Quantum of Solace

November 16, 2008 10:56 AM

To put my cards on the table from the outset. I didn't think Casino Royale was a very good movie. Don't get me wrong: Daniel Craig makes a really good James Bond, the character and series reboot was about two movies overdue and the movie was full of some great scenes; but in the end the whole was less than the sum of its parts, mostly because they screwed up the pacing.

Most movies share a common narrative shape. For example, most chick flicks are W-shaped: they go down (girl is alone), then they go up a bit (girl meets boy), then they go down again (girl and boy have a falling-out, usually due to some farcical misunderstanding), then they go up again at the end (boy dies in a tragic accident involving a banana skin and a pirana-filled swimming pool). Similarly, most action movies stick to the traditional three-act structure of set-up, confrontation and climax. The cynical interpretation is that Hollywood is too lazy to come up with new ideas, but the pragmatic response would be that it works.

There's nothing wrong with writing a movie that messes with the traditional narrative structure, but you must have something worthwhile to replace it with. If, for example, your movie kills off the main villain with an hour to go then inserts half an hour of dead air, you're going to have to deal somehow with danger that you're going to lose any suspense or excitement you've built up in your audience. Casino Royale didn't deal with it at all, and I just sat there looking at my watch thinking, “Yeah, it's obvious she's going to betray him, when do we get back to the action?”

I'd have given Casino Royale two and a half stars out of five: a four-star action movie dragged down to mediocrity by messed up plotting.

Quantum of Solace didn't have this gaping hole that made me want to throw something at the screen, but there was still something wrong with the way the movie was put together. You just never felt it was moving towards any kind of conclusion. In place of a build-up you had a series of action sequences that were thematically indistinguishable. When the climax arrived, it was almost a surprise: you had to double-take and say ”wow, this must be the last bit of the movie”.

10 Comments

Looks like you prefer movies with a male instead of female orgasm response.

As for a lot of films, the film was probably good but it had to fit into a timing, and they cut too many scenes.

I am waiting for the next one actually. There is something like an increasing pressure on Bond.

The opera sequence was pretty good imo. The desert hotel sequence was completely screwed up.

My big problem with Casino Royale is that I didn't believe the bit where they were in love. I actually thought it was a dream sequence for about five minutes and as it became clear that no, Bond and Vesper were in love and this was their brief moment of happiness I was really really glad that Bond doesn't fall in love for more than a night very often.

@Mary: I had a similar problem. At first I assumed Bond had anticipated the obvious double-cross and was playing along, but the sequence was too painfully drawn out to hold that theory.

If you would have given Casino Royale 2 1/2 stars of 5, what would you give Quantum of Solace?

I'm disappointed so far, but hoping that it will seem better once the third movie is out -- and that in retrospect we will see a coherent narrative spread across three movies in which Bond is seen to be transformed from "apprentice" to "journeyman" to "master" -- the cold, competent, emotionally distant Bond that we are familiar with. But I'm not putting money on it...

***CASINO ROYALE SPOILERS***

The problem with Casino Royale for me was that it had what felt like at least four endings. It "ends" after the poker game. Then it restarts and "ends" again with Bond being captured and tortured (which, by the way, makes no sense if Vesper is being blackmailed into betraying Bond -- for one thing, there's no need; and for another, what happens if Bond doesn't manage to swerve and avoid her, since he has only half the information needed for them to get the money?). After he is released we get yet another ending in which Vesper betrays him and then dies. And then we get a fourth ending in which, with no explanation, he tracks down the bad guy and shoots him. And then the movie stops.

In fairness, the first two endings are in the original novel (but without the Vesper character, so it at least makes a lick of sense to torture Bond). But everything after that makes no sense whatsoever.

To put my cards on the table - if you didn't like Casino Royale there's no way you were going to like Quantum. It's the second half of the first movie, if you follow me!

And drawing graphs to represent a movie plot or any creative endeavour? I find it about as plausible as you seemed to find the ending of Quantum - but I could most certainly see that coming. Bond and Bond-girl make it to location of bad guy? Check. Location has suitably dodgy 'blow-up' mechanism? Check.

Still, tis your opinion, and you're entitled to it!

I agree with your view about it's lack of climax. Peter Gaughran, you are half-right that it was effectively the second part of Casino Royale. In fact, that's what I wish it had been. As it turned out it was the second part of a 3+ogy. Peter Jackson did a better job of providing climax with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

As Antoine pointed out, the opera scene was very good. At last it felt like there was some much-needed intrigue in the form of a shadowy organisation, like SPECTRE. Instead, they have to focus on the caricature villain a la Blofeld (actually White would've been a much better one to focus on than Greene). And all the intrigue is shelved for the next part(s). By which time, no doubt they'll feel they're in danger of straying too far from the formula and come up with some joker of a baddie.

All in all, this film reminded me far too much of Licence to Kill, which is not a good review! They've done a great job of resuscitating the character of Bond with Craig, but they've still got a lot of work to do on the plots.

Casino Royale also had that fake ending thing- I spent the last 30 minutes of the movie wondering if *this* was really the ending - made the actual ending anti-climactic.

Interesting ... did you use the Movie Excitement Monitoring API to produce those graphs? :)

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