In Defence of – Die Another Day (2002)

I’m Movie Geek, The Ultimate Movie Geek!

The last couple of IDO’s I’ve done have revolved around video game movies. I know, they’re the easiest to do due to the majority of them being bad. But this week, I’m going to need my Walther PPK, a strong drink, shaken, not stirred, and a View to a Kill. Tonight, I’m going to Defend Die Another Day!

History

James Bond. The creation of Ian Fleming, and the property of the Broccoli family he has spanned the last 65 years and been a massive impact on Pop Culture. Be it the continuation of the books, that go from writer to writer, or the movies that have gone through six different actors. There’s also a number of spin offs and other such things that won’t be discussed here.

The number of years and the number of films that came before Die Another Day meant there was a lot of history to choose from when making this film. I see this film as a kind of homage to the vast history of the character. Released in 2002, Die Another Day marked the film series 40th anniversary and as such couldn’t pass up the chance to reference every preceding film.

The James Bond movies had gone bigger and bigger and as such some of the set pieces had become a little unbelievable. But, I’d argue none of the Brosnan films are as bad as the Moore films. Yeah, I said it. Moore was crap – God rest him!

But what was the story?

The Story

James Bond is in a North Korean Military base with Colonel Tan-Sun Moon is illegally trading weapons for trading African Conflict Diamonds. Bond is discovered to be Bond and a quick chase ensues. It’s a standard of the series that Bond either finishes up a mission in the cold open or is thrust into a fight by an outside source. Either way, Bond usually comes out on top and… What? Bond is captured?
Yes, that’s right, Bond is captured and Tan-Sun Moon is killed before the opening credits. This is different. So from the get-go, I feel the audience is in.

Then comes the credit sequence and I have to say Madonna’s Die Another Day theme is shit. There’s no other word for it. It doesn’t really work apart from one moment.

But at the same time, the title sequence of Bond being tortured is superb. Not as good as Casino Royale, but close. It shows Bond in a position he’s never been in before. He is completely helpless and trapped. He’s not charming his way out. It’s different and as the 40th anniversary, it shows that maybe the formula is about to change.

No, we had to wait for this to bomb for that.
Locked up for 14 months he is only released in a prisoner exchange scheme because it looks like he’s been spilling some secrets!

Knowing he didn’t spill any of the secret British beans and believes there is a double agent in the British Government. He escapes MI6 and discovers Zao; Tan-Sun Moon’s second in command is in Cuba.

Discovering a DNA Restructuring clinic is where Zao is, and finding that African Conflict Diamonds are being made to look like they belong to British billionaire businessman Gustav Graves. Bond decides to pay Graves a visit.

Cameo

Here we get a Madonna cameo and quite a good escalation sword fight between Graves and Bond. Have we met Graves before? After the fight Graves invites Bond to Iceland to a Ice Hotel and the unveiling of the Icarus, an orbiting Mirrored satellite that is going to be used for year round crop development.
It turns out the Icarus can also be used as a weapon. And Bond has to stop it.

Graves turns out to be Tan-Sun Moon bent on destroying the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Bond gets the girl and it’s the end of Brosnan’s tenure as Bond.

Characters

Pierce Brosnan plays Bond in his fourth outing. By this time he has become more and more like Roger Moore that the series has become quippy and camp once again. But Brosnan at least looks like he’s having fun. When you compare Connery, and even Craig you can see that Brosnan most likely didn’t want to go. But the audience were past this over the top CG fuelled movie. It’s a shame that it went this way as Goldeneye, and the way Brosnan played Bond in that film was his best.

Jinx Johnson, or Halle Berry is the NSA agent tasked with discovering information about Graves and Zao. She is teed up to be the female equivalent to Bond and even had a spin-off movie in the works, but due to Die Another Day, that fell through. Her entrance to the film was a copy of the Ursula Andress entrance in Doctor No. We all know who did it better… Daniel Craig!

