Favorite Movie scenes: The Force Awakens

In three years, Disney’s given us three Star Wars films-two installments of the sequel trilogy, and “Rogue One” of course. While they have been a bit polarizing among groups of fandom (mainly due to claims of unoriginality, or going too much into the OT sandbox of Rebellion vs. Empire instead of new story directions), they’ve gotten good critical reviews, and have definetly revived the brand as a major box office force (heh). Here’s my thoughts on a few notable scenes from the first Disney film, “The Force Awakens”.

 

Rey The Scavenger

Image result for Rey scavenger

While the first few scenes of the film sort of showed off the “new toys”-the upgraded Stormtroopers, the fancy new (and ill-fated) X-wing with a Millenium Falconesque dorsal canon, Kylo Ren, and the new Star Destroyer etc, we get a lot of the old, first shown us via Rey’s goggles, which are crafted from a Stormtrooper helmets, with Rey taking some component out of some massive vessel….which we soon learn, from the outside, is very familiar-an old Star Destroyer (with an X-wing nearby)-the remnants of the Battle of Jaaku, a post-Endor battle-one that pretty much broke the Empire even further than Endor (While also planting the seeds of the First Order) that’s been retold in a good chunk of Disney media since TFA’s release (The novel Lost Stars, the novel Aftermath, both Battlefront games etc.).

 

 

Image result for Crashed star destroyer Rey

Image result for Crashed star destroyer Rey

After Rey drops off some the scrap and get her rations for the day, we get even more interesting callbacks to the OT-Rey’s home, in particular, is that of a toppled AT-AT….and her helmet she seems to put on possibly out of boredom, that of a Rebel pilot.

Related image

Image result for Rey's rebel helmet

It’s worth noting that this was one of the early things we saw emerge from the filming….the foot of the said  Walker.

Related image It’s a sort of reflective scene, somewhat akin to Luke’s “binary sunset” moment, and with a similar narrative function as it’s soon followed by her adventure starting to move forward a bit when she hears BB8 (although at this point, Luke already had plenty of dialogue and had seen part of the Leia hologram, while Rey actually hasn’t spoken in the film at all yet!).

It sort of demonstrates, to a degree, the balancing act of the sequel trilogy; trying to mix the old with the new.

The Garbage will do!

Image result for Millennium falcon jakku chase

The Millenium Falcon makes it’s debut in the sequel trilogy (and it’s first real appearence since ROTJ, apart from some PT “hidden” cameos) in this thrilling scene, which of course hearkens back to Luke’s assesment of the ship when the audience first saw it (Well, before the reveal was kind of spoiled by the Special Edition version introducing it a scene earlier).

 

Image result for What a piece of junk star wars

But of course we get to see what this “piece of junk” can do, once again, in a scene that evokes the classic Star Wars trope of “obstacle course” chase scenes (The trench from A New Hope, the Asteroid Chase from ESB, the speeder bike chase and the Death Star shaft from ROTJ, TPM’s pod race, AOTC’s airspeeder chase and ROTJ’s opening space battle).

 

Image result for Falcon ship graveyard chase

We also get a look at a crashed Super star destroyer, once again confirming Vader’s ship wasn’t unique, and of course the shot of the TIE fighter pilot similar to the angle used in the other films (Some interesting trivia-the shot of the TIE pilot briefly seen in ROTJ is actually the same footage from ANH with a different backdrop-one of the rare examples of stock footage in the series.)

 

Image result for TIE fighter pilot Force awakens

We also get a “I can do this! I can do this” moment. I’m not sure if this is an Abrams cliche-outside of the Star Trek films and this I’ve seen relatively little of his work, but the line kind of reminds me of that moment in the 2009 Star trek reboot, although Chechov in the film *knew* he could do it, while in TFA Rey and Finn are pretty much trying to reassure themselves.

Image result for Chekov I can do this

And we also get the return of the Falcon’s gunner stations, which film-wise haven’t been seen on screen since “A new Hope”

(Although a scene was filmed for ROTJ, it ended up getting deleted from the final film-the other Rebel guys in the ship weren’t totally useless it seems!).

 

Image result for ROTJ falcon gunner stations

Castle battle

The good ol’ shoot out with Stormtroopers, and Han Solo indulging in said favorite pasttime, with a series of shots, including a third one where he’s not even looking at the target…

 

Image result for Star wars stormtrooper Han solo shoots force awakens

And of course there’s the running gag of Han using Chewie’s bowcaster.

Image result for Chewie han's bowcaster

But we also get a scene a bit unlike what we’ve seen in other Star Wars films-a fight with a Stormtrooper using melee weapons.  While some of the Battle droids in the prequels-in particular the “Magnaguards” from Revenge of the Sith-had weapons that could block a lightsaber, this is pretty much the first time we’ve seen something similar in the films.

Image result for melee weapons stormtrooper

Although the concept goes back to the early Star Wars days, with a Stormtrooper possessing a lightsaber in concept art. (Certainly, many aspects of the Force Awakens-and arguably the Disney Star Wars as a whole-owe a great debt to Star Wars concept art, which I might explore in a future article).

