SPOILER LEVELS at DOUBLE-O
(Sorry I’m coming in behind everyone, but my laptop died and I’ve spent TWO WEEKS finding a replacement. That also means I don’t have to be super-formal and all non-spoilery on this review.)
And I know it’s HORROR MONTH, but we haven’t started on that old tradition just yet this year. Instead, we’re opening the doors back up with two (yep. You read that right… TWO!) reviews of the latest
Bondblockbuster… NO TIME TO DIE!
Let’s holster our Walther PPKs and get straight into the review!
NO TIME TO DIE
So… I’ve never really been the biggest Bond fan. I like some of the Craig films (Casino Royale good and Skyfall okay), and I liked GoldenEye, but I just can’t get into these films like most people do. I mean… how am I supposed to take this guy seriously?! He’s the WORST SECRET AGENT IN THE WORLD (there’s a reason that link is there. I’ll get to that later.)! Everyone knows his name! He blows everything up everywhere he goes! He’s spread his… uh… “DNA” all over the place. Is he the cover guy for the REAL team of agents who get things done?! Is he some delusional maniac who’s in his own Truman-world? He’s nothing like a true British agent‘s supposed to be.
But like I always do, I ignored the Crow’s long-in-the-making evisceration of Spectre (coming soon to The Corvid Review! I promise! It’s been six years!) and went to watch No Time To Die with an open mind.
It starts out pretty okay. It sets up the bad guy (like good action films should), and the bad guy‘s not some unbeatable force. We get some set up, and… yeah. I like it so far. But then, we get to Bond (Daniel Craig) and things start to get a little odd.
The film starts to feel… off (to me anyway). I didn’t like what Spectre tried to do with “civilising” and “classicising” the Craig incarnation of Bond, and hoo boy! It’s back in full force here. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that Casino Royale and Skyfall exist. Casino Royale was BourneBond, and Skyfall was Dark KnightBond. I don’t even know what they were trying to do in Quantum, but Spectre and NTTD kinda make it feel like the Craig character exists in two continuities at once. I get they want to return to their cheesy campy style of films that the original fans love and everything, but it just doesn’t hit the target with Craig in the lead role. It’s like they flip his switches halfway through the series whenever they feel like it.
Bond’s still incapable of looking away from Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) without falling in 💗love 💗💞 (yuck!). They have a weird couple-y conversation and one thing leads to another and then BAM! Vesper’s (remember her?) grave [BLEEP]-ing explodes and we get our first Bond fight of the film!
And damn! This is some good stuff! There’s a few arguments, some fisticuffs with the token bad guys, and a car decked out with a whole bucketload (*cough*) of weapons and tricks. Lots of bullets zipping by and everything. Magpie happy. This is what I think about when I think about Craig Bond. Yellow filters and dust and punchy-punchy so good I want to punch the person sitting in front of me in the back of the head. It’s not some jaw-dropping, paradigm-changing action (and has a few annoying edits) but I’ve been feeling a bit “meh” about a lot of the action I see in films nowadays. It’s good. And that’s about it. But it’s good-good. Comfortable good like a lamb roast dinner on a Sunday with some thicc Yorkie puds.
And all this punchy-punchy is just an excuse to set up the fact that Bond can break up with a woman without her ending up dead (sorry West Berlin!). The way Bond dumps Madeleine makes a whole lot more sense than how the two got together, but that was going to happen either way since the way they got together was as dumb as a haddock that’s been left out in the sun wayyy too long. And it’s actually a pretty good scene, although the foreshadowing in it’s about as subtle as a kick to the guts.
lalalala(From the inside…)
So our no-reason-to-be-together-because-it’s-Jimmy-Bond-at-the-end-of-the-day couple gets separated like anyone cared about them in the first place, aaand… CUE THE INTRO! It’s a pretty sweet feature song. I don’t usually like Billie Eilish songs (and I never want to see her Adobe ads ever again), but this one’s got it right. Really sets the mood for the film.
