Monday, September 7, 2009

Question: Nobody Does It Half As Good As Who?

I’ve been mulling over the most recent James Bond movie. . . can’t say I cared for the direction much. The vomit cam must go! And what’s this garbage about stealing water from Bolivia? What a lame plan. But that got me thinking, and so I ask: (1) what was your favorite James Bond scheme, and (2) what would you do if you were a James Bond villain with a grudge?


Joel Farnham said...

As a James Bond Villain,I would ain to control as much of the oil as I possibly could. Much like Goldfinger aimed to control as much gold as he could.

AndrewPrice said...

My favorite scheme was from You Only Live Twice, when they were capturing the spaceships in mid-flight.

As a villain, I think I would start a war between Switzerland and Libya, because that could never happen in real life. :-)

ScottDS said...

It's all about sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. :-)

I don't really have a favorite Bond villain scheme per se. Goldfinger is definitely up there though, as is Thunderball (hijacking nuclear warheads if I recall), and even Tomorrow Never Dies which, while not a great Bond film, was a bit ahead of its time in my opinion (the idea of manipulating world events via the media, which is what I'm sure each side accuses the other of doing!).

As for me, I thought about the essential elements of life. Wikipedia brought me to "micronutrients" which are "nutrients needed throughout life in small quantities." Examples include, among others, "iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, etc." I suppose a movie about a villain who tries to hijack the world's supply of iron could be interesting but it's not exactly larger than life, is it?

Then I recalled a Wired article I read in 2005 about the black market for Soviet space gear. Suppose a rogue nation that harbors terrorists decided one day to establish a space program (insert your own jokes here) to use against Western countries. And this brings us back to the classic space-based satellite/laser plot which has been used before.

Writer X said...

Weren't all the schemes pretty much the same, just with different names in different countries?

If I were a JB villain, I'd definitely try to steal whatever fully loaded car that James happened to be driving that episode. Yeah, give me the car. And if there were any gold nuggets hanging around, I'd take those too. The bigger, the better.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, So you would pull a Moonraker? That could be fun, especially with NASA giving up the space shuttle. You could have unchallenged control over the moon. . . and all that cheese.

I thought the idea of manipulating opinion through the media was a good idea, though the movie turned out kind of weak in the end.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Shhhhh.

Actually, no, the early schemes were very different. Dr. No involved destroying the American space program. From Russia With Love involved stealing a Russian code device. Goldfinger was really ingenious. He was going to raise the value of his own gold by making ours radiotative. Thunderball was nuclear blackmail. Live and Let Die was about hooking vast numbers of people on drugs and getting a monopoly on the trade.

Then they kind of started to get more repetitive, usually ending up with plans to destroy the world.

Writer X said...

I really only liked the Bond movies with Sean Connery. Couldn't stand Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore always played it sort of tongue and cheek. One caveat: I loved the first bond with Daniel Craig; his second one was a disappointment. Regardless, every Bond screenplay goes something like this:

- Bond travels to exotic location, usually after pissing off M.
- At said location, he's given keys to an incredible car and women usually salivate all over him.
- In between wooing empty-headed women and drinking martinis, he saves the world.
- The End.

Am I right?

ScottDS said...

Writer X -

Yes, there was a template after a while but every time the producers would try to deviate, half the fans would say, "Thank God, they're doing something different!" while the other half would scream, "What happened? Where's the car?! Where are the gadgets?!"

So it can be a catch-22 sometimes. And there seems to be a pattern where each film gets bigger and bigger until they finally rein it in, then the cycle continues:

-from You Only Live Twice (space capsules, autogyro, volcano layer) to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (a tad more serious and heartfelt)
-Moonraker (Bond in spaaaace) takes us back to Earth for For Your Eyes Only
-Die Another Day (loud and ridiculous, bad CGI of Bond surfing a melting glacier) to the more realistic Casino Royale

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, that's how we roll at Commentarama. . . ;-)

Actually, I think the formula changed over the years. Connery (the best) was more of a cold-hearted spy, who was sent to do spy things. Each of the plots was different, the villains were different, and they all stand far ahead of what came later. Moreover, his character had a great mix of cold-hearted bastard who saw the women and cars as tools, and a playboy who enjoyed himself.

Moore played Bond as a cliché, and seemed kind of hostile to the role (at least after his first two). Plus, they injected so much cheap comic relief into his movies, that they lost the feel of danger.

Dalton took the role far too seriously and his plots came across like they could have been Miami Vice episodes.

Brosnan brought back a sense of calm, but they also add this out-of-place depression to give his character depth. Plus he was let down by the plots getting increasingly outlandish.

I really like Craig. I love the idea of toughening him up, and of going back to a more minimal James Bond. And I thought everything (except for that damn vomit cam) right up to the last ten minutes of Casino Royal was very good -- best since Connery. But then they had to add a fake out-of-character love story onto the end, before compounding that mistake by building Quantum on that same issue. Quantum felt like a very workmanlike plot to me. Dull, plodding, had to hit certain points so that they could get his need for revenge out of the way and to give him Specter=Quantum as an enemy.

I'll be curious to see how they handle the next.

Writer X said...