Image result for Stormtrooper concept art lightsaber

Although Han, Finn and co. are quickly overwhelmed, we’re treated to the arrival of Poe’s resistance squadron, with some pretty cool X-wing moves that wouldn’t really have been quite as possible with the OT’s 80’s SFX (although they certainly tried). Particuarly cool is Poe’s skill as a pilot here; with his pretty epic takedown of several TIE fighters causing Finn-unaware that his friend is piloting the X-wing, exclaiming:

 

 

 

Image result for that's one hell of a pilot

 

 

 

 

JB-007

Image result for James bond stormtrooper

While “The Force Awakens” was filming at Pinewood studios, so was another installment in a long-running franchise, likewise due for late 2015: Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, and the fourth to star Daniel Craig-and like TFA, it brought back some of the long-unusued elements of the franchise; in this case, the criminal organization known as SPECTRE, not seen since the late 60’s.

Image result for Daniel Craig SPECTRE poster

Craig decided to make a short cameo in TFA filming close by, as the Stormtrooper that keeps an eye on Rey, but falls victim to her Jedi mind tricks, with an “And I’ll drop my weapon” as almost an afterthought. Some of fandom’s issues with how Rey could possibly know the Jedi mind trick despite not being trained at all aside, it’s a funny scene, and Craig’s voice is pretty much unmistakable. Although it’s certainly hard to imagine any James Bond ever really leaving his weapon behind-this is the guy who keeps his gun under his pillow when he sleeps.

Advertisements

James Bond 25: Craig’s 007 so far.

Daniel Craig will return as James Bond, and the next film is set for a November 8th, release date. The film will reportedly be Daniel Craig’s last as James Bond, but one has to wonder, what direction will the series take in this new installment, and going forward?

While many of the earlier films had a self-contained nature, with little linking them apart from Bond himself, his supporting staff at MI6 (M, Moneypenny, Q, and occasionally Bill Tanner and Felix Leiter) occasionally the plans of Blofeld and SPECTRE (in the 60’s) and of course your basic Bond formula of “Martinis, girls, and guns,” the Craig films attempted to start (more or less) fresh (as Judi Dench was still M, with no explanation as to how this fit into anything), with Bond being a newly minted 00 who gradually grew into the more familiar spy, and with a somewhat more grittier, more back-to-basics approach than the space weapons, crazy stunts, and over the top villains that often appeared in the earlier films . CASINO showed him becoming somewhat more ‘sophisticated’ due to Vesper’s guidance…from this:

 

to this:

But it also hardens him, when it turns out Vesper had been blackmailed into stealing the Casino winnings.

Although by the end of Quantum of Solace,  as the title suggests, he at least partially understands what happened (hence the title).

In “Skyfall” he’s become a somewhat more familiar Bond, cracking quips and doing impossible feats, as well as a sense of class, pulling his cuffs up after a huge jump…

 

Although he’s kind of reverted to his early Casino Royale self after getting shot and lying low for a few months…

But he’s pretty much back to his prime halfway through.

Skyfall of course is notable in that it introduces Bond’s supporting cast of MI6, apart from M and Tanner, as well as a new Male M, Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Moneypenny and Q in particular are far less office-bound than their predecessors (although Desmond’s Q did occasionally equip Bond on the field, especially in “Licence to Kill” where the roles of M and Moneypenny were minimalized).

 

Of course the film most notably killed off Judi Dench’s Q, pretty much removing the only real narrative link to the previous continuity (As Judi Dench’s M was also Brosnan’s)

 

 

SPECTRE of course introduced the Bond villain organization of the 60’s back into Bond’s world, and also (retroactively) ties the villanous plots of CASINO, QUANTUM and even the seemingly self-contained SKYFALL into the machinations of one man: Hans Oberhauser, Bond’s spiteful stepbrother who faked his death, built a criminal organization and did it all in part to spite his stepbrother. Of course, he also uses a new name, Ernst Stravro Blofeld.

 

This is in part accomplished by bringing back Mr. White, one of the players in the “organization” established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and called “Quantum” in the latter film, turning out to be SPECTRE all along.

Asked by Mr. White to protect his daughter, Madeline Swann, Bond and Swann end up falling for each other and foiling Blofeld’s plans, but also Bond, figuring he’s got something “better to do” spares Blofeld’s life and rides off with her into the streets of London in his  rebuilt Aston Martin, possibly into retirement.

 

 

But with Craig returning, retiring’s not something his Bond is really good at. He tried in Casino Royale, and we all know how that turned out.

And of course, SPECTRE leaves Blofeld alive, and the last time in the series Bond left Blofeld alive (although it’s possible he considered him dead) and tried to settle down, it ended badly, in an event often brought up in later Bonds as a bit of a continuity nod-the death of his new wife, Tracy.

Dialing back a bit, there’s something familiar about the framing of OHMSS and SPECTRE’s endings here….

Although Bond 25’s still a bit way off, I’ll continue to offer more speculation into where the general Bond series direction is going, and how this might close Craig’s Bond ‘story’, perhaps paving the way for another reboot at some point (Perhaps even kill off Bond somehow? I’m not a big fan of the ‘code name’ theory-a fan theory cooked up to explain the changes in Bond actors and ages, like how a 60ish Roger Moore suddenly became 40something Timothy Dalton-so I’d rather something like him passing the torch does not happen, or the “this never happened to the other fella” quip) but rather a mostly fresh reboot like CASINO). Could Bond beyond Craig stick with the same basic continuity, but just change the actor without any explanation as the old films did?

