The good, the bad, and the Bond: Re-evaluating 007 – Die Another Day
AFTER the thoroughly lukewarm reception for The World is Not Enough, Pierce Brosnan bows out of the Bond films with what is widely considered to be the worst entry in the series, canon or otherwise. It is, of course, Die Another Day. Grab your earplugs.
Daniel Abbott: Well, someone’s got to do it.
Die Another Day is 130 minutes of nonsense – you’d be a fool to suggest otherwise – but, much like Moonraker, it parades its naffness freely. It’s simply too easy to deride the film for its ridiculous gadgets, its absurd race-swapping dream gene machines and GIANT SPACE LASERS. What really surprised me the most about re-watching DAD (a deeply appropriate abbreviation) was how much I was, well, enjoying it.
The 20th film in the franchise, released in time for the 40th anniversary in 2002, the film is specifically designed to be in gushing awe of its own heritage. It’s a self-congratulatory love-letter penned to the Bond series as a whole, chock-full of visual and aural references to its history. When Bond meets up with John Cleese’s Q, for instance, Rosa Klebb’s knife-shoes and Thunderball‘s jetpack are both interacted with. For anoraks like us, it can be a fun little task to clock as many of these nods as possible.
This extends to the introduction of Halle Berry’s NSA agent Jinx, who emerges from the sea in the same manner as one Ursula Andress in Dr. No. While Berry and Rosamund Pike are both under-served by the material, they put on a brave face and tackle their assorted innuendos gamely. Their pun-laden exchange in the ice palace is a particular, er, ‘highlight’.
Toby Stephens’ Gustav Graves, perennially smug diamond magnate/North Korean warmonger (don’t ask), is a deliciously smarmy (and a personal favourite) villain who delights in being XTREME and snide. Beside his bilious speech and stapled-on sneer, he provides an assertively physical presence to match Brosnan’s own tip-top condition, as ably demonstrated when the two engage in a fantastic sword duel that spills out of the fencing hall and onto the estate grounds. Said estate is run by Madonna. She has four lines. Meh.
The ever-reliable Brosnan is, once again, undermined by a script that creaks beneath the weight of ceaseless puns, seldom giving him room to breathe, but he does at least bring some real intensity to the opening Korean scenes that hadn’t been glimpsed since GoldenEye. He’s ragged, lean and legitimately dangerous-looking in these scenes, doing much to channel Dalton – it’s a shame it doesn’t last too long before the script forces him back into cruise control.
Though Lee Tahamori’s direction has its share of questionable decisions (random speed-up/slow-downs and an over-reliance on CGI), his action scenes are crisp, clear and well-shot, like the aforementioned swordfight and the finale. While Bond’s wind-surfing escape from a glacial tidal wave is the most embarrassing of its kind since Escape from L.A., the wonderful car chase on the Icelandic tundra just about makes up for it. Madonna’s title song is, honestly, one of the more memorable themes since ‘Licence to Kill’, and the weird electronic, dance-y touches blend surprisingly well with the film itself. And no, I don’t give a shit about the invisible car.
Die Another Day has long achieved legendarily bad status, so much so that even longtime, die-hard fans will happily rail against it. Really, though, it’s a far more entertaining jaunt than any of Connery or Moore’s bum notes, and at the very least provides a captive audience with plenty of laughs, intentional or not. No matter how stupid things got – and they get fucking stupid – I still found myself grinning from ear to ear, just like I did when I saw it in the cinema with my dad all those 13 years ago. There’s a lot to like here, even if there’s a sizeable portion of crap to dig through first.
At least it’s not chuffing Octopussy.
Andrew Noel: The final film in the Pierce Brosnan saga, Die Another Day is a comically camp, dated and uninteresting piece of garbage that is easily one of the worst Bond films. There isn’t just one thing wrong with this film, there’s a whole collection of missteps and mistakes committed by this production. From the relatively gritty aspects of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Die Another Day proved what a bloated mass of crap the Bond franchise had become.
Let’s start with some of the outstanding problems. Firstly, what the hell was that theme song? Madonna shits over the tradition of great Bond songs with this Eurotrash. Utilising the line, “Sigmund Freud, analyse this,” makes the writing even dodgier than her cameo in the film. The gadgets are the next ridiculous aspect of this production. Well, when I say the gadgets, I mean that INVISIBLE CAR. I mean come on guys, when did Bond go from spy thriller in sci-fi?
This is just one example of how Die Another Day completes the transition of the Bond films into self-parody. It’s incredibly easy to pick out some terrible lines from this film that are clearly meant to be witty or suave. Here are some examples!
“Saved by the bell.” – after escaping death by holding on to a ceremonial bell.
“I’m Mr Kil.” “Well isn’t that a name to die for?”
“How’s that for a punchline?” – after punching Bond for making a quip.
“Time to face gravity!” – before dropping a baddie to his death.
“Ornithology, now that’s a mouthful.” – OH COME ON.
There must have been a point where the writers of this film were sat around a table trying to come up with anything that sounds vaguely amusing. But it doesn’t stop there. Die Another Day takes the eccentricity of Bond deaths and brings it to new levels. There’s a bit where Bond is literally dangling on the edge of an icy precipice, and the enemy have a gigantic beam of high-powered sunlight bearing down on him. And what do they do? They decide to cut off the ice and assume Bond falls to his death instead of just burning him alive.
Even the Bond girl scenes are getting awful. Putting aside the most cringe worthy sex scene of all time involving Halle Berry and some melon, Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost is there to set feminism back another 10 years. How? Well, after insisting she will not succumb to Bond’s *ahem* ‘charms’, she promptly passionately kisses him before having sex with him. The exchange goes something like this:
Bond: “We’d better sleep together to keep up the illusion of us being lovers.”
So much for the strong female character.
I could quite easily go on about this film. I haven’t even begun to address the poor quality of the special effects, the lame and predictable storyline or the detestable Bond played by Pierce Brosnan. But alas, the word count restrains me, so I’ll leave you with this.
Stay the hell away from Die Another Day.