Friday, November 14, 2008

A Quantum of Snobbish

Today marks the release of the fifth straight Bond movie I haven't the slightest interest in seeing in the theater. I loved Bond when I was younger and sometimes feel a twinge of regret that I can't muster enthusiasm for a franchise whose movies I used to watch every afternoon as a latchkey kid. Then again, every time I start to feel this way, I hear about a new line or scene analogous to Bond telling Denise Richards-as-Dr. Christmas Jones that he thought Christmas only came once a year. (I know what that means!)

Casting Denise Richards as one of your leads — where, you know, she represents about a third of a film's acting power — is like having to win a tied football game with a one-on-one tackling contest and sending out your placekicker. At that point, you just can't have any faith in a franchise anymore. The brain trust behind her casting is the same one that thought a lipless Timothy Dalton oozed sex appeal and sent Roger Moore out for A View to a Kill when even he himself admitted he was "only about four hundred years too old for the part."

People say the new Daniel Craig movies are good and are going to be great, but the whole thing seems sort of pointlessly inauthentic. I rented Casino Royale and found it mostly grittily dull when it wasn't slickly dull — neither fish nor fowl, but unmistakably tedious. The producers committed so much to seeming "believable" and "real" that they forgot that the reason behind all those ludicrous stunts and novelty gadgets was to take attention away from what a predictable, aimless rehash the series became as the Soviet Union slid into irrelevancy and collapse. And in spite of that, they still failed the reality test.

The whole thing felt like a poseurish riff on the Bourne franchise, the trust-fund brat trying to be hardcore. Most of the hard and dramatic sequences always seemed one misstep away from comical failure — the WASP kid dressed up Thug Lyfe and getting into some smack talk and always in real danger of saying, "Yo, bitch. You know who wanna get on my dick? Your mater." If I want to watch a Bourne movie, I'll watch a Bourne movie. If I want to watch someone who kills people with laser iPhones, always seems about five minutes away from a cocktail hour and who fucks women who seem to be constructed out of breasts and puns, that's what Bond is for.

Obviously, I won't be going to the theater tonight. But in spite of my disinterest, I find myself thinking of someone I got into an argument with on a message board a few times. He was a huge Bond fan and would argue disingenuously in favor of the franchise at pretty much every opportunity. Any favorable development in action and adventure films in the last 45 years could be traced to the Bond movies. Anything poor or misgiven in the Bond films was the fault of the producers catering to the audience's stupid expectations at the time. It was, in short, a flawless artistic creation.

But what I remember most is that he had a signature file — you know, the tagline that ends each email or gets automatically embedded under your message-board posts — that read:

The Quantum of Solace = The Amount of Comfort

I already knew he was a complete dummy, and he couldn't have gotten out of a 7th grade speech and debate elective without being tarred and feathered. But the literal translation of what is actually an elegant phrase (and excellent title) was too much. Obviously, he'd gone to a dictionary and had to look up "Quantum" and "Solace" — "the" and "of" he seemed to have down — to understand the title of the latest movie in the franchise for which he so pointlessly shilled. Moreover, he was so certain that other Bond fans would be incapable of understanding the title that he had his ingenious decoding job follow every single post he made.

Because I'm a small and emotionally stunted person, I decided to troll this, changing my sig file every couple of days or so, to various revelations like:

Thoroughfare = A Comprehensive Menu

Foreplay = In Front of Sports

Handbag = A Bag Made out of Hands

I'm not sure what this indicates, other than that I'm sort of a dick. But whenever I hear that the Daniel Craig Bond films are a hard-hitting, realistic and revolutionary update of a vital franchise, I remind myself that the people to whom that statement actually seems perfectly valid are the same sort of people who you could convince that "courtyard" means, "To seduce a lawn."