Bond in Review: From Russia in Love Part IV

On the train, Bond and Kerim quickly take care of Benz, and Bond uses the (relative) peace and quiet to turn up the charm and give Tatanya a nice new blue dress. Nice soft rendition of the theme here by John Barry.

Unfortunately, their moment is eventually interrupted when the attendant tells him that Kerim and Benz have died, apparently from a fight where they killed each other.

It’s a particuarly sad scene, since Kerim was an interesting Bond ally. Of course we know who’s really behind this-Grant, still on the train.

Also, this train ride is the only instance of  Bond creator Ian Fleming cameoing in the series. This would be the last film before his death. Funny thing is, he initially disapproved of Connery as Bond, but upon seeing “Dr.No” reversed that opinion.

Bond-somewhat losing his trust in Tatainya and going back into a more detached mode-also doesn’t meet with Kerim’s sons at the scheduled rendevous, instead meeting them further down the line. Here, Grant continues to ominously shadow Bond, in one of the most interesting visuals and musical moments of the film. Like the Shark he’d later hunt, the music here tells you that there’s trouble brewing…

Bond unfortunately tells one of the sons that Kerim is dead, and the need to alter the plans in order to get to the border-including meeting with a fellow British agent to form an escape route, a man called “Captain Nash”.

Who naturally, is quickly intercepted by Grant-thanks to him overhearing Bond’s password, causing Nash to lower his guard. Grant presumabely kills him, and then assumes his identity-also using the “cigarette” password to gain Bond’s trust.

Funny thing about “Nash” is that he’s pretty much close to the ‘real’ Robert Shaw in his mannerisms and accent, if one ever sees him in interviews (It’s especially odd seing him being interviewed on the set of Jaws!) . Bond doesn’t really note too much that’s off about Nash, except that he’s “very fit”

But Bond’s suspicions grow when he notices “Nash” slip a drug into the already somewhat despondent Tatanya’s drink. Bond draws his gun on him back into the cabin, but “Nash” quickly covers up by saying his mission should be too only steal the Lektor, and the escape route won’t cover her. Bond once again drops his guard, allowing Grant to literally get the upper hand and knock him out….and now begins one of the best Bond/villain showdowns in the series history. So much so, that Bond fighting some guy on a train is something that’s repeated in several later Bond films.

Bond says he should’ve noticed Grant was a bad guy when he had “Red wine with fish”-but Grant’s confusion at being called a SMERSH agent has Bond quickly realize that this is SPECTRE’s game-and Bond quickly puts all the pieces together. It’s interesting to see Bond not being super-competent-as he’s pretty much been used this whole film- something the later films sometimes forgot.

As he further elaborates on SPECTRE’s plan-including their plot to humiliate Bond by killing Tatayna and frame him, using the film at the bridal suite etc…we see more of Grant’s more sadistic nature…he’s highly amused by SPECTRE’s plot, which disgusts Bond-causing him to provoke Grant in a similar way to the way he did with Dr.No….and Grant wants Bond’s death to linger and have him kiss his foot(!). Bond sees an opening, saying he’ll pay for a cigarette with the 50 gold sovereigns in his case-Grant falls for the bribe, but Bond sets up the case so that the tear gas explodes in Grant’s face…temporarily stunning him.

And so here we have the big fight between the two, the first really major hand-to-hand combat fight in the series. The Dr.No villains were mostly finished by bullet, and Bond’s battle with Dr.No wasn’t really that special (They were also wearing bulky suits). The two wrestle in the small cabin, making a mess of their suits, breaking windows, damaging doors, furniture etc. Although Grant starts to use his garrote, Bond is able to quickly extract the knife from his attache case, using it to finish Grant-making this sort of one of the first “death by gadget” kills in the series.

I also find it kind of funny that Bond quickly fixes his suit-if not his hair-at the end of the sequence. This is something we’ll see with later Bonds, especially the scene of Bond in the tank in “Goldeneye” (and also with the Q boat in “The World Is Not Enough”) as well as with Craig fixing his cuffs after jumping unto a wrecked train in “Skyfall”.

Next:SPECTRE realizes they’ve messed up, and try a few more times to take Bond out.

James Bond in Review: From Russia With Love Part One

Dr.No was a huge success, and James Bond films were here to stay. For their next film, the producers decided to adapt the novel that, in the novel continuity, took place before Dr.No-From Russia With Love, although with modifications to the story that would continue the SPECTRE storyline. Over 50 years since it’s release, it’s still considered one of the best Connery Bonds, if not the best, and some even hold it as the best in the whole series.

While Dr.No didn’t reveal the villain of the film until the last twenty minutes or so, From Russia With Love wastes no time introducing them after the gunbarrel (Which now starts with the Bond theme instead of the strange noises that started Dr.No), as we see Bond wandering around a fancy garden-and seemingly it looks like they’ve overdone the makeup a bit. However, there’s probably a reason for that.

He’s being stalked by Red Grant (Robert Shaw)-yes, the same Robert Shaw who you might also know as Quint from Jaws. A testament to the guy’s range that he’s able to do both the Chameleonish, quiet but well-dressed Grant, and the more vulgar, unkempt Quint. Both sort of fall due to their own egos though….

