Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
The year was 2002, and I was just a 12 year old boy going with my dad to see my first ever James Bond film: Die Another Day. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it. But surly looking at it as an adult I must be able to see it for the tripe it is, right?
Well… no, I still really enjoy it. In fact it’s one of my favourite Bond films. But is this just me talking whilst having nostalgia goggles so firmly clasped to my face that it’s cutting off the circulation to my brain? Or can I actually back this up with somewhat coherent arguments?
Before we start, lets first examine what makes a good Bond film. Well that’s easy enough, isn’t it? A good Bond film tends to have: fast cars, cool actions scenes, sexy Bond girls, awesome gadgets and well-crafted one-liners applicable to any situation (what do you think Bond thinks of whilst he’s filing the paperwork?). More often then not the plot is somewhat secondary to the action and the man himself. Be honest: did you watch the Bond movies as a kid for their complex plot. Hell no you didn’t. You watched it because Bond was cool. And that’s the crowning strength of Die Another Day. It takes everything that was cool in all the other James Bond movies and makes it into its own movie. Sure the plot’s a bit silly at times, but some of the best Bond films are. But it sums up everything you’d ever want in a Bond film. In fact it’s the perfect first Bond film since it’s essentially forty years in a nutshell. All the parodies of the things that made Bond famous are played with in the film itself. The famous laser scene gets exaggerated because why the hell not? Likewise we get Bond fighting a British guy who’s kinda like Bond but who really, and spoiler alert, is a North Korean dude that got a race lift. But it takes everything that people think of when they think of a Bond film and go ‘right, here it all is in one 133 minute film’. Sure it has all the clichÃ©s on board, but clichÃ©s don’t become clichÃ©s if they’re not originally good (or at least well-known). So Die Another Day is a brilliant love letter to everything that makes Bond great, something that was a bit lacking in the next film Casino Royale (though I feel Quantum of Solace brought it up a bit more, and I hear Skyfall finally marries the two continuities together in a way).
So that’s one defence. What about another? Well ask yourself: who is this film made for? And to be honest, it’s made for young boys. It really is. And this is the same defence I use when defending Cars 2, which I think is the greatest spy movie ever made. Cars 2 and Die Another Day are aimed at young boys. Ergo young boys love the movies. Can you turn around and say that these films are bad because you are a grown man and thus ‘didn’t like them?’ I mean if you tried to use the argument that foreign films are terrible because they don’t speak English you’d be laughed out of the argument. So why is it when a film is targeted a certain audience we’re quick to label it bad? Judge the film from the audience’s point of view first. Do young boys like this film? For the most part, yes, yes they do. In fact I think the Brosnan era as a whole was made for young boys more so than jaded adults. The four Brosnan films are very fun, with all the cool action stuff that kids love to see. Now maybe it can be argued that ‘James Bond isn’t for kids’. I find this a bit of a difficult argument to accept however, considering how many times he’s been spoofed in the pop culture in relation to kids shows. I mean the old ‘laser to the crotch’ scene has appeared in countless kids shows. This film was aimed at young boys, so if they enjoyed it, then it must have been doing something right. Why judge a film on any other standard but that?
The third argument I make deals with what I think a good movie is in general. To me any good piece of art has three necessary properties: It’s Interesting, It’s Entertaining and It’s Engaging (looks like my studies in philosophy are finally paying off). Interesting in this case refers to its aesthetic features. Or, as you’d put it, how pretty it looks. And aesthetically Die Another Day is a good film. It looks nice. Or at least it doesn’t physically hurt to watch, regardless of what some people would say. Next up is entertaining. And believe you me, it is very entertaining. I loved the sword fights and the car chase and the hovercraft chase at the beginning. I was enjoying every minute of watching the roller-coaster of the movie. As for engaging… well I actually did care for Bond and whether he lived or died. I didn’t want him to die, I wanted him to stop the bad guy, so I can’t say I wasn’t engaged in it. In fact I was on the edge of my seat when I was re-watching it since how swept up I got up in all of it. Now a mediocre film only has two of these elements. For example The Dark Knight Rises is interesting and entertaining, but not engaging. A bad film only has one of these elements. For example The Amazing Spider-Man was entertaining, but neither interesting nor engaging. And in my mind a truly bad film has nothing like this. For example films that aren’t entertaining, interesting or engaging include Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Avatar and Hugo. As such I think Die Another Day is far superior then the films I’ve listed there.
Any last defence, I hear you ask? Just one: It was directed by New Zealander Lee Tamahori, so I am contractually obligated to like anything a New Zealander does on the international scene. But he did the movie because he loved the series, not out of money. And that love shows up on screen. He attempted to make the quintessential Bond movie and, to my money, he succeeded. Thus Die Another Day is the perfect Bond film.
So there you have it. My defence of what some consider the worst Bond film ever. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.