Thankfully, we’ve come to the end of the Pierce Brosnan era, because by now it’s just embarrassing. Seriously, make it stop. Brosnan’s final two outings as 007 were so bad producers had to put the series on hiatus for a few years in order to figure out how to fix it (the answer, of course, was to reboot the series with Daniel Craig). So let’s get through this together. The promised land is coming, I swear.
Die Another Day (2002)
James Bond rides into North Korea on a surfboard (seriously) to worm his way into a meeting about exchanging weapons for African conflict diamonds. From there, he causes an explosion, has a chase sequence on hovercrafts, and finally sends the bad guy over a cliff with a truly awful pun at the ready. This is what the Bond franchise has become at this point: overblown action and terrible quips.
From there it’s your standard convoluted, overblown entry in the Bond canon. Bond goes renegade from M to clear his name and find out who has been leaking information to North Korea–and how they’re tied to Colonel Moon, the bad guy he took down in the opening sequence. He gets tangled up with Jinx, a NSA operative, in Cuba while exploring a purely nonsensical gene therapy clinic that promises to give you a complete makeover–down to your very DNA. All of which leads him to investigate Gustav Graves, a billionaire playboy with an adrenaline addiction–and who’s Iceland diamond mine may be a front for smuggling the same African conflict mines from the opening sequence. Graves also enjoys hanging out in–and destroying–fancy fencing clubs with Madonna, who has an awful cameo.
There’s an increasingly tiresome section in Graves’ ridiculous Icelandic ice castle, where the twists keep coming and keep getting more and more ridiculous–as do the action sequences. It should be said that the ice castle’s arches make it look like a rather chilly McDonalds. Turns out Graves is actually what Colonel Moon looks like after gene therapy and Miranda Frost, the junior agent M has had inside Graves’ organization, is the mole. And after he bedded her in a giant swan bed made out of ice, too. There’s just no decency anymore, is there?
By the way, the bad pun count is at about 4,675,432 by now. It just never ends.
Anyway, they finally get out of Iceland as Graves plans to use his Icarus satellite to destroy South Korea. I mean, 007 escaped the giant solar beam para-surfing on the hood of a race-car in Iceland (seriously), but sure. We should take it seriously as a death ray. Or maybe not, because of course 007 and Jinx save the day.
It’s all just so silly and awful. Camp can be wonderful when executed properly–A View to a Kill succeeded at it. This is just a mess. An unqualified disaster. You know, at least in The World is Not Enough I could say that I liked the idea of the Elektra King storyline. It showed that there was at least thought that went into the movie before it devolved into silliness. There is no redeemable quality to be found here. The only Bond movie that could possibly be worse is Moonraker–and that was a disaster of epic proportions.
Oh, and James Bond closes out the movie having sex with Jinx while lying on diamonds. Because nothing about that would be painful.
Notable Moments: John Cleese makes his first–and only–solo flight as Q. Samantha Bond also makes her final appearance as Moneypenny, and good riddance. Producers reduced Moneypenny to atrociously shameful levels of desperation. Both characters were deemed so dated that they were retired when the series was revamped with Casino Royale four years later. In addition, Halle Berry is the first Oscar-winning actress to take on a Bond movie. Other Bond actresses have gone on to win an Academy Award, but Berry is the first to win an Oscar and then star in a 007 movie. And finally, Madonna became the first person to sing the theme song and actually appear in the movie. Given her cameo, it’s a dubious distinction at best.
Gadgets: there are a lot, but the big ones are a ring that can shatter glass and an invisible car. All are silly.
Ally: The Bond Girl is 007’s true ally in this movie, but can we just have a moment to discuss how ridiculous it is that producers got Michael Madsen to play Jinx’s handler–the American version of M? They should have known they had a disaster on their hands then. Poor Judi Dench gets reduced to spouting one-liners at Michael Madsen, getting into pissing contests with Michael Madsen, a man she could wither with a stare in real life.
Bond Girl: If nothing else, you have to give Halle Berry this: she really committed to the role of Jacinta “Jinx” Johnson. She swans around, swishing her hips and tossing off terrible quips as if she’s having the time of her life. I guess it’s good that someone had a good time in this movie. Either she decided that she would collect the paycheck and have some fun, or she had absolutely no idea that what she was doing was utterly ridiculous. My money is on the latter. After all, Halle Berry isn’t exactly known for her stellar choices in movies these days.
Anyway, Jinx was supposed to be Wai Lin part II, but she’s actually nothing of the sort. She’s not a kick ass agent and Bond’s equal like Wai Lin. Any attempt to make her appear so is a sham. Jinx is a cartoon version of all the Bond Girl cliches rolled into one. Seriously, a cartoon. Who constantly needs to be saved by James Bond the moment she teams up with him.
There was actually talk of spinning Jinx off into her own action movie series. But if the result was going to look anything like this, we were spared big time when it never happened.
Supporting Bond Girl: Another cliche. Miranda Frost lives up to her name, appearing as an ice cold blonde with chilly personal relations. Like Berry, Rosamund Pike commits to the part (anyone who has seen Gone Girl knows she specializes in icy bitches), but there just isn’t much to commit to. She’s a frosty lady who sleeps with 007 just before double crossing him. It doesn’t get much more cardboard than that.
Villain: I guess you could give Toby Stephens credit for committing to the role of Gustav Graves/Colonel Moon, but he’s just another ridiculous cartoon. His every move, his every snarl and smirk, is so over the top that there’s really nothing you can do but roll your eyes. It’s all so embarrassingly try-hard. Let’s just do Stephens a favor and pretend this never happened.
Henchman: Are you sensing a theme here? That all the components of this movie are utterly ridiculous? More of that here. Rick Yune plays Zao, the cartoon henchman of Graves/Moon. He’s another piece of cardboard scenery. Producers tried to cover that up with flashy staging–Zao does literally have diamonds stuck in his face, after all. But it doesn’t hide the shame. And lord knows there’s plenty of that to go around in this movie.
Theme Song: The world finally got what it was waiting for, a Bond theme that name-drops Sigmund Freud. Oh, the world wasn’t waiting for that? Well, whoever was responsible for Madonna’s “Die Another Day” has a lot to answer for, then. They should also answer for the fact that my ears bleed every time I hear this song. I am not a Madonna-hater by any stretch, but this is just awful. It doesn’t help that someone hired Madonna to do a Bond song during an awkward transitional phase in her career. This was after the “Ray of Light” zen-Madonna had been phased out but before disco-ball Madonna released “Hung Up.” You know, when she hooked up with Mirwais as a producer and was exploring weird, annoying sounds in her music to wildly mixed results? There were some successes (“Music,” I guess. “Don’t Tell Me” and “What it Feels Like for a Girl” are great songs but much quieter than a lot of what she released during this period). Mostly this era is filled with big misses. “Die Another Day” came out just at the point where Madge decided to try on her angry militant persona (remember how her “American Life” album, which included this single, had her dressed like Patty Hearst on the cover?). The world rose up as one to say “meh,” and the Material Girl moved on to her next incarnation, which was much more fun. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with this turd in the Bond canon as a reminder.
Iconic Moment: Nothing that wouldn’t be utterly laughable.
Grades: Movie: 1/5; Bond Girl: 2/5; Supporting Bond Girl: 2.5/5; Villain: 1.5/5; Henchman: 2.5/5; Theme Song: 1/5
You can find links to all the Bond movie reviews as well as ‘Best of’ and ‘Worst of’ lists on my Bond Project page. Up next: Casino Royale.