 

Grant quickly subdues and uses his garrote-watch to kill Bond, although it’s revealed it’s not really Bond, but just a guy wearing a Bond mask. He’s congratulated on his record kill by Morenzy-another villain in the film (although one in a supporting role.); and they retreat to a mansion.

 

Walter Gotell as Morzeny, a member of SPECTRE

Next we’re given our title sequence, the first to really introduce dancing or posing girls among the opening credits, something that would be perfected in “Goldfinger”. Here, we’re given a lot of belly dancers with the credits projected on them…

 

Of particular note is the music too-a mix of a sort of exciting preamble, as well as an instrumental version of the “From Russia With Love” theme, and a more exotic, fast-paced version of the Bond theme. The preamble music must have made an impression on future Bond composer David Arnold, as it returns in the Pierce Brosnan films he scored. Matt Munro’s theme-heard during the film and later at the end-is kind of slow-paced on it’s own and perhaps wouldn’t have worked that well as an opener.

We’re next introduced to Chess ace Kronsteen, a sort of Peter Lorre looking fellow who’s a chess wiz, who, after receiving a summons from SPECTRE via custom drink coaster, quickly wins the chess tournament.

 

Maybe this would’ve been a cool piece of merchandise for the later Bond film SPECTRE.

Although I’m not sure Heineken would’ve approved.

 

We’re quickly introduced to SPECTRE’s No.1, Blofeld-and from right off we’re given his ruthless philosophy.

 

Blofeld: Siamese fighting fish, fascinating creatures. Brave but of the whole stupid. Yes they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself, and then like SPECTRE… he strikes!

This sort of sums up Blofeld’s later plot in “You Only Live Twice” as well-pit the powers against each other until SPECTRE’s there to pick up the pieces.

Here we’re given several of Blofeld’s trademarks-the SPECTRE ring, his cold nature, and of course, the Persian cat. However, we’ve yet to see his face, and a view from behind shows him with hair, instead of the trademark baldness he’ll later have in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and with his ‘death’ in For Your Eyes Only. I suppose plastic surgery-something Blofeld utilizes to create doubles in “Diamonds Are Forever”-can be credited with his changes in appearance (Can’t really explain quite as well Bond, Moneypenny, Felix and all the other characters who change faces all the time though!). It also can be noted the cat kind of looks different in every film it’s in too-same breed of course but largely different coats. There’s also another, far goofier explanation-that the cat is the real Blofeld all along, and each Blofeld is a different ‘host’.

 

Blofeld’s guest in addition to Kronsteen is Rosa Klebb, former head of operations for SMERSH (In the novel, she still works for SMERSH as they’re the villains in the book, and not SPECTRE). Klebb is of course the prototype for later “evil schoolmarm” villains such as Irma Bunt and the parody character Frau Frabusinna in the Austin Powers movies. Her actress, Lotte Lenya, was actually a HUGE theater star as well.

Kronsteen’s got a plan to trick the British and the Russians into practically handing over a LEKTOR encoder, and also to kill and humiliate James Bond in the process, who as we saw in the pre-title sequence, is pretty much on SPECTRE’s radar after killing Dr.No in the last film. Of course, the second part of the plan hinges on Bond actually being the agent assigned to the task, which is a bit of a stretch, although not nearly as much as the Bond being well-known for a “secret” agent plot that “Diamonds Are Forever” was particularly guilty of.

 

It’s interesting at this point in the movie the film hasn’t really shown Bond yet, unless you count the gunbarrel and and the imposter. Pretty much every Bond film from this point on-with the notable exceptions of Roger Moore’s first two films (save his dummy in Man With the Golden Gun)-would pretty much introduce Bond right away (World Is Not Enough even has the gunbarrel revealing his face right away!), or at least after some initial plot build up (Like You Only Live Twice, Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker). It’s kind of nice as it gives some dimension to the film’s villains and plot, instead of jumping right into the action. It’s a slow burner, but it’s a good one.

 

Klebb’s next port-of-call is SPECTRE island-and it’s actually called by that name.  As far as Bond lair hideout names go-Crab Key, Piz Gloria, The Whyte House, Atlantis, Moonraker etc. It isn’t the most imaginative title, but it’s an interesting location nonetheless, with it’s “training area” foreshadowing many of the Q lab scenes in later movies (as well as Tiger Tanaka’s castle in You Only Live Twice)…although this place is far more nefarious and lethal than the sometimes goofy Q gadgets.

Klebb tests Grant-who we learn is “superb material” since he’s homicidal and paranoid-by punching him in the gut with brass knuckles, and he barely flinches.

 

Next scene is still not Bond, but introduces our leading lady, Tataina Romanova, in the film’s principal location of Istanbul, Turkey (A setting that would be revisited in later Bond films, notably the World Is Not Enough and Skyfall, although this film by far makes the most use of it. Although TWINE of course uses it for a bad joke….) A Russian cipher clerk, she’s an unwitting pawn in SPECTRE’s plot involving the LEKTOR and Bond. She’s unaware that Klebb now works for SPECTRE, and is convinced she’s only going to stage a defection on orders from SMERSH-but even now, she seems kind of reluctant, in part due to Klebb’s creepy nature. Although Daniela Bianchi’s voice was dubbed in post-production due to her own heavy accent…

Her expressions and body language perfectly capture her inner revulsion of Klebb, especially as the scene closes on Klebb’s line:

“Come, come, my dear. You are very fortunate to have been chosen for such a simple, delightful duty. A real.. labour of love, as they say.”

