domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2022

A Reappraisal of ‘Die Another Day’

There are plenty of reasons to like or dislike Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan’s unexpected and involuntary swan song to the franchise. Scroll into a couple of forums and you’ll find all the reasons to dislike it, most of the justifications use the words “invisible car” or “CGI” quite a lot. This is why, as if my books Beyond The Ice: The Case For and Against Die Another Day and a couple of articles weren’t enough, I have decided to write this article. Let’s be honest – the most obvious excuse is the 20th anniversary this week.

I will start by saying that the Lee Tamahori film went up and down in my rankings. I remember loving it when I first saw it on the big screen (January 2003 in my native Argentina) and then disliking it quite a lot as it reached home video. Yes, the slow-motion effects and speed ramps felt a bit too much for Bond’s subtlety, and then there’s the overload of CGI. Yet again, in hindsight, I feel all of these tropes were very characteristic of the productions released during the first lustrum of the new millennium, films like Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) and Swordfish (2001). In almost every big action film I can recall Hollywood toying with computer-generated graphics and rubbing all these new technologies in the audience’s face, perhaps as a way to make it very clear that we were in a new millennium and there’s more technology out there than your Compaq Presario 2100 PC or your Nokia 3310 cell phone.


jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2022

‘GoldenEye 007’: James Bond’s Golden Game Turns 25

When cameras first rolled on Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond film debut GoldenEye on 16 January 1995, little did people imagine that this film would save the franchise at a time when many doubted Ian Fleming’s spy would survive the 1990s. But they were even less aware that, at that precise moment, the foundation stone was cast for a video game that would revolutionize the industry in unexpected ways.

Twenty-five years after its release, GoldenEye 007 is still regarded not only as the best Bond video game of them all but as one of the best video games ever made. This was a huge compensation considering that the game was made by a group of people who had barely worked in the video game industry (some had no experience at all) and that subsequent delays resulted in a release nearly two years ahead of the premiere of the film on which the game was based.  


lunes, 17 de octubre de 2022

James Bond and Valentin Zukovsky: From Enemies to Friends

Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane died last Friday at the age of 72 and millions of Harry Potter fans waved goodbye to the corpulent man who incarnated Rubeus Hagrid in the big-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novels. However, for action movie fans, Coltrane will be best remembered as ex-KGB agent and arms dealer Valentin Zukovsky in two James Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan: GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough

Released in 1995, GoldenEye marked Brosnan’s long-awaited debut as Ian Fleming’s secret agent. It was the first Bond film released after the fall of the Soviet Union, a geopolitical scenario few people expected the secret agent to survive or be useful to. Far from ignoring the new geopolitics, scribes Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein explicitly placed 007 in the new Russia to fight the Janus syndicate, a mysterious organization tied to their mafia with a dangerous electromagnetic weapon in their hands..


miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2022

"Mom, they've done it... They killed James Bond!"

Many things happened in my life during the period separating SPECTRE from No Time To Die. Six years where I left a job I wasn't comfortable with, lived the worst financial crisis of my life, moved to a particularly small house, endured all the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic, and was hit by the unexpected passing of two people I held deep in my heart – both associated to James Bond in plenty of ways. One was my dad, the man who told me who 007 was and took me to watch all the films: the new ones on the big screen, the old ones on VHS. The other was a love interest, a unique, marvellous girl who always supported my Bondmanship. She got me autographs and reached impossible lengths to please me in every way she could. That said, I knew neither this girl nor my father would be sitting next to me when the 25th James Bond film was finally hitting the screens after way too many delays caused by coronavirus or production issues. But James Bond was back, and there's nothing better than a new James Bond film to set your hopes up when you've been through a lot.

