No Time to Die First Take

We went to see No Time to Die this past Monday afternoon, which ought not to surprise anybody who read last week’s post about watching all the previous Daniel Craig Bond films.

This post contains spoilers.

I am going to put the title card in, then write a few more general paragraphs about the movie, then I will put a cut in and discuss spoilers below that.  Spoilers will not appear on the front page of the blog, but if you read this via RSS or came directly to the post then you are in danger of tainting yourself with them.

Again, spoiler warning.  You carry on from here at your own risk.

So, as noted, we saw the film on Monday at an afternoon matinee in a sizable theater with maybe a total of ten people on hand.  There is a reason we chose that time slot.  It was the first time we have been back to the theater since either Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker or Knives Out, both of which we saw during the holidays in 2019.

It has been a while.

And I will say that movie theater popcorn is every bit as good as I remember it.  It beats the crap out of home popped or microwave popcorn.  Really, they don’t even compare.  It was so good that I am sure it must somehow be destroying the environment or involve some sort of exploitation of labor.  Amazon probably runs the factory and the delivers services using entirely gig labor compensated as piece work with impossible to meet quotas.  But I savored it all the same.

James Bond, however, was a bit of a let down.

No Time to Die picks up where Spectre left off with James and Madeleine in Italy, together after having thwarted Blofeld.  They are in love and going to spend the rest of their lives together.  James says that they have “all the time in the world,” which I couldn’t help recalling is pretty much what George Lazenby said to Diana Rigg at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service right before Diana Rigg dies.

Foreshadow much Bond?

Maybe, or maybe not.  We’re not to the spoilers quite yet.  Anyway, it turns out SPECTRE the organization (as opposed to the movie) is still kind of pissed off and they come to get Bond and there is a car chase and guns and a guy loses his prosthetic eye and when they get clear there is the question of who sold out whom and the relationship is off.

Then we get the opening credits, which were a bland montage backed by a bland theme song.  Completely forgettable.  If you’re a Billie Eilish fan, I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t enough to carry the opening.

After the credits it is five years later, a sinister plot is afoot and Bond, who has been in retirement in Ian Flemming’s old digs in Jamaica, gets pulled into things despite the fact that he’s off the list and there is already another agent sitting at the desk labeled “007.”

Anyway, he goes in, there is action, betrayal, a major double cross, more action, lots of gun play, an escape, another double cross, then a big reveal about how all of this a black project that is now in the hands of the bads.  More Bond digging, plot discovered, bad guys one step ahead, big chase scene, Bond gets away.  Then finally the big set piece infiltration op, facing the bad guy, then the grand finale, roll credits, the Daniel Craig era is over.

And it was okay.  Mostly on formula.  It looked good on the big screen.  There are, as always, boxes that need to be checked.  Action was done in the Bond fashion.  But, as with Spectre, the whole didn’t really come together into something greater than the box-ticking parts.

Having seen all five in the space of a week, my wife and I hashed out our ranking of the Daniel Craig Bond films as:

  1. Skyfall
  2. Casino Royale
  3. Spectre
  4. No Time to Die
  5. Quantum of Solace

I might give QoS the benefit of the doubt and put it ahead of No Time to Die, maybe… as at least it wasn’t two hours and forty five minutes getting somewhere.  If you’re going to be mediocre, at least be brief about it.  But my wife insisted it be at the bottom, so I’ll leave it there.

The odd thing about that list is that the best film, at least in our ranking, is the one that doesn’t get all bogged down in the shadowy world of mysterious global criminal organizations that control most everything behind the scenes… though the SPECTRE organization roster seems a bit thin in No Time to Die for an organization that claims to have people everywhere.

Anyway, we are at the spoilers section.  You have been warned.

Spoilers from here forward.

Bond films are, as I have said in the past, always of their time.  Dr. No is when the space race between the US and USSR is heating up.  Live and Let Die plays on the Blaxploitation era films.  For Yours Eyes Only is the Cold War and detente.  Goldeneye only works in a post-USSR Russia.

