Dirty Bond

13-Sep-07 3:51 PM by
Filed under Films; 9 comments.

It took awhile, but RiffTrax was motivation enough for me to finally get around to watching the new James Bond.

Two years ago, I watched the original 1967 Casino Royale, a comedy starring David Niven as James Bond that was so unexpected that I couldn't help but enjoy it. On the surface, the film and its characters appeared to take themselves seriously — which made the strangeness of the encounters and accessories (think Get Smart) all the more laughable. IMDb describes this adaptation as follows:

Sir James Bond, a spy from the old school (a good spy is a pure spy) is called back to service by the death of "M" and the imminent collapse of civilization. The opposition tries to compromise him, but even as nubile young agents are thrown at him, he remains above it all. Going beyond parody to sillyness, every agent is renamed James Bond, 007 to confuse the enemy, including Woody Allen who plays Little Jimmy Bond.

Compare that plot with that of the 2006 film, and you'll find almost no similarities. I expected as such; what I did not expect was to enjoy the 1967 film more. I take no exception to Daniel Craig as James Bond and don't see what all the fuss was about his casting. My more pressing concern is the direction Craig was given.

Despite being set in 2006, this film is a prequel: only M (Judi Dench) returns, with Q (John Cleese) and Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) nowhere to be seen. But whatever the cast, the setting — with Bond having recently gained his double-oh designation and having had few true adventures — puts our protagonist is in a place where he is coarse and unrefined. Craig comes across as more of a thug than the elegant, svelte super-spy to which we've grown acquainted. I'm told audiences approved of theis film's grittier nature, but I watch Bond films to escape the dark reality I see mirrored in so many other media. I want a hero who's fighting Russians, Germans, and other classic, archetypal, even stereotypical adversaries — not his own ego and dark impulses.

I don't know which model Ian Fleming intended, but the Bond character has transcended his roots and now is held accountable not to his creator, but to pop culture and his audience. Maybe they've covered that ground in the last 20 films, and it's time to move on. Or perhaps now we're through with the the awkward introductions, the next Bond film will have a suaver star. I enjoyed Casino Royale's villains and action sequences enough to see what happens next.

To Grandma's House We Go

04-Jan-07 3:16 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

I recently saw the CGI animated film Over the Hedge. I'd not read the comic strip upon which it is based, but like any good adaptation, it didn't seem necessary to enjoy the film.

And enjoy it I did! Like most good animated films, it had plenty of content aimed at kids and adults alike. It was fun to pick out the well-known actors' voices, especially those not typically associated with animation, such as Bruce Willis and Avril Lavigne. Of course, one of the dangers of such top-tier talent is the difficulty disassociating them from their images. They played to William Shatner's and Eugene Levy's nicely, but I had a hard time not seeing "The Verminator" character, played by Thomas Haden Church, as akin to Lowell from Wings (or perhaps even Spider-Man 3's Sandman?).

I was a bit disappointed the film didn't have a stronger moral, though. Wikipedia suggests that, unlike the 1994 animated Japanese film Pom Poko, Over the Hedge "does not… develop the themes of environmentalism or anti-urbanization." OTOH, perhaps that's my own political beliefs viewing a missed opportunity; such may've been misplaced in "just a cartoon" (as some felt it was in Happy Feet).

In November, when I expressed a conflict between seeing Casino Royale or Happy Feet, a group of "adults" mocked me for even considering the latter, especially since I have no grandchildren with whom to see it. I'm disappointed that people are willing to judge, and thus limit themselves, art based on the medium. Something being animated does not necessarily make it a "cartoon"; just watch Richard Adams' Watership Down or Plague Dogs — as a friend of mine recently did, commenting, "I can't believe anyone would let their kids watch this!" (which she thought they would, since it's "just a cartoon", right?) Comic books, video games, Dungeons & Dragons — they too have been criticized by outsiders. Until they learn, I'll happily continue enjoying these media, while the critics don't even know what they're missing…