Quantum of Solace

Mr. MK12, I knew Maurice Bender. Maurice Bender was a friend of mine, and you, sir, are no Maurice Bender.

If I wanted an art movie, I would have seen Moonraker.
Reported on 15th of November, 2008

I had my Quantum of Solace report all planned. It was to be about identification, and the way movies put us in the place of the hero. I was going to open with the time someone said I looked like Daniel Craig. And no, I don’t (as my friends, the only people reading this, will tell you. Actually, if they’re the only people reading this, they’re going to have to tell themselves), and yes, I still believe that I do. I also believe that I look like the monster in The Bride. Not the actor who played him (Clancy Brown), but the way that some make-up artist imagined the monster of the Frankenstein story. You can accuse me of having either a too high or a too low self image, but if I’m a monster, at least I got to kill Sting after he left the Police.

Quantum of Solace

14 November 2008 @ The Agoura Hills 8

$0.50 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


In this planned, and now abandoned, essay, there were to be pictures of video games, and a discussion about the future influence of game designer Shigeru Miyamoto on film, a comparison between this film and what I was about to find out was the vastly superior License to Kill (and yes, Timothy Dalton is my favorite Bond, and no, I’m not being ironic, and yes, Patrick Stewart would have been the best replacement, and no, you’re not sad that I don’t have a say in any of those things).

And we’d be able to enjoy them if the film didn’t have our face jammed up against the glass, and didn’t keep turning our head every which way, saying ‘Look over there, no, now over there, too late, now you have to look over there.’ 

Two events transpired to derail my report. The first was the theater. It was my favorite, the Mann Agoura Hills 8, which is now the Regency Agoura Hills 8, and virtually unchanged. Apparently, they just bought it the day before, and hadn’t quite figured out how anything worked. There were no pictures of popcorn, all new people working an all new computer system, and no ticket booth, so that the concession stand was where you also bought the ticket. The man behind me ‘couldn’t believe this’, and then proceeded to buy his ticket and slow up the line by ordering popcorn and a $1 promotion hot dog. It’s $1! For a hot dog!

I usually don’t buy snacks in the theatre. Not because it’s too expensive. Theatres are dying, and the very least you can do is support them by spending money on the only thing that they make a profit on. It’s like going to Burger King and forgetting to order a coke, or going to McDonald’s and forgetting to infringe on their copyright. Sadly, though, I am at a movie theater to actually see a movie, and have found, from years and years of experience, that it takes 5 minutes per customer, what with the taking of Visa cards, and the clever not mentioning the sales tax in the price, so that if you do pay cash, it’s not $3.50 for peanut M&Ms, but $4.06, which coincidentally is exactly the slowest amount of change that you can make.

Add these five minute increments to the line of people clamoring to get into the next Bond installment, and you’ve got a disaster on your hands. Unless, of course, you’re at the Regency Agoura Hills 8, née the Mann Agoura Hills 8. And, at 12 noon, opening day, when every other theater in the country was sold out, this is what it looked like.

Opening day.

Opening day.

Don’t buy stock in the Regency Agoura Hills 8.

The second thing that happened to undermine my planned review was the film itself, which turns out is an action movie. Don’t believe the critics of this film who say there’s too much action. They are wrong. I like action movies, and the problem with Quantum of Solace is that there’s no action. There’s a bunch of shaky blurry stuff, and maybe some blurry explosions, and, two, not one, but two, wanktactular intercuts between an art event (some horse dealy in Italy and, I kid you not, a staging of Tosca in Vienna), and a fight scene. Really. It’s fine when life imitates art, but when life imitates art in art then it’s art imitating art, or, arimartimlifart. If I wanted an art movie, I would have seen Moonraker.

What I wanted was an action movie. See that first word? It means that in an action sequence, there are actions. You have a goal, and you use what you’ve been given to achieve the goal. The less you’re given, and the harder the goal, the better. In the aforementioned Licence to Kill, James Bond has to destroy 4 trucks smuggling cocaine hidden inside the gasoline. All he has is a car. It’s totally preposterous, and extremely, extremely enjoyable. See it now.

(And while I’m on the subject, it should be clear by now that I hate realism and credulity. Make it implausible, and don’t apologize. And I don’t mind that sometimes the big scenes conveniently end up in a factory, or warehouse, or a factory that makes warehouses to store factories in, but, as we see in Quantum of Solace, a hotel in the middle of the desert that runs on highly explosive fuel cells with no windows? At that point, why not just build a freeway with the ramps built in to jump over robot alligators? In a factory).

The point being that in an action sequence, it’s the more we know, the more we enjoy it, not, as is currently in vogue (you heard me, Michael Bay), less. When Hannibal is given a pen clip to escape from a courthouse surrounded by the FBI, they don’t have super fast close ups of his shoelaces, intercut with blurry doorknobs. When John McClane jumps off the exploding Nakatomi tower hanging on to broken fire hose, you don’t show the reflection of his shirt sleeve as it artfully passes a discarded gum wrapper.

The sad thing is, if you look really, really closely, there is an action movie in there, not a great one, but there are actions happening, cars doing neat things to avoid other cars, people adroitly jumping through and around stuff, plans being made and executed. And we’d be able to enjoy them if the film didn’t have our face jammed up against the glass, and didn’t keep turning our head every which way, saying ‘Look over there, no, now over there, too late, now you have to look over there.’ Heightened sensation based on disorientation is not the same as excitement; it’s just easier to create.

I had to get back in the line where the ticket printer was working, explaining that I needed to be able to 'expense' it. This kind of counts as a job, doesn't it?

I had to get back in the line where the ticket printer was working, explaining that I needed to be able to ‘expense’ it. This kind of counts as a job, doesn’t it?

The people I really feel sorry for are the stuntfolks and production designers and CGI people. You know they did plan out all the sequences very carefully, with explanations for each move, for each action. And then the film just took those moments, those clever bits of situational ingenuity and threw them in the trash. See that blurry shape for less than a fifth of a second? they would say. That took three days to film; it’s me jumping off a four story building into a car on fire.

You’d think they’d want to show something like that. You know I’d want to see something like that.

I’d blame the director (and given the fact that he was formerly the maker of ‘good‘ films such as Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner, and imbued the proceedings of this Bond venture with such wankiness, Mr. Forster is a fair choice), but in a film such as this, I suspect that every shot, color, eyebrow twitch and hair flutter was approved by committee, put in front of a focus group, rejected by a quorum, re-approved by the executive producer after having been made unrecognizable by the Co-executive producer. Directors, at this point, have nothing to do with anything.

So in the absence of anyone in particular to hold responsible for the death of the action film, I’m going to blame the clapper loader, ‘B’ camera, main unit.

I’m watching you, Sebastian Barraclough.

In my head, I see the unedited stunt takes.
Come on. Admit it. The title is genius
Total Profits
The fact that we must now take the character of James Bond – James Bond – seriously.
Achieving the desired effect of making a scene in a desert hotel run on explosive fuel boring.
Total Losses


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