Flash forward to the last hours of September 29, 2021. People were leaving the screening room. Everyone seemed confused: some of the confused people eventually turned optimistic about this film, but I certainly didn't. I just wanted to pick a taxi and go home, away from all the eyes identifying me as "the Bond fan" or "the guy who runs a Bond fan site related to Argentinean releases". I didn't want to be unpolite to the people of the British Embassy that organized a great Bond-themed event that quickly became a funeral, so I managed to say "The event was fantastic. I can't say the same about the movie, but the event was beautiful", or resort to things like "the end credits still say James Bond Will Return". It was precisely one of them who asked me: "How?" and, soon enough, me, the Bond expert, was as lost as anyone in the room.

When I finally grabbed a taxi after greeting my friend who was confused but then loved the movie, I was dumbstruck. I even closed the door with a slam when I got off the vehicle: it's typical of me, since I always have that problem: I either close it too softly and the door won't close, or I slam it and I get the usual complaint. But that night it didn't matter. I walked half a block home. My mom was there. I took my tie off and she served me a full glass of red wine. After I drink it, I pronounced the words I would have never thought I would pronounce. The words I would have never in my life wanted to utter.

"Mom... they've done it. They killed James Bond. The f*ckers did it!"

And so it was. Almost 24 years of my life had a different meaning. I went back to all the moments where Ian Fleming's character has accompanied me in different ways: through films, books, comics, video games... I remembered when dad rented me the Nintendo 64 with the GoldenEye game and when we sat together with him and my mom to watch the same film on TV. When he bought me the The Man With The Golden Gun VHS and told me about "a stunt where Bond makes a 360-degree jump with a car over a broken bridge". I remembered when I was about to move from my childhood home and I sat there, in the middle of the crisis, watching the early minutes of For Your Eyes Only on an old VCR connected to a TV on the floor of the desolated house. I remembered my first articles at the age of 13, one of them being Bond's biography according to Ian Fleming. I remembered my excitement when my dad bought me the Special Edition DVD of Goldfinger and when I nearly throw a glass to the floor when I jumped off the seat as the local news was broadcasting the production launch of Die Another Day. I even remembered some things of the Daniel Craig era, particularly when I planned that trip to Rio de Janeiro to watch SPECTRE with this special girl that an illness took away way too soon.

With all that, another image came to my mind. The hard times I went through at school for being a James Bond fan. I don't know if "bullying" is a rather strong word for it, But follow: the ambience of an elementary and high school is the exact opposite of the world where Bond moves. At school, everyone stinks, everyone is loud, vulgar, disrespectful, a troublemaker... and someone who admires an action hero who is identified with suits, tuxedos, gambling, expensive cars and exotic drinks will always be seen as "different", and different people seldomly have a great time. When people came at me saying that Bond was outdated, that he was old-fashioned, ridiculous and didn't have a chance, I always pointed out that he was something special and not just another superhero attached to fantasy worlds like Superman or Green Lantern or the Marvel ones. Bond was the adult fantasy kids like to enjoy, and nothing sells you adult life than a Bond film, even when that promotion may be slightly misleading at times. And there'll always be Bond in the upcoming decades, no matter how long a film takes to make.

I stood by the creation of Ian Fleming, which Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman turned into a worldwide sensation. 

But that evening, I had no words. No possible way to defend Bond. He killed himself, forced by five people who wrote that regrettable script. People behind others who seem to have little to no respect for the great and vast legacy behind them. People who definitely have no respect towards the many people, a simple dot in their statistics, that have carried the torch of Bond in the darkest and farthest corners of the world.

I'll skip comments about No Time To Die, at least for this blog post. And I know the death of a fictional character has no comparison to the death of people in real life. But I tell you, and I speak for many people who have also lost people during the pandemic, that seeing such a great emblem of our popular culture self-destructing pathetically after getting injected by a nanobot-based virus that spreads death by touching is rather macabre. Bond films always reflected current affairs, and Bond could impose against anything. That was something to admire of him. "No matter the odds, they don't stand a chance against Bond!", said a radio spot promotion You Only Live Twice.