Scott, admittedly, I kind of soured on Bond when they brought Denise Richards on as a scientist. I got back into it with Daniel Craig but then soured again at his second movie. As long as there is a cool car and a fancy gadget, it's worth a rental. :-) I can understand how the fans appreciate the predictability. It's sort of a male romance novel, IMO.

Writer X said...

Andrew, ooooh, yeah. I forgot about Dalton. He wasn't bad. Clearly I am out of my element here discussing James Bond movies with you guys. You all know way more about them than I do. I am not worthy. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I've been a huge Bond fan my whole life.

In terms of romance novels, I don't agree with regard to Bond. I do think that action flicks and chick flicks are simply the opposite sides of the same coin -- both as formulaic, both relying heavily on cliche, just drawing on different genders.

But Bond films fall more into the category of summer blockbuster -- with the difference being that blockbusters are typically not gender specific in who they pull in. And indeed, I know many women who love Bond films, but would never watch a Schwarzenegger film.

ScottDS said...

Re: Dalton -

I really enjoyed The Living Daylights. I think it might be the best Bond movie made in the 80s (with the possible exception of For Your Eyes Only). And it was also the last Bond film scored by John Barry, who did a great job here. I even enjoy the songs from The Pretenders that play during the film and over the end credits.

I like Licence to Kill but I can see how some would consider it more of a Joel Silver film than a Bond film (half the supporting cast of Die Hard including Robert Davi, the late Michael Kamen doing the music, a plot involving drugs). I find it very entertaining and (spoiler/nerd alert) oddly enough Anthony Zerbe's character dies by decompression, similar to the way his character dies in Star Trek: Insurrection!

When I temped at MGM a couple years ago, I saw some files re: a third Dalton movie that was to be made during the early 90s but it never happened.

Unknown said...

Ah, I come from a simpler time. I love gold!

Writer X said...

Andrew, you mean to tell me there aren't men out there who enjoyed P.S. I Love You? Or Shopaholic? or 10 Ways to Lose a Guy? Wait, don't answer that...

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, For me, the best Bond of the 1980s was For Your Eyes Only. I wanted to like the Living Day Lights, but it just felt cheaply put together and the villain was a total nothing -- an arms dealer? That's it? Bond is about spies and villains, not criminals.

At that time, the movie that everyone said should have been a Bond film -- and I agree with this -- was True Lies. That was much closer to the "Bond spirit" than the Dalton movies or View to a Kill.

I still have a lot of hope for the new Bond, I just hope they dump the director. He ruined every stunt by filming them in close up. He also lacks patience to establish those broad shots that give a movie depth -- don't flash a sky line, give us time to take it in man.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I'll tell you honestly, that I have been looking for a good romance film for some time. So I've seen most of the chick flicks. And by and large, they annoy me just as much the pure action flicks. Both types of movies are vapid, manipulative, stupid, cliched and utterly formulaic.

It's so bad that I could write a romance movie in twenty minutes and an action flick in ten.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, who doesn't like Gooooooooooold!

FB Hink said...

Blaspheme alert: Daniel Craig is now my favorite Bond. What I loved about Casino Royal was that finally, the franchise began moving back toward the spirit of Bond. Having read all of Ian Fleming’s books, I loved how they set it up with the terrorist/banking plot line to take the place of the Soviet financier, allowing a strong transition into Fleming’s original plot of Casino Royal. Quantum of Solace was a mild disappointment but after watching it a second and third time I did feel more of the element of the true Bond poking his head out.

Now, villainy… With the help of the CIA’s Felix Leiter, Bond discovers that the current US Administration and Congressional leadership are puppets of Quantum, bent on establishing a new global governance.

Tennessee Jed said...

My favorite Bond story and villain are "From Russia with Love" and Red Grant. This was perhaps the closest to a realistic cold war spy story. The Russian Secret Service were after revenge against Bond and planned to use the well proven classic "honey trap" scheme which would end up with Bond exposed, humiliated and, of course, dead.

To fully appreciate, you should 1) read the book (yes again, if necessary. 2) and view the movie with the latest digital re-mastering. Robert Shaw is classic as Red Grant. Rosa Klebb is fantastic as well (a little lesbian action going on.) To truly appreciate Grant, though read the book before viewing since you get the full back story on how Grant became the perfect S.P.E.C.T.R.E. killing machine.

The special tool kit which saves Bond's ass is easily believable.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors. I thought he did a fantastic job in From Russian With Love. Plus, how can you not like the Russian girl?

Fink, I see your point, though I will always see Connery as the best. At this point, I would agree though that Craig has eclipsed the other Bonds.

CrispyRice said...

I'm late to the party (sorry - I was busy scuba-diving from my secret fortress, but luckily I'm wearing a perfectly beautiful evening gown underneath my wetsuit) but here's my $0.02.

Sean rules. But I do like the new guy, too.

And, for better or worse, Mike Meyers has ruined many of the best Bond moments for me forever, LOL. I gotta go with the ill-tempered sharks with the freakin' laser beams, too.

AndrewPrice said...

CrispyRice, Meyers was effective in his parody. That's why his scenes stick with you.

It's too bad they never did a follow up with Scotty running the evil empire.

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