Ever since GoldenEye was released 19 years ago, Bond movies have all sucked. Nobody seems to want to admit it, but it’s true. Now by that I don’t mean they started sucking with GoldenEye, I mean it was the last good movie. That’s six movies since that have ranged from mediocre to God-awful, going from one extreme of cartoonish nonsense to dull gruel hyped up as classy film-making. GoldenEye was the last great Bond movie because it found that threshold between fun and thriller.
Everyone agreed that GoldenEye was the promised 21st century reboot of the franchise. It was cool and suave, we all thought we were going to get a nice string of slick action movies with the right mix of humor, style and intrigue. It was time to grow up. But it wasn’t long before the old Roger Moore era problem of silly camp bullshit reared it’s ugly head again. Starting with Tomorrow Never Dies, the cringe started to come back as Bond slipped back into his old problem of being a caricature. Annoyingly invulnerable and dealing with situations and characters straight out of Chuck Norris’ ‘Karate Kommandos’.
By 2002, it was so bad that Bond was driving around in an invisible car. An invisible fucking car! While that movie came out, another spy thriller arrived with The Bourne Identity. A grounded action thriller that did not insult peoples intelligence. Even with Matt Damon and questionable camera technique (that got worse in ‘Supremacy’), Bond, with his super-villains and winking at the crowd just couldn’t keep up with the new kid on the block – and MGM knew it. They wanted a change.
By 2004 James Bond had been replaced by Jason Bourne and the era that that series had ushered in. With cynicism through the roof in the post 9/11 world, along with Christopher Nolan dulling up Batman, MGM and Barbara Broccoli tried to get serious and dealt us the hangover era from Brosnan’s acid trip run, GoldenEye notwithstanding. In doing that, they overcompensated. They hired a new actor to play Bond, a more serious man. But he was too serious. They requested a more gritty direction. But it was too dull.
Daniel Craig is a mediocre Bond and this problem compounds him into a poor Bond when paired with dull and flat writing. He has all the charisma of a T-800 in his movies and his trilogy thus far has been poor. I found Casino Royale (2006) to be unfulfilling with only the occasional well-staged action sequence interrupting the drabness. Quantum of Solace was a return to the exaggerated plot while maintaining the sourness and SkyFall was even worse, managing to introduce all of the elements which have plagued various Bond movies together at once; an uncharismatic lead, an overcompensated attempt to be ‘grounded’ yet forcing a camp super villain not unlike Moore-era bad guys. For example, whether people want to admit it or not, Edward Norton’s Eric Byer (The Bourne Legacy) blew Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva (Skyfall) off the screen. One plays on our fears, the other looks like an Austin Powers villain.
Sorry, but it’s true.
One of the problems is that Bond is too big to fail. That means it’ll have its fanboys and untouchable place in the printed press alike. Saying ‘this will be the best Bond yet’ has lost all meaning, that’s what is now said regardless of how the movie is. They need to ask themselves – are they really enjoying the Craig era? SkyFall is a bad movie. It’s sequel and the one after that will be just as bad if they don’t admit it. Enjoying the hype is separate from enjoying the movie. A new leadership, a new actor and new perspective is needed. Sadly, the next Bond will be an ‘event’ to get caught up in, and not a ‘movie to see’.
Thankfully, there’s another Bourne on the horizon. Yes, Jeremy Renner’s current incarnation of the Bourne franchise is, currently, still the spy thriller to beat.