One year ago, we were given a glimpse of the most dystopian thing outside science fiction or films set in the future. A world without James Bond. I want to share the words of Luke Quantrill in his review for Alternative 007, which echo my thoughts quite fittingly: "The people at MI6 have a drink in memory of James Bond and then go back to work. They've forgotten him already. So in this Bond universe, Moneypenny sits at her desk in the MI6 headquarters but James Bond is dead and will never walk through the office door again? Isn't that the most depressing thing you can imagine? I don't even like Craig's Bond and I'm annoyed by the ending of this film."

That said, there is something positive I want to take out of this gloomy situation we were left in one year ago. And it has to do with me. My conscience is clear: I know I'm a huge James Bond fan, in the literal sense of the word. The 1962-2002 period will always have a special place in my heart and I will keep collecting memorabilia from it and rewatching those films. I'll make it extensive to 1953-2005, actually, to include the Casino Royale novel and the From Russia With Love video game. A corporation may have killed Bond and subjected him to whatever they plan next to have a couple of millions of dollars, but I don't follow the corporation. In 1998, I became a Bond fan, not an EON fan. I'll continue to celebrate every one of Bond's 20 cinematic triumphs, not every one of his five steps towards the gallows. 

They said No Time To Die was a divisive film. I agree. It divided those who have a profound admiration towards the character and relate to it from those who just need a place to spend their platinum credit cards, even when it means directly financing the corporation that destroyed him. 

I'm glad to be on the right side of that spectrum.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2022

Happy 25th, GoldenEye 007!


Once upon a time, 20 ARS (Argentine pesos) had the same value as 20 USD (US dollars). It was back then when I urged my dad to take them from everywhere he could and rent me the Nintendo 64 with GoldenEye 007. It didn't happen every day, but whenever it happened –generally some Fridays–, it was the beginning of a glorious weekend.

In the blink of an eye, I became an adult. I have the N64, a boxed copy of the game and 20 pesos of spare, because the currency of my country has painfully lost its value way too much in the past three lustrums. Dad is sadly not among us anymore and Monday will see the sixth anniversary of his passing, but among many things... a part of him lives on whenever I turn the console on and I'm as excited as two decades ago.

And so, GoldenEye 007 turns 25. I want to congratulate everyone involved in the game for giving us a beautiful childhood and memories I'd love to relive. Here's a toast to the people who made us feel like James Bond for a little while. Here's to the objectives completed, the silenced PP7s and the Remote Mines. Here's to cheating Oddjobs and the bunker cells. Here's to Natalya's disturbed quiteness in Control. to Boris invincibility and to Dr Doak and his decoder. Here's to the Baron's last laugh! 

Happy anniversary, GoldenEye 007!

viernes, 19 de agosto de 2022

Fascinations Galore: Analyzing The Main Title Sequence of 'Tomorrow Never Dies'


Released in December 1997, Pierce Brosnan’s second James Bond outing Tomorrow Never Dies dealt with the use of mass media and technology as deadly weapons. The plot was less political, intricate and suspenseful than Brosnan’s Bond debut GoldenEye in 1995. Nevertheless, Roger Spottiswoode’s film is an intense, dynamic and highly entertaining production that follows the 007 formula quite closely and adapts it to the late 1990s.


viernes, 22 de julio de 2022

GoldenEye: What Did The Game Have That The Film Didn’t? (And Vice Versa)

Nintendo 64’s popular video game GoldenEye 007 was separated from its source film by almost two years. The film, released in November 1995 and putting a rotund end to the rumours that assured James Bond didn’t have a chance in a post-Cold War setting, instantly established Pierce Brosnan as the Bond of the new millennium and generated a new era of Bondmania almost comparable to the days of Goldfinger and Thunderball in the mid-1960s. The video game missed the chance to take advantage of both the theatrical release date and the home video launch in May 1996, coming to stores in North America on August 25, 1997, not much time before Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan’s second Bond outing.