And speaking of “Love” the main music theme with lyrics starts for “From Russia With Love” on a radio and we’re finally properly re-introduced to Bond enjoying a “picnic” after some canoeing….

Next: Bond heads to Turkey.

Bond In Review: Dr.No Part I

Here we are again, with the very first Bond film (although one based on one of the middle novels). Dr.No. “No” although the first film, isn’t exactly a trend-setter for the series as much as it’s sequels-the film is largely limited to one location (Jamacia, although there’s a short bit in London), there’s really no gadgets unless you count a gun and a geiger counter, no song with the movie’s title in it….but there’s still plenty set here: The classic catchphrase, “Bond, James Bond” (and the vodka martini line is in here, sort of), Bond’s quips and women, the interesting villain with a secret lair, and of course, the gunbarrel and theme song.

There’s a few differences though. Contrary to popular belief, the man here is not Sean Connery but stuntman Bob Simmons-Connery wouldn’t record his own gunbarrel until Thunderball. There’s also no Bond theme leading up to the shot, just a sort of radio-like and then telescoping sound effect, but when the shot hits, the classic theme starts.

So technically Simmons is the first on-screen film James Bond (Barry Nelson played the role in a TV adaptation of Casino Royale in the 50’s).

Instead of going to a pre-title sequence like the others, this goes straight to the opening sequence and theme. The gunbarrel becomes several circles that kind of dance around the screen, then becoming a group of various dancers set to a sort of Caribbean-style music.

Finally, we have in silhouette, the “Three Blind mice”-pretty much the first Bond henchmen, hitmen who work for Dr.No who pose as blind panhandlers to throw people off.

Their target is Strangways, an MI6 agent in Kingston, Jamacia, and the reason for the mission. He’s set to contact London after playing bridge at a country club, but is shot by the men.

When Strangeway leaves, the facial expression of Professor Dent as he watches Strangways leave makes it quite clear who is behind the hit.

 

 

They also kill his secretary (Played by the woman who owned actually owned the house her scene takes place in, Dolores Keator) and remove all files on the mysterious Dr.No

 

Back in London they figure out something’s wrong, and soon we’re introduced to James Bond. But first, we see the woman he’s playing against: Sylvia Trench. A game she’s losing. Apart from Moneypenny, Vesper Lynd (sort of) and Judi Dench’s M, Trench is one of the few female characters to appear in more than one film, although there were plans to include Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Halle Berry (Die Another Day) in other films that didn’t pan out. Trench makes a short appearance in the next film, From Russia With Love. There’s almost a missed opportunity with Tommorow Never Dies here; perhaps they could’ve had Hatcher’s character-an ex of Bond’s-to be Sylvia Trench instead of a new character? One wonders how Bond breaks it off with some of the girls, especially ones he seemed to be fairly close to (Although some of course, like Tracy and Vesper, are killed off) instead of just casually. Makes me wonder what’s going to happen to SPECTRE’s Madeline Swann in the next film, too….

Anyway, Bond asks her name, and we get this classic exchange:

Bond: I admire your courage, miss?

Sylvia: Trench. Sylvia Trench….I admire your luck, Mr…?

Bond: Bond. James Bond.

Right there, he’s pretty much got it right away. Even though the book Bond is a bit different (Far less humorous, for one), he definitely has got the cool, somewhat detached look down here. Although Casino Royale of course wasn’t the first film, it does seem right to introduce Bond in a Casino as a sort of compensation for that (This scene btw wasn’t in the book-The Jamaica assignment was intended for an ‘easy’ mission for Bond-M figures Strangeways just ran away from his secretary-recovering from injuries in “From Russia With Love”, and not really up to smoking and gambling just yet)

Bond gets a summons, and after flirting a bit more with Sylvia and giving her his number, we’re introduced to Moneypenny-not a major character in the books, but she becomes a major part of the film universe….and of course, their constant playful flirtation is brought up right away. Connery and Maxwell have excellent chemistry here.

 

M then briefs Bond on Strangway’s disappearance, in that Strangways was investigating missiles and rockets that have been directed off-course by powerful radio waves near Jamacia (presumably at Cape Canavral). We see some of his sternness with Bond here, as he tells Bond that he needs a new gun instead of his old beretta, which jammed on him on his last mission and as a result he was injured and sent to a hospital for months-which, in the novels, was in “From Russia With Love” where Bond’s gun jammed and therefore he wasn’t successful in fighting off Rosa Klebb’s deadly poison shoes. However, since FRWL is the sequel to this, taking place after (That’s made quite clear, as the events of this film are referenced many times) that mission continuity wise is something else entirely.

As he’s given his new Walther PPK-his trademark gun-we’re also introduced (sort of) to Q. Except he’s not the one we’re familiar (Desmond Llewlynn) with, but is the same character, Major Boothryd. (This is made clear in “The Spy Who Loved Me” when Anya addresses Q by his real name and rank.). The actor-Peter Burton-is more stern than Desmond by a bit, but not nearly as fun and likable as the later actor.

