred. Graves tosses out the extra parachute just to really stick it to Bond and gloats for a few moments, which is a classic Bond Villain mistake. And nope, Bond pulls his parachute cord and Graves is sucked out the side. Hanging on the side of the plane, Bond pushes the self-electrocution button that for some reason exists on Graves’ suit and he’s sucked into the airplane’s engine. So that’s the end of that fellow.

Bond finds Frost’s stupid dead body and looks sad for a moment but Jinx, being a sociopath, cracks wise about having broken her heart and smiles at the thought of dying in a plane crash together. But Bond says fuck that noise, I’ve done six impossible things before breakfast today. So they get to the bay and open the back door and conveniently, that helicopter is there. So they start loading out all of the cargo into thin air and those poor sports cars fall to their death. While the plane explodes around them, Bond and Jinx just can’t wait to die in some bizarre fashion and as they fall through the sky with the plane coming apart in flaming wreckage, Bond tries to get those propellors working. They are falling thousands of feet in a helicopter trying to get it to work and some-goddamn how, right before they smash into the ground, it does. I guess they turned on the physics inhibitor. Immediately after not dying, Bond makes a sexual pun because he is sick.

CUT TO M-16 headquarters where Bond walks through the door. Moneypenny is happy to see him, considering that he nearly died about 10 times throughout this movie, and she straightens his tie.  And how about that! We get a kiss between Bond and Moneypenny, the first time in the series where they actually get physical with each other. Then they just straight-up do it on her desk! But fucking PSYCHE! It’s Moneypenny getting her freak on with Q’s virtual reality simulator. What kind of agency is this?

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Even in her VR fantasy, Moneypenny has terrible taste in blinds.

CUT TO FOR REALS the helicopter outside of a small shack on a beautiful cliff where Jinx and Bond have a case full of diamonds that they play with sexually and these two need therapy for about ten different problems apiece. But hey, it’s Bond getting the girl in the end, like usual, and the movie fades out like it’s a goddamn Lifetime movie. AND THAT’S A  FILM SERIES WRAP FOR PIERCE BROSNAN, EVERYBODY! BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE!

Stray Notes

  • Not to rag on Madonna any further, but she had already done the song “Beautiful Stranger” for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me at this point, so it’s a very weird hall of mirrors to have her actually singing the theme song to an actual James Bond film afterwards. For long-time readers of my recaps of this series, you may know how much I now despise the Austin Powers series for being unbelievably lazy “satires” of the Bond franchise. Now I have one more thing to hate it for: its connection to the actual Bond series through Madonna, who I also dislike independent of James Bond or Austin Powers.
  • The extensive use of CGI in this movie really pulled me out of some of the action scenes. I get that this is post-Matrix, but it’s an example of where Bond can go wrong when trying to appeal to modern sensibilities and popular trends in filmmaking. The last movie went over-the-top late-’90s action movie, while this one kind of thinks it’s in The Matrix. It just doesn’t gel with James Bond, especially a series where practical effects have always been highlights of the action.

Conclusions

I really wanted to like this movie. I even was enjoying this movie up to a point; and then it became kind of…stupid. I think I could pinpoint it to Jinx’s entry into the movie. As a dramatic actress, Halle Berry is excellent; as a flippant distaff James Bond, she…leaves a lot to be desired. There’s something about her delivery of comedic lines that sound dramatic and her delivery of dramatic lines that sound comedic. And I dig making a Bond Girl equal to Bond, but this movie already had that character in Miranda Frost. Rosamund Pike in general is an excellent actress and quite the looker; this movie really missed its chance at picking the right Bond female counterpart. Instead, we got a movie that was trying to convince the audience that this smart-alack American agent was equal to, if not somehow more badass, than James Bond in every way. And that’s fine, I guess. But in a James Bond movie, there’s only room for one James Bond.

Outside of that, as mentioned in the stray notes, the use of CGI was at times horrible and broke the somewhat-realistic feel that the series accomplishes most of the times. Gone are the practical effects and in place are sub-Spider Man surfing Bond CGI. It’s tacky and tacky isn’t what I equate with James Bond.

That said, I did enjoy the first half of the movie, particularly with Bond breaking out of his hospital and heading straight back into action despite 14 months of intense torture at the hands of the North Koreans. I enjoyed him getting back into the swing of things almost immediately because it speaks to what a supremely cool and in-control dude Bond is. I dug the slick transition to Cuba and thought the film was remarkably well-shot and edited up to that point. And then Jinx does a backflip off the side of a cliff and the movie became increasingly ridiculous shortly thereafter. Although there were still a lot of enjoyable scenes to be had and, again, I really enjoyed Frost as the M16 agent-turned-traitor, by the end of the film I was just tired of the never-ending action sequence that was the last half-hour of this movie. And even on that point, I usually enjoy it when these movies have a marathon action ending. But honestly, between the weak Jinx character and the shoddy CGI, it kind of killed my enjoyment of what should have been a tight Bond caper.

Even worse, it was Pierce Brosnan’s last turn as Bond, which is a shame because he seemed like a great Bond. He just never got a decent flick in the franchise to appear in. Although this was a big hit at the theaters, it didn’t do very well critically and the overlords that own the Bond franchise said nuts to money, we want respect and critical acclaim and all of the money. So they rebooted the franchise after 40 years and 20 films of continuity. Au revoir, James Bond Classic. You had a great run and I watched every damn one of your movies for good or ill. You kind of ended on some sour notes, but I don’t blame Brosnan. I blame the laziness of the producers and writers. So your license has been revoked, 007: turn in your Walther PPK (or that new gun I don’t like) and your spy watch–if it’s in one piece. Time to grow up, 007: you’re getting a gritty reboot in the next movie, Casino Royale. See you there, Daniel Craig.

Rating

Really liked the first 40 minutes or so and then the film took a nosedive starting with the introduction of Jinx and ending with the literal nosedive of a plane. I would have liked it more probably without Jinx, but if we’re playing Fantasy Bond here, this movie wouldn’t have been like this at all. Maybe he would have a talking dog as a partner. But this is why I don’t write James Bond movies: I have terrible ideas. Anyway, two out of four Bonds. Catch you on the flip-flop.

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  1. Breaking the Bonds 2: Franchise Conclusion – Gray Matter

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