So anyway, the film cuts to five years later after the first time-skip. And we’re back in Old Blighty after visiting two locations already. (Marks to the film for making me want to go to Matera, Italy, and blow it up. Really good advertising).
So back in the Great land of Spotted Dick, there’s a break-in at MI6! A scientist is captured! Oh no! And what was he working on? What was he kidnapped over? What’s going on?! You see, he was working on this little thing called “Project Heracles”. And what is “Project Heracles” you ask? No. It’s not a Greek divine Hero. It’s a nanomachine-based viral weapon (basically the same thing) that’s the central macguffin of our plot.
I remember someone on Reddit theorising that one of the reasons NTTD was delayed so many times was because the film featured a viral weapon or just a virus of some sorts, and the studio didn’t want that to affect how people saw the film. I guess I owe that Redditor a beer or a cake for calling it.
(But only one of those things. Money doesn’t grow on trees y’know).
The virus is transmitted by touch. They treat it as if Bond isn’t already a walking superweapon when you think about all the naughtiness our boy gets up to. Just send him into a country and watch the whole damn thing burn down from STDs. But that’s not all about the virus! You see, this thing’s a smart weapon. It can be customised to the target’s DNA… so that it only affects them… and not… wait.
Wait. Wait. Wait.
I’ve heard this before haven’t I?
But where did I hear about it first?
Hideo Kojima-san’s always been a big Bond fan, and I guess the Bond folks thought they could just… take an idea from Kojima’s first game to get major international success (for free) because of that? Um. I don’t think that’s cool, but considering the people I know and how ideas are stolen all over the place in big-budget cinema, it’s just how things are.
This is where I’m going to have to point out that No Time To Die is VERY derivative (and not in that, Mm! Good post-modern way). I know I’ve basically been summarising the film up until now (which isn’t something I do any more), but I needed to set up how much the film’s trying to keep the feel of how Spectre was and how it was trying to return to the “classic” Bond feel (just a little more tired) whle keeping the other films in the Craig-series in mind. It really feels like the film’s trying its hardest to tell fans that this IS a Bond film and not a Craig/Bourne one-off situation, but then it goes and just starts taking ideas from other, pretty well-known properties all over again.
See… Skyfall already remade The Dark Knight (and fell a little short even though it was good). But NTTD just goes and starts taking ideas from too many places to really find its own two feet. If it got any worse, it would be at risk of feeling like some fanboy wrote this up on deviantArt (don’t visit that website folks. Only evil lurks there.) or something.
There are some Bond-references in here, which would be fine, if they didn’t establish that “James Bond” has been the ONE character and the ONE character only (if only they could’ve gotten Sean Connery or one of the other Bonds to show up in Skyfall…) before throwing it away in this one. There’s an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (which I read a comic version of wayyy back when I was a little chicken-wing-y tot) reference in here that really worked for the fans, but it kinda makes outsiders like me raise a few feathers about how all of this fits together.
The villain’s plan even goes into little, Earth-only, Thanos mode (but less on the bad economics and more on the Nazi rhetoric) when it’s revealed at a later point in the film. It all does work together, but the problem is that bigger (not restricted to a single film), better stories have been told about these exact things. And from my point of view I found it really derivative (there’s that damn word again).
I like the new characters they’ve introduced. I got the feeling that people didn’t really like the new 007 Nomi (Lashana Lynch), but I thought she was alright, even though the film crew couldn’t resist throwing in a lame race joke into the film because they HAD to. Paloma (marry-me Ana) kicked some serious butt and really needs a series all of her own (she’s barely in this though). Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) was just as good as he was in Casino Royale (has this guy ever done a bad role? Only one I didn’t like so much was The Manchurian Candidate remake), but he gets um… “written out” of the story halfway through and I didn’t really care much for it because we really don’t know him that much. The MI6 crew are okay. I still think that if they’d hinted that M v2 (Ralph Fiennes) was a former 00, the whole series would be better off. The film’s “henchman” Primo (Dali Benssalah) has a bit more of a role than Hinx (WHY is Gamora?!).