He leaves the Beretta-somewhat sadly-with Moneypenny, and then heads to his flat, one of the few instances in the series where we actually see Bond’s home (although it looks somewhat different in Live and Let Die). Turns out Sylvia decided to show up after all, although Bond nearly shoots her as he’s doing a bit of golf. in his living room (her favorite sport, something also mentioned earlier on in the Casino scene, and also in From Russia With Love).

The two share a quick fling, making her officially Bond’s first on-screen “conquest”.

 

Next: We’re introduced to Quarrel and Felix Leiter, who at first appear to be enemies, but become important allies, and Bond’s investigation into Strangway’s appearance begins. However, there’s a few people out there that want to see him vanish as well.

 

 

 

 

Bond In Review: SPECTRE Part I

This will close out “Bond in Review” for a while. I still intend to, at some point, start with the first few films (Dr.No To Live And Let Die), but I decided to do this thing in a ‘mid-maraton’ so I’ve recently seen those films, and so I’ll wait a bit longer for a ‘refresh’ viewing and review.

“Skyfall” of course was a huge success, and so director Sam Mendes was asked to return for another film with Daniel Craig. This time, the film would bring  back SPECTRE, the criminal organization which faced Bond in the 60’s and 70’s (and also in the unofficial Bond film “Never Say Never Again”), and also tie it to the Quantum storyline from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (and even a bit with Skyfall as well). The organization and it’s leader-Ernst Stravro Blofeld (The bald guy with the white persian cat) had pretty much been unused due to complicated rights issues, although Blofeld “sort of” showed up in the opening scene of “For Your Eyes Only”.

“Spectre” is the first Bond film to really open with a proper Bond gunbarrel, with a white background. “Casino’s” happened after the opening scene, and was hardly traditional, with Bond in a bathroom and casual wear; and both Quantum and Skyfalls were at the end of the film.

Although none of the Craig gunbarrels have used the ‘swaying’ effect (presumably the death of the guy pointing the gun at Bond). We then cut to these words:

Which, in a way, is very much one of the themes of the movie.

The film then cuts to a long, scrolling shot of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival/parade in Mexico city. Bond-in a skull mask and top hat reminiscent of “Live and Let Die’s” immortal henchman, Baron Samedi. He’s tracking someone-Marco Sciarra. The long shot continues for a while, but with two ‘cheats’-when Bond enters the hotel I think, and when he exits to take a shot at Sciarra.

Bond appears to be with a woman who wants to take him back to her hotel room, but Bond really just needs the hotel balcony to get a proper angle on Sciarra.

He overhears something about a ‘pale king’ before taking out Sciarra, which unexpectedly has an explosive effect-and Sciarra escapes. Here we see a bit that the film seems to be more humorous, as Bond offers a bit of a quip and lands softly on a couch after the explosion.Bond follows him again as he runs to a helicopter, leading to a tense action scene with Bond wresting with him on-board a helicopter with civilians below, the most civilian-endangering Bond helicopter scene since Tomorrow Never Dies. 

Eventually Bond is able to kill Sciarra, but then wrests a ring from his hand, with a strange Octopus logo.

Which then changes to the opening credits, with Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall”. Like SKYFALL, it’s sort of a melancholy song, but not quite as catchy. The “Octopus” imagery seen in the opening has gotten some criticism, but the Octopus is pretty much the signal of SPECTRE, and in fact would also inspire various other criminal organizations in fiction, most notably “HYDRA” in Marvel comics. The opening also shows footage from previous Bond films of Vesper, Le Chiffre, Silva and M (No Quantum stuff though!), stating in a way that it’s tying them all together.

We then return to London. The new M Mallory is not too pleased with Bond’s behavior, as this was not sanctioned. He orders Bond to stay in London. Mallory is already under pressure from Max Denibh, who wants to create a new intelligence agency called “Nine eyes” which will not require the 00’s. Bond dubs him “C”.

Moneypenny of course grills Bond about why he went to Mexico city, and we get a posthumous cameo from Judi Dench’s M, ordering the hit on Sciarra and telling Bond not to miss the funeral in Rome. She also shows him an old photo and records recovered from Skyfall, showing a photo of young Bond with a man and a third figure wih his face burned out.

Bond also stops by Q’s office with Tanner, and it’s remarked that the old MI6 building is being demolished.

Here, we get the reveal of Bond’s new car, the DB10, as well as a new watch. Bond also asks for Q to make him ‘dissapear’, although Bond has tracers in his blood to make sure he doesn’t stray from London (Somewhat similar to Casino Royale’s device)

Following M’s orders he attends Sciarra’s funeral in Rome, talking to his widow (Monica Belluci). He also appears to almost catch the eye of a man in attendance.

After the funeral she follows her back to her villa, where in a nice scene with classical music in the background, he takes out two men sent to kill her and starts to put the moves on her, starting to learn that Sciarra was involved in some ‘organization’. It should be noted that Monica at age 50 when the film was made is one of the older Bond girls, but honestly it’s not noticeable at all.