Gustav Graves is played by Toby Stephens and again he plays it as a sleazy, smarmy git, who appears on the front to be almost Bond-like. He even takes the signature Union Flag parachute back out of storage.

John Cleese became Q as Desmond Llewellyn had died in 1999. As had been the standard, the Q interactions were always played for laughs and getting Cleese involved during The World is Not Enough meant it wasn’t a shock when he took on the role.

The characters of a Bond film are simple. You have the Bond Girl, the villain, the main Villain Henchman and then the allies, which are usually the American’s. Here we have Jinx being the Bond Girl and Ally.

Set Design/Effects

Now the effects of this film are maybe something that lets this whole film down. There is one scene where Bond is riding a wave whilst paragliding after a pretty good car chase on the ice. It looked like the graphics from Nintendo 64’s Goldeneye had been used in the background. At no point did I feel Bond was in danger. As soon as the movie hits the Ice Hotel the film does go downhill. But there are good moments and despite all this, it is still a Bond film. What do we know about sequels? They have to go bigger.

And it tried. It gave us an invisible car and if you look back at the movies car history, it was always going to go this way. It was nice to see some of the older features being utilised. Q always says that the standard equipment is added, and yet we don’t always see them. They highlight the new stuff, but never really look back at what was added in earlier films. Here we get the ice spikes that was introduced in The Living Daylights are utilised inside the Ice Palace.

A whole assortment of Bond Gadgets are stored in Q’s Tube hideout, including the Jetpack from Thunderball and the poison-tipped toe shoe from From Russia With Love. There’s the crocodile disguise from Octopussy… Urgh, I hate the Moore films. You get the picture, there are so many references celebrating the good and bad sides of the 40 years of Bond.

Conclusion

Die Another Day is easily the worst of the Brosnan films, but you cannot deny that it is quintessentially a Brosnan Bond film. It followed the same structure as his other films. It followed the same style as all the other Bond films. But everything it was could only have been done at that time. No other Bond could’ve pulled it off. Not even Moore. Brosnan made the role his own, by giving him seriousness that wasn’t undermined by the humour. Brosnan may end a film talking about how Christmas only comes once a year, but he doesn’t dress up as a clown.

I’m starting to think this is a Moore Bond Bashing video. But it isn’t… honest.

I loved the Bond films of the 90’s and this is a 90’s Bond film. Unfortunately, it was released in 2002, and the world had been changed the year before. From the tragedy of September 11th, we got a whole new way of looking at terrorism and disasters in movies, but it was too late for Die Another Day to change. With the release of The Bourne Identity, which gave us sleek fighting scenes, a tight story and a more serious character, it gave the audience something new to look at. This is one of the reasons Daniel Craig and Casino Royale were the way they are.

Shaken not Stirred

In my opinion, and I am open to comments, the Bond films tried to do this back in the 80’s with Timothy Dalton. Making Bond a cold-blooded killer, with no time for humour, but the audience wasn’t there and Dalton’s contract, unfortunately, ran out. They were too early with the dark, gritty Bond. Dalton was a great Bond and arguably influenced Craig’s Bond. Then in 2002 when Brosnan should have maybe ended they were too late to change and we got Die Another Day.

Looking back, it is still not great, but comparing it to the rest of the Bond series to that point, they were continuing tradition and attempting to go bigger.

Legacy/Future

I usually add a bit about legacy and future. But the reaction to this and to the changing world including the Bourne films resulted in a grittier, harder Bond in Casino Royale. Die Another Day’s legacy is that it marked the end of 40 years of the James Bond Movie. Casino Royale acted as a kind of reboot and prequel to the whole series.

When we review a movie on the MAaD Movie Podcast we either say it’s a Good James Bond Film, or Bad James Bond film. So for the record and may this be etched into my tombstone. Die Another Day is a [REDACTED] James Bond Film!

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Nathaniel Jepson

I am the Ultimate Movie Geek and I love movies. I also have a movie based podcast called the Man About a Dog Movie Pod or MAaD Movie Pod.