Posted by: dougery | January 5, 2012

Better Late Than Never: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace marks the (temporary) end of my Better Late Than Never: Year of Bond Movies series. It is also the middle chapter of a modern grim ‘n gritty Bond Trilogy of sorts. It lacks the vitality and newness of Casino Royale, piggybacking of the latter’s plot and strengths yet left me with a sense that all this stuff doesn’t really matter, that the real endgame is still forthcoming. There is nobody here that matches the Vesper Lynds and Le Chiffres of Casino.  I suppose it is up to Skyfall to come through on the promise of Craig’s first installment as 007.

Part of the problem here is a wealth of ‘sequels’ that not only build off of but exceed the quality of the originals in modern popular cinema. Empire Strikes Back might make the strongest case but The Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, Toy Story 2, Aliens, Two Towers, T2, the list of follow-ups that arguably surpass their forebears goes on and on. If anything, and I don’t mean this to be quite so damning, Quantum is more like the second Matrix film. Consistent with the first entry in regards to tone and special effects but lacking in terms of upping the ante or even sufficiently extending the suspense of the original.

And this begins from the top down. For one thing, the title is horrible. The verbs and nouns that come up the most often in Bond movie titles are things like: die, live, gold, kill, forever, etc. Big bold flashy words that hit you over the head with their big bold dumb obviousness. You don’t need a dictionary to search for their definition as you might for the multiple definitions of quantum or solace. Quantum is the name of Craig Bond’s Big Bad, a sad replacement for the novels’ creepy sounding (and non-fictional) organization SMERSH or the early Bond films’ fictional counterpoint SPECTRE. It would be easy to over-read this name progression, that we’ve moved on from a Cold War influenced ghostly, shadowy world of espionage to a more fast-paced high-tech gadget-laden sciencey world. Does this suggest the entzauberung-ing of the Bond universe?

Quantum's starkest visual of how this new Bond literally replaces gold with crude.

Another thing coloring my reading of this film is the fact that I saw it a day or two before a very different kind of sequel in a competing franchise, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I’m not sure if it is the 3rd, 4th or 5th entry but it was highly entertaining, even if it had plot holes aplenty. MI:GP made me wring my hands with worry over the fate of Tom Cruise and Shaun from Shaun of the Dead. It explicitly shirked the grim ‘n gritty nature of modern comics and movies, opting for sandstorm sized set pieces and stunts. The Kremlin is blown up for crying out loud. Bond needn’t thrive on spectacle, that’s not my argument here, but the muted tones don’t do much in its favor either. Just look at the admittedly attractive poster that heads this post. Things don’t get much more minimal than that. Yet it also gives you an idea of the character of the movie, just as the old posters with their space lasers, metal teeth and bikini clad boobs accurately represented their over-the-topped-ness.

I’m going to take a little bit of time and digest all of these Bonds and come up with some sort of summary. In keeping with what I love about the series, it will be light and semi-serious, not some What Does it All Mean tract. But thanks for bearing with me all these 22 posts. And feel free to suggest a new topic to tackle in ’12.

Bond Rating (out of 007) 002





  1. I’d really enjoy reading your write-up of Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” especially with “The Hobbit” movies on the horizon. I feel it’s either worshiped by fanboys or curtly dismissed by everyone else, with so little actual insight. And it’s such a weird book, this explicitly fake mythology. So ambitious, so flawed, so boring, so compelling.

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