So I am trying to figure out what Spectre and No Time to Die says about our time.  Technology and the surveillance state and black projects hidden from the public are bad and might easily fall into the wrong hands?  Maybe?

One last time.  Seriously.  Spoilers.  I appreciate the desire not to have a film spoiled.  I didn’t even watch the trailer for No Time to Die before we went to see it.

And then there is Bond, retired for five years, getting hooked up in things and getting up to his old tricks once more.  Bond off the farm and doing his own thing is par for the course in a Bond film, but when he has a “visitor” badge on in MI6 and is suddenly able to wheedle and connive to get information he shouldn’t have while holding back what he knows just to keep his own plans in the shadows seems a bit too cute.

Also, why is Q so seemingly helpless to deny Bond anything?  Q has a position of extreme importance and is in possession of extremely sensitive information, but the moment Bond says, “pretty please” or gives him a hard look Q gives him whatever he asks for.  Maybe that flies when Bond is on the payroll and covered by the official secrets act, but again, when the retiree wanders in after five years and Q is ready to talk about a completely off the books project run by MI6 seems a step too far.

Bond is not that charming.  Seriously, everybody in the building besides M seems willing to do whatever he asks.  What the hell?

But the real kicker is how the movie wraps up.  It was all I could do to keep myself from titling this post Bond Dies in the End.

That is the big spoiler.  Bond sacrifices himself because he is a hazard to Madeleine, with whom he is back together with once he’s back on the job, and their five year old daughter, about whom Bond has just found out.  Oh, yeah, baby Bond… or toddler Bond I guess… another spoiler.  Bond now has at least one acknowledged offspring.

So that was the ending.  The noble sacrifice for his lover and child.  My wife got teary eyed even though it was extremely obvious that it was going to have to play out that way at least 20 minutes before it came to pass.

Yes, Bond was foreshadowing.  Twice.  Twice he says they have all the time in the world.  I guess if you say it once your bride dies, if you say it a second time you die.

Which would have all been perfectly fine if the plot hadn’t kind of run out of juice about 40 minutes before the big sacrifice.  Once Ana de Armas runs out her screen time the whole film is on a downhill slide.  And once the new 007 and Bond infiltrate the bad guy base where Madeleine and baby Bond are being held, the end result is pretty much preordained.

Bond must face the evil mastermind, and Rami Malek plays that weakly written character about as well as could be expected.  I don’t even remember his name.  And I don’t even know why he gave a shit about Bond specifically.  His beef was with Blofeld and SPECTRE.  SPEECTRE killed his family.  That is his revenge angle, his driving obsession.  Bond is just this guy, you know?

If ever there was a Bond villain who should have just shot Bond out of hand and had his corpse thrown in the ocean, it was this one.  There is no relationship there, Bond is just some cop coming to wreck his rather vague “I’d like the power to kill people based on their DNA, but I haven’t really decided who yet” plan.  He doesn’t even really have an unhinged monologue about world domination.  He’s more Colonel Kurtz than a maniacal Bond villain, though I guess with that DNA tech it is somewhat implied that the world will be dominated.  I was only surprised that he didn’t go into Bond Villain Plan #4 and declare he was going to kill 90% of the population in order to save the earth and build a new Utopia.  We haven’t had one of those Bond villains since the 70s.

Anyway, Bond has to get in there, thwart the plan, get caught, escape, rescue his lover and child before getting to the final boss fight, all while killing any henchman who even glances in his direction. There is even a mini-boss fight… any recurring henchman is a mini-boss I guess… where Bond uses the gadget Q gave him and then makes an ironic quip about it, which felt like something written on a Post-It note and stuck to the script.  “Put quip here” said one of the studio execs.  Action, action, guns, guns, final boss fight, then boss isn’t really dead, so final final boss fight, then noble sacrifice.  Roll credits.