And even though it started out really great for him, Safin (Rami “Prince” Malek), who was supposed to be “more dangerous than anyone [Bond has] ever encountered” and a “hyper-intelligent and worthy adversary” turns out to be a bit… [BLEEP]. He’s cool and all, but he makes some really dumb decisions at the end and his plan just doesn’t line up if you think about it for two seconds (although that’s how you get that awesomeballs line from the trailer).
The biggest problem with No Time To Die though is that it HAD to send off Craig as Bond. This was meant to be a final ending no-backsies to the series they started with Casino. This made the film try to be over-ambitious and also pack in a lot of stuff that could tie the Craig era off with a pretty pink bow on top. They got something that worked. I’m going to keep saying that, but they had a lot of problems putting it all together.
They tried to tie in Bond becoming a baby-daddy (which was actually done pretty good), Felix [BLEEP]-ing dying, globe-hopping, mad fisticuffs, and a cartoon villain with a BIGHUGE evil plan all into one film. But it’s too “common” because of things that have already come out in its own back yard (the Crow’s going to love me saying that because of what’s happened with his ideas!) and ends up feeling a little all over the place even though it’s such a long film.
The big “shocking” ending (which I’ll let the Swan(!) give away) feels a little… “yeah. We’ve seen this before too”, but it fits the film because it’s never happened in a Bond film. I’m going to let the fanboys fight over it cause I KNOW this one’s going to cause a lot of arguments and reactions, but I thought it was a good direction for the film (and the series) to take.
All-in-all, NTTD‘s not a bad film. It’s almost a good film. The problem is it’s a James Bond film. If this was anything but a James Bond film, it’d have been better (actually scratch that. If this was restitched as a comeback for the Pierce Brosnan version of the character with some added backstory, it’d be a great film). But as a Craig-era Bond film, it doesn’t work so good after the films that have come before it beace it’s only trying to be bigger and glitzier cause it has to be. It only works “okay”. And that’s where the tone dies. The folks making this film did a great job, and I’m not pointing my feathers at them. As a singular film, there’s just too much and too little both at the same time because Craig wanted out after Spectre (although I’m sure with better Casino-style stories they could’ve made him stay) and they tried too much too quickly in a film that was boated from the start in a world wher bigger and glitzier just means bread and butter.
No Time To Die‘s problems really all start from the hand it was dealt. So I’m going to be kind to the film. I had fun watching the punchy-punchy. And even though the film takes a lot of cards from serieses I like a a hell of a lot more, I’ve gotten used to his happening all over the place these days.
Technically it’s a pretty well made film. Good looking sets, camerawork and people is something I can always get behind although I never got the Craig being gorgeous thing myself. The music’s pretty good too. So no points taken away for that. I just think this film would be better made by deleting Spectre (don’t worry. The review coming out might just excise that film from existing in our timeline) and just being an ending that did its own thing with Bond. It ends up being more of the same otherwise.
Oh! And just to mess with the fanpeople…! Here‘s a thought! They could always bring the Craig version of Bond back in the future (it doesn’t need to be him) cause… NANOMACHINES, SON!
(Just like they did/can do with Picard…)
I’d say go watch it. It’s not a high recommendation, but it’s a recommendation. Shut your brainbox off and spend three hours in a local theatre (safely!) if you want to go out. Just remember to go to the toilet first.
(It’s a long on is why.)
(I’ll see you all soon with some HORRORIFIC shenanigans!)
The Azure-Winged Magpie: 5.5/10
Be free Daniel Craig!
Fly free! Fly safe! Be free!
— Azure-Winged Magpie up! Up! And Awayyy! *BONK!*
Here’s one of the official posters!