Although after this scene, she doesn’t really show up in the rest of the film. Bond sees that she’ll make it out of Rome safe, with the film name-dropping Felix Leiter. So she’s one of the few Craig girls to survive.

Bond-using Sciarra’s ring-is able to sneak into the meeting, where the group are discussing human trafficking, the drug trade, and also getting rid of somebody called “The Pale King” much like Sciarra. While the scene is nice and atmospheric, the nostalgic Bond fan in me wishes the SPECTRE guys had a bit of a number naming system like in the novels and earlier films (Blofeld was No.1 in the films at least, with others like Largo being no.2, etc.)

One of SPECTRE’s agents make his claim for taking out the Pale King by killing another one by headbutting him, gouging his eyes out and breaking his neck. His name is Mr. Hinx (Played by John Bautista) and he’s pretty much in the mold of Oddjob and Jaws-the strong, silent type.

However, Bond is compromised-by the chairman no less-who knows who James is-and Bond recognizes him, with disbelief.

Oberhauser: All that excitement rang a distant bell. And now, suddenly this evening, it makes perfect sense. Welcome James….it’s been a long time….and finally here we are….Cuckoo!

As the title card said, “The Dead are alive….”

Bond in Review: Quantum of Solace

This one’s going to be a bit shorter in scope-because that’s pretty much what Quantum Of Solace is-shorter (by about 45 minutes more than “Casino”) and limited in scope, which kind of stinks since Craig’s era had such a strong opening film.

Quantum pretty much picks off where Casino Royale left off-Bond has injured and captured Mr. White-but now, there’s people in pursuit, hoping to reclaim the mysterious villain. It’s here we pretty much have the film’s first weakness-the action scenes, which were easy to follow in “Casino Royale”, are more jumbled here, with too much quick-editing, “shaky cam”, shots where it’s hard to make out what’s going on etc. It’s almost like “The World Is Not Enough”‘s action, but somewhat worse.

After the chase, we of course get the opening credits and song. Another “Way to Die” is an OK song-a lot of people didn’t like it’s style (It’s the first duet Bond song as well), but it kind of fits with the rougher Craig and is somewhat similar in tone to You Know My Name. Both Skyfall and Spectre would return to more traditional ballads.

The opening is mainly a lot of desert imagery with Bond contiguously drawing and firing his gun. The girls also return after being absent from “Casino Royale”, mainly emerging from the desert dunes.

Bond arrives in in Italy with White in his trunk, where M and Bond start to grill him about what’s really going on, and the whereabouts of Vesper’s boyfriend. However, it turns out that one of M’s bodyguards is in fact a mole, who almost shoots M, allows White to escape and is then pursued by Bond across the Horse races and Rooftops of Siena, Italy. Once again, the edits are somewhat confusing, especially when it starts to focus back on the Horse race (and also an instant bystander who is either injured or killed by Mitchell).

The whole thing ends in a building under construction, the best part of the scene, and with a nifty shot of Bond ending Mitchell.

The action then comes to London, where we meet the new Tanner (Rory Kinear). Tanner is M’s chief of staff and has a large presence in the novels, but as Q and Moneypenny’s roles were expanded in earlier movies, he only appeared a few times over the course of the film series-In Man With The Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, and The World Is Not Enough. Rory’s Tanner will appear in the remaining Craig films though.

This also sort of functions as a semi-Q scene, as a scientist (Although it’s unknown if this is the same Quartermaster who is presumably killed in the next film and replaced by Ben Whishaw’s “Craigverse” Q) discovers a vital clue. Here we also see a sort of hi-tech touchscreen interface, one that was used in a great deal of the film’s marketing (including the blu-ray menu).

This detective work has a lead in Haiti, where Bond is sent.  It’s worth noting at this point there really isn’t much levity and character to Bond here-Craig’s performance is largely humorous. In Casino Royale, despite brutal action scenes, there were moments of levity and warmness, even earlier on at the Beach club. Here Craig is pretty much frowning most of the movie.

He accidentally botches finding out anything from Slate, who cut his neck on glass and bled out. However, he’s able to locate the woman Slate was sent to kill. Although she quickly realizes that he isn’t who he’s looking for.

Bond still follows her to a dock being used by the film’s villain, Dominic Greene, her “boyfriend”-but in fact she’s only using him. However, he’s on to her schemes, knowing she wants him to get close to General Madranno, who Greene is helping stage a coup in Bolivia (possibly so Greene/Quantum can get a monopoly on oil). Madranno killed Camille’s family.

Dominic Greene’s sort of an odd character. I can see what they were going for-a sort of creepy-looking European bad guy like Le Chiffre. But whereas Le Chiffre came off as mostly cold and cool, Dominic sort of comes off as petulant, nervous, and annoying. Having the worst Bond henchman ever- “Elvis” doesn’t help matters either. Elvis isn’t imposing at all, either in his state, fashion, or stature. The guy, later in the movie, gets injured by tripping down a flight of stairs, doesn’t fight Bond at all and gets vaporized in an explosion later on, that’s pretty much it.

As Camille is captured by Maddrano, Bond interferes by motorcycling onto their boat, saving her but also botching her attempt to get revenge at the same time. Once again, despite the impressive bike stunt that opens it, this isn’t a very well done scene.

