K and I watched the latest James Bond movie.  The movie could be best described as “stink, stank, stunk”.  Daniel Craig has got nothing going for him in this film except looks.  Yeargh, and the story was a lengthy hodge-podge of boring and nonsensical scenes.  This movie is further proof that Hollywood cannot make good movies except by accident.

I’ve read all the Ian Fleming books, and I have most of my favorite Bond films in my DVD collection.  Not all of them are good, nor are they necessarily paragons of morality or maturity.  The whole enterprise is nothing more than adolescent romanticism, so I don’t buy into Bond movies expecting realism.  I’ll watch Sandbaggers if I need a dose of hard-hitting espionage storylines.

James Bond is about boyhood fantasies.  Exotic travel, license to kill, short term love affairs handled with flair, the thrill of dangerous escapades, competent high stakes gambling, high tech gadgets, black and white morality, and stylish clothes.  This is the playboy’s life, lived without consequences, reflection, or restraint.

Enter the newest incarnation of Bond.  Apparently this movie wanted to push a more realistic version of the secret agent.  Gone is the fantasy element, now it’s all about being a thug.  Violence and destruction without purpose are ends in themselves.  Relationships of any kind are scenes for Bond to show his contempt for anyone but himself.

Gone is the witty reparte between Bond and Villain.  You won’t get scenes with titan actor Christopher Lee and distinguished actor Roger Moore:

Francisco Scaramanga: You get as much pleasure out of killing as I do, so why don’t you admit it?
James Bond: I admit killing you would be a pleasure.

Instead you get crummy stuff like this:

Le Chiffre: You changed your shirt, Mr Bond. I hope our little game isn’t causing you to perspire.
James Bond: A little. But I won’t consider myself to be in trouble until I start weeping blood.

Villain weird!  Bond smash!  Blah, blah, blah.

Perhaps that’s the biggest thing missing from the franchise now.  The charm and unflappable nerves of Bond are what make him interesting.  Daniel Craig isn’t given a decent line in the entire movie.  He’s played as a “blunt instrument”.  But that kind of mentality belongs to the nameless thugs Bond used to trounce in earlier films.

As for the “realism”, I have to laugh.  Putting a lot of cuts and bruises on Bond’s face, after he went through a series of acrobatic maneuvers that would break bones, does not make for “realism”.  A Bond with a lot of hit points and no style is not cool.  It’s lame.  There were scenes where I watched Daniel Craig jump down from heights the earlier, unrealistic Bonds NEVER leaped.  When Daniel Craig landed on solid concrete, I kept thinking “Oh!  That snapped both ankles into bone fragments.”

The basic plot of the original story of Casino Royale by Ian Flemming is pretty standard fare.  Bond goes to the casino of the title to beat the villain in a long-term card game for high stakes.  The idea is to make an example of the villain to his supporters and to deprive them of funding.  The villain is trying to raise money for an evil plot by bilking money from various high rollers who are participating in the game.  All of the intrigue takes place in the casino or the town it’s located in.  Unlike a lot of other Bond stories, this one is fairly static and is more about plots and counter-plots, with the action taking place at the gambling tale.

Of course, Hollywood thinks this kind of thing is boring, so the first hour and a half of the film revolves around a lot of sub-plots that lead to the casino action.  There’s chases and shootouts that don’t make any sense, and brief investigative scenes that a Spy-kid could figure out.  It’s all unaffecting fare, without any stakes.  By the time we get to the casino action I’m starting to squirm in my seat.  And I’m at home with a six-pack of cold draft cider and a slice of pizza!

The final confrontation comes and goes in a gambling display that is as crude as it is unbelievable.  Then the movie goes off on a tangent for another hour!  The end of the film comes just as Bond is about to kick some butt.  That’s what you get.  Two and a half hours of boredom for one minute of fun, then the movie ends.  It’s so lame I can’t believe it.

There’s always a “Bond Girl”.  Usually the female operatives are competent in some way, even if they are minimized in their role.  But the young woman in this film is so inexperienced I can’t believe she’s been sent on such a dangerous, important job.  She seems incapable of defending herself, and lacks any kind of interesting background that might explain her finding a place in a secret agency.

The gadgets blow.  None of them are actually cool or useful.  The whole “we’re always in touch with Bond using total surveilance” thing is stupid and undermines Bond’s independence and intelligence.

Come to think of it, the whole British Secret Service crew comes off as pretty incompetent and clueless, instead of the professional, dignified bunch they’ve been in the past.  Bond’s boss, “M”, is disrespected by Bond at every turn, when in the past “M” was both a harsh taskmaster and a strident supporter of Bond’s activities.  Bond listened to the guy, even if he didn’t always agree with his rules.  And he never, ever “put one over on the old man”.  “M” was sharp and no fool, established in the very first Bond film.  I just wish this “M” was comparable.  One wonders how or why she’s head of the double-0 branch at all.

Ugh, I give this movie the finger.