Which all sounds better in summary than it plays out on screen.  Bond is better than any henchman, that I can buy, even a Bond who has been retired for five years.  Henchmen being worse than Storm Troopers in their aim so that at several points Bond just jumps into machine gun fire at close range, picks up a gun, then shoots the henchman, is perhaps a bit too much even for a fan.

Whatever.  Bond will be Bond.  I am still not sure what I should have expected or what I should take from the whole thing.

Is the lesson here that Bond films are better as stand alone adventures against loopy criminal organization masterminds?  Is Skyfall the right format?  Should the franchise eschew trying to follow a narrative across multiple films?

Or is it that, against the backdrop of today’s world, a hidden organization like SPECTRE seems like too much work when multinational corporations and governments do most of that stuff out in the open and brag about it at shareholder meetings along the way?  Do Bond villains seem like low achievers when real world billionaires have their own space programs and legislation is written by corporations and introduced by the politicians they own?  If SPECTRE was a real entity, would it be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and be part of the S&P 500?

Has Bond’s world fallen behind the real world when it comes to terror and corruption?

We’ll still buy No Time to Die when it comes out on Blu-Ray.  We have to keep the collection complete.  And we will watch it again.  Sometimes another viewing helps.  But the Daniel Craig era is over, for good or ill.

Bond is dead.  Bring on the next Bond.

This means that we’re probably in line for another reboot of the franchise whenever EON gets around to picking a new Bond and figuring out a new script.  See you all in… 2027 maybe?

Oh, and if you want some real spoilers, go watch the Pitch Meeting video about the film.

2 thoughts on “No Time to Die First Take

  1. bhagpuss

    Thank you so much for introducing me to Pitch Meeting. After the first one you linked I went and watched about a dozen back-to-back and then added the channel to my YouTube subscriptions. I’ve wathced a load more since. They’re consistently hilarious even when I have no clue about the movie they’re tearing into.

    As for Bond, I was happy to read the whole post and get all the spoilers because I will never watch the movie. As I’ve said before, when I was a teenager just about everyone I knew of my own age thought of James Bond as some dumb thing old men our fathers’ age liked. I did actually see the George lazenby one at the cinema when I was about ten or so. My mother took me. I think it was her choice. I don’t believe I knew who Bond was. All I remember about it is a lot of snow. I never wanted to see another.

    The franchise has gone on so long now I have developed a kind of osmotic interest that means I know who all the Bonds are/were and which were in which set of movies. It’s so embedded in the culture it’s hard not to. I am curious about who takes on the role next, even thogh I have no intention of watching them perform it. There’s been a lot of specualtion about whether there should be a black Bond or a female Bond but I think the most appropriate would be a robot Bond. He always seemed something other than human to me.

    As for the theme song, I am a Billie Eilish fan and I think it’s a great performance but it’s not much of a song and certainly not much of Bond theme. It doesn’t have the bombast or the sub-Wagnerian self-aggrandizement most of them ooze. Sounds more like maybe an end title sequence from a noir after things have played out badly than the intro to a franchise action movie.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @bhagpuss – Pitch Meeting has replaced Cinema Sins for my “pick apart a movie” needs. It gets the job done in about a quarter of the time.

    I also did not read or watch any reviews before I was done with this post. I watched the Pitch Meeting later and immediately thought I should have mentioned nanobots. Oh well. So I threw in the link at the end. That was the last pre-live edit, about five minutes before it posted. (I have since corrected two typos.)

    We have some friends from the UK who all seem to associate James Bond with Christmas, as apparently it was something on the telly regularly for the holidays. (I think I have mentioned that I similarly associate The Wizard of Oz with Thanksgiving because NBC used to show it every year.)

    I liked Bond as a kid because it was action oriented and unambiguous as to who was the good guy at a time when film was much in the Vietnam War reflection era of moral grayness. So there is nostalgia there. As I got older I started getting interested in how each movie tries to reflect the current world.

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