From this point forward though, things start to get a little better. Bond follows Greene to a plane, which is going to Austria. On-board, Greene appears to make a deal with the CIA guy in charge of Latin America; accompanying him is Felix Leiter, who is highly skeptical of Greene and denies knowing Bond.

Bond eventually goes to Austria, and we have perhaps the most Bondish scene in the movie as 007 infiltrates the opera in Austria, stealing both a nice suit and an earpiece, which allows him to eavesdrop on those in the audience who are members of Quantum, the mysterious organization Greene and Mr. White are involved with. White’s even at the opera himself.

It’s kind of a neat scene, especially when Bond lets them knows he’s watching and is able to photograph several of them on his cellphone, sending them back to M. Turns out among Quantum’s number are several intelligence and political officials from Britain, something which alarms M and Tanner back at home.

However, during his escape, Bond runs into another British agent assinged to one of the officials. Bond throws him off the roof and he lands on Domonic’s car; Dominic then has the man shot. Unfortunately, to M and Tanner, this looks like Bond has killed another agent, and Bond is ordered back. However, Bond has no intention of returning, as he’s still trying to track down what Greene’s up to.

Bond instead goes to visit and get the help of Mathis, who Bond thought was the mole in “Casino Royale” and was mistaken, so MI6 compensated him with a nice villa. He and Bond then head to Bolivia.

There’s a nice quiet scene onboard a plane, where it’s revealed that Bond has had trouble sleeping since the events of Royale, with Mathis assuring them that Vesper probably really did love him despite her betrayal.

Upon arriving in Bolivia, Bond is confronted by fellow MI6 agent Fields who wants him to return to London on M’s orders. However, he’s able to win her over with his humor -one of the few times in the film Craig lightens up, and the two decide to head over to a party Greene is holding through his sham environmental company, Greene Planet.

Here he meets Camille again, and they both have a short confrontation with Greene. Bond is also introduced to a Bolivian police captain who apparently is a good friend of Mathis, but who is actually Madranno’s man, and he has Mathis beaten to near-death and Bond is framed for his murder. Further complicating things with M.

There’s a nice but sad scene where Mathis dies in Bond’s arms.

Bond and Camille try to figure out what Greene’s after in Bolivia. After nearly getting killed by jets, the two escape into a cave, where they find a reservoir. It’s not oil that Greene wants, but monopoly on water. Hence why he wants to help Madranno stage a coup. Not exactly the highest stakes in a Bond film.

There’s a bit of an artsy scene with thirsty villagers, which leads to an image often used in the film’s marketing-Bond and Camille walking in the desert.

Returning briefly to the city, Bond is confronted by M, and learns that Fields has been killed by being drowned in oil. M wants him arrested, but Bond is eventually able to convince her to let him follow his lead.

After he evades CIA sent to capture him (thanks to a timely warning by Felix) and also learns from Felix the location of where the deal to give Medranno control of Bolivia will go down-a hotel in the desert.

Here, Bond takes on the corrupt police captain and Greene (who is armed with an axe) while Camille takes her revenge on Madranno, although the fire and explosions nearly send her into shock, as it brings back traumatic memories of her family’s death (in which she suffered some burn scars). As with the other action scenes in the film it’s a bit of a mess, although a bit more coherent than some of the other chases.

After that, Bond leaves Greene in the desert with only motor oil to drink (we find out later he is shot by Quantum-this is the second main villain Craig’s Bond didn’t get to kill). After saying goodbye to Camille (Who he doesn’t have any romance scenes with beyond a kiss) he finally puts his demons to rest by confronting Vesper’s boyfriend, in fact a Quantum Agent-who is trying to put a female Canadian agent in a similar trap to Vesper’s.

This is actually a pretty well done scene that sort of brings an end to Bond’s Vesper arc, although the questions about Quantum still remain (and are answered in SPECTRE). M of course says that she needs Bond back, but he’s pretty much been doing the mission all along anyway, even though it appeared he went rogue for a bit. He leaves Vesper’s love knot in the snow, ending that chapter of his life and giving him a “Quantum of Solace”.

Weirdly, the film then Ends with the Bond gunbarrel, although one where Bond kind of walks way too fast and poses awkwardly (With the Gunbarrel becoming the “Q” in Quantum of Solace). It’s more traditional than Casino’s, but of at least that one was kind of cool and took place close to the beginning of the film!

One thing about this film it that it kind of tries to be a bit too artsy for it’s own good-every new location has some kind of fancy title card. Here we have sort of a Michael Apted/World Is Not Enough situation. Marc Foster is a decent enough director for dramatic and nice-looking works, such as Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball etc. but like Apted he doesn’t really have the eye for action, and that’s why I think the film suffers that way-and if there’s one thing a Bond film must always get right, it’s action.

He does better with the dramatic scenes, but it seems like he didn’t allow Craig to really emote that much, which is unfortunate as he was able to use all his acting strengths in Casino Royale.

Following Quantum’s release, there was some doubt about the series future due to MGM’s complicated right’s problems, similar in a few ways to the problems after Licence to Kill. Entertainment Weekly even ran a cover story about it.

Although “Skyfall” was delayed, it did eventually come out, with Craig and in time for the series 50th anniversary. Creatively it would also put Craig’s era back on track. But that’s for next time.