So yes, thanks to the wonder of Ebay, I have finally gone over to the Blu Ray camp, because the studios are apparently more willing to send Blu review copies than regular DVD ones.
And what better place to begin my collection than with the latest James Bond movie?
Although I certainly wasn’t one of the biggest supporters of Daniel Craig when the changeover was first announced (I was firmly on Team Clive Owen), he has definitely won me over with his first two efforts as 007. Although the people writing the movies are another matter entirely. Where’s the mentions of gold and dying? You need some combination of those for a really good Bond movie name, I feel.
Picking up literally right after Casino Royale, Quantum sees James Bond kidnapping the guy from the end of the last movie and engaging in a pre-credits car chase sequence that brings back fond memories of the good old days for the franchise. We quickly learn that the world is faced with yet another shadowy terrorist organization who has done a remarkable job of flying under the radar, this one named QUANTUM. Kind of a weak tie-in to justify the silly title, but at least it’s something. Bond, who claims to only be motivated by Queen and country, is more obviously out for revenge on behalf of his beloved Vespa from Casino Royale, although the movie gives him more of the trademark Bond dry wit than he had in the first one, as Craig seems to be settling into the role nicely.
As usual for a Bond movie, we journey from country to country (complete with stylized fonts for each on-screen graphic telling us the location, a great touch) and Bond starts hopping from bed to bed, including red-headed British agent Strawberry Fields ("Of course you are.") who meets a fate so blatantly reminiscent of Goldfinger that I’m worried they’re going to attempt a remake as the next movie. The villain and ultimate super-world-conquering plot are a bit too much out of the Brosnan era for my liking, but Dominic Greene (who of course is anything but an environmentalist) makes a nicely slimy bad guy to match up with James Bond. Some of the initial reviews said that the movie is too short for a Bond film and is basically one long action sequence rather than a movie, but I actually found it to have more talking than Casino Royale did, as well as better action sequences. I never had a chance to see it in theaters, so perhaps the small screen lends it a charm it didn’t have there, but I thought it was an excellent entry in the Bond series, showcasing the continuing development of Craig and thankfully staying far away from the gimmicky gadgets of movies past. Although sometimes it IS pretty cool to have a motorcycle that can change into a boat, rather than having him jump ONTO a boat with a motorcycle, ya know? Either way, I really enjoyed the dumbed-down plot in some ways, because frankly the Brosnan stuff got so overwrought with twists and intrigue that it became a chore to figure out who was doing what to who at times. I mean, the guy with the diamonds in his face? What was up with THAT? This version of Bond remains, like the character, a blunt instrument who is just as liable to throw someone off a balcony as he is to charm the information out of him. My favorite example of this comes when Bond visits the opera and needs one of the special gift bags that the villain is handing out to his henchmen at the desk. Brosnan would have charmed the clerk and probably used microchips to disguise himself as the bad guy in order to get it. Craig, meanwhile, just beats him up in the bathroom and steals it. Now THAT’S a super spy I can appreciate.
Certainly it’s not a perfect entry in the series, bogged down with endless Sony propaganda just like Casino Royale was, and the stakes never feel entirely earth-shattering, but it still felt like a throwback to the Bond of old, and more importantly to the Bond of the original novels, who was an imperfect human being, covered in scars and emotional baggage just like anyone else.
Plus he drives an awesome car.
Audio & Video
This is the first Blu-Ray disc I’ve had a chance to watch on my home system (although I’ve watched dozens of them at work over the years), and the video was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment for me, as it was obviously smoother in 1080p than the regular DVD version, but still showed some annoying film grain in key scenes and frankly didn’t blow me away like I was expecting. Audio fared a little better, although the disc only offers standard DTS 6.1 and not the next-gen Master Audio version that many other BD discs offer. The bass is impressive and the surrounds are all over the place, but the annoying problem of the center channel being mixed too low and overwhelmed by the score and the explosions remains here, and I expect more from a higher-end format like this. I’m thinking another version will coming out conveniently timed for the next Bond movie. (Ratings: Video ****, Audio ***)
Again, nothing that wouldn’t lead you to think a new version was coming out to get more of your money. You get a few featurettes, a music video for the pretty terrible Jack White theme song, and the trailer, but where’s the commentary that every other Bond movie (including the super-cheap re-released $8.00 ones) gets? It’s nice that they redid the DVD’s special features in HD, but they’re not very special and practically scream "double dip incoming". (Rating: **1/2)
I would definitely have to call this version a rental. I was much more impressed with this outing than a lot of people seem to have been (although it’s no Casino Royale), but if you’re a serious Bond collector than obviously you’ll want to wait for the REAL special edition before dropping your $30 on the Blu-Ray disc.
Tags: Blu-ray Reviews, Casino Royale, James Bond, Quantum of Solace, SmarK Rants