Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

Quantum of Solace and the Death of Escapism

Cinephiles boil down into two different types of people:  those that love Bond films and those who are indifferent to them.  I love them and aside from a few duds (You Only Live Twice, A View To A Kill) they have all been good, a few being great (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, Goldfinger).  Either way, they have all felt like part of the same family, they have Q, Moneypenney, entendres (double and sometimes triple), a killer Bond girl, gadgets, cars, a villain that you love to hate, and M- always shaking his or her head at Bond’s unconventional methods.  Only until last year did we get a Bond film that seemed to be cut from a different mold, to come from a completely different universe.  In Quantum of Solace, they threw away everything from the above list, save for M, shaking her head and talking more than the character of M has in all of the films (even compared to The World Is Not Enough, where her kidnapping is essential to the plot).

even the poster is uninspiring

even the poster is uninspiring

To be fair, there is a car, but it’s something like a Mazda Tribute… my friend has one of those and I drove it across the country recently, but that didn’t make me feel I’m more like Bond, it made me feel he’s more like me – a sentiment that has depressing implications.  If you can’t go to an action film, let alone a Bond film, and feel as though you’ve completely escaped from reality, whats the point of going?  Sure, Quantum had explosions and action sequences only possible with James Bond’s involvement, but the girl, the villain, and his plot were so ridiculously dull.  If controlling the Bolivian water supply, with intent on taxing it slightly higher than previously taxed is all we have left for a villain’s plot, then they should just stop making Bond films.  If Bond cannot/will not/doesn’t have the time to sleep with his leading lady, then why go to the trouble of casting an attractive woman? Just cast Janeane Garofalo.  If the only gadgets available to him are things you or I could pick up at Target, then just do away with Q (oh, it appears they already have…).   Quantum of Solace, in short, gave us the worst incarnation of James Bond to date, he isn’t suave, he has nothing in particular on his mind, he fumbles almost every move he makes, has no wit or tact, and apparently has no interest in the girl.  The film was an assault on escapism, and this franchise isn’t the only one straying from it’s roots.

The assumption that modern audiences are too sophisticated for over the top, occassionally campy action films is absolutely wrong, and an idea I blame on Joel Schumacher, director of the last two pre-Christian Bale Batman films.  Batman and Robin, while admittedly over the top and campy, especially turned the tables on escapist cinema.

The Culprits!

The Culprits!

As a result of such frivolities as a cgi Gotham, an Adam West-ish Batman portrayal, and nipples on the batsuits, Warner Brothers was forced to clear the slate and produce a rebooted version of the franchise.  In this new universe of Batman, the villians don’t have to wear costumes, plots must be unnervingly complicated, and Batman must use a near comical voice to mask the fact that he is Bruce Wayne (ignoring the action film staple of suspension of disbelief).  They used Chicago as Gotham, doing away with the mood created by something like Tim Burton’s sound stage mock up. (For the record, Gotham is not a place I should actually be able to visit, just a place I want to be able to visit.)

It seems everyone wants to re-create the Bourne universe, a spy franchise which banks on it’s realism, which is fine because it’s the Bourne universe.  (The Die Hard franchise is the one exception – in a complete reversal of trend, it started out seeming possible and by the fourth one Bruce Willis is driving cars down elevator shafts and challenging stealth planes to interstate duels.)  The Simpsons, always ahead of it’s time, lampooned this phenomenon perfectly in an episode where people go to see the new Star Wars prequel, expecting an action film, but instead getting 2 1/2 hours of a galactic senate version of cspan.  But I don’t want James Bond or Batman to exist in that universe.  Batman is a comic book character and no matter how hard they try to make me identify with him, there will always be a scene where a man dressed like a bat fights someone dressed like a clown or a scarecrow or a cat, completely demolishing any thread to reality.  And Bond should never be without a witty comeback or a villain to set him up for one.  He should always have a scene where Q gives him gadgets and in the background see even more fantastic technology Q isn’t so forthcoming with.  If Batman and Robin be the point where everyone steps back and says to themselves, “Wow, this is too ridiculous!”  then Quantum of Solace must be the point where people stop and realize that Escapism is the element that we, as a culture, relate to most.  That we cannot do what Bond or Batman does, but dreaming that we can is why we really leave a theater satisfied.

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