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Essential - great tribute to Bond history
on January 27, 2013
Die Another Day is often unfairly maligned as derivative of past Bond movies. But that misses the point - as this was the 20th Bond film, released on the 40th anniversary of the first one (Dr. No 1962) this movie intentionally pays homage to the past, as noted in Michael Kelley's write-up. As it turned out, paying tribute to Bond's past was especially important here, as the series was "rebooted" from scratch after this one, with Daniel Craig in the lead role. So Die Another Day is both an homage to the past, as well as the end of an era - who wouldn't want to see that?
As a stand-alone Bond movie (i.e. disregarding the connections with the past), this is somewhat above average in my view. But it's the connections with the past that move it significantly higher than that. The connections are too numerous to mention them all, but consider - WARNING, MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD -
- At one point, Bond pretends to be an ornithologist, this is a reference to the fact that the original "James Bond" was an actual American ornithologist, who Ian Fleming respected and who's name was borrowed for his protagonist.
- Halle Berry appears out of the water in a swimsuit, a la "Dr. No".
- There is a diamond-studded space-ray, a la "Diamonds Are Forever".
- There's a use of lasers that reminds one of the famous "Goldfinger" scene.
- Many of the past technology gadgets are seen again (including at least two that I recognized from "Thunderball"), and comments are made by Q's replacement which mirror Q's from the past.
- Speaking of technology/gadgets, some reviewers have derided the "invisible car". I have no problem with the car, and I give credit to it being an Aston-Martin (albeit a new one) - a nod Bond's first gadget-laden car from "Goldfinger". I believe it's the first time an A-M has been featured since "Goldfinger", probably the best-loved film of the series.
- The connections to the past are endless, far more than I have revealed above (a connection with "The Spy Who Loved Me" is especially memorable). At one point I could even swear I saw one of that bad guys stroking a hand-held controller in much the way that Blofeld stroked his cat in various Bond films. A true Bond nut could probably find dozens of connections, and still miss a few of them. How great is that for the 20th film, 40-year anniversary?
As far as the plot itself, making North Korean military leaders the bad guys was a great idea, something that still works today. This is also easily the most technology laden Bond film, as the reboot with Daniel Craig sought to reduce the technology role. And yet Bond is also very physical in this film, much like Connery and Dalton. This is Pierce Brosnan's best acting work as Bond; I thought he was weak in Goldeneye, but grew into the role, getting better each time.
There are some lesser points of course. The ending was not particularly strong IMO, though there was another nice homage to "Goldfinger" involving the airplane. There's a ridiculous moment where Bond "para-surfs" on a wave of water; someone here suggested that was itself an homage to some of the more ridiculous moments in the Moore films, maybe so. Like it or not, it lasts less than 15 seconds; I try not to let it detract from the rest of the film. There are almost always "cartoonish" moments in these films, but that scene may be the most cartoonish one of all. At least it's memorable; memorably bad! Some people have objected to the ice hotel as unrealistic - I don't know where they've been, because there are actual ice hotels (built new every year in winter), mainly in Scandinavian countries (and this one is in Iceland, so it fits). Some people also object to the gene-therapy used to change appearances. Sure that's far fetched, but it could also be an homage to Bond's own appearance change in "You Only Live Twice".
All in all, this is not to be missed, for those who have seen all the Bond films that went before it. It does not work as well though if you haven't seen the earlier ones, so don't make this the first Bond film you see. Best to view the other ones first, then this becomes the real treat that it was meant to be.