Bond Pretitle Sequences: Die Another Day
Simon Pitt |
Tuesday 9th July
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
Die Another Day
Die Another Day is not a great film. There are too many silly moments. The invisible car, the weird gene therapy thing. I always thought that I didn’t agree with Roger Moore about much (this was the man who was in Moonraker, after all), but I keep finding myself nodding along to things he’s said.
I thought it just went too far – and that’s from me, the first Bond in space! Invisible cars and dodgy CGI footage? Please! They gave the public what they wanted, though maybe they too realised there was only so far they could push it before Bond became a caricature of himself.
However, as the Bond theme begins and the white circles make their way across the screen, I’m looking forward to watching this. Brosnan saunters across the screen. We hear a woosh effect and see a computer-generated bullet fly out into the screen. I’m not sure this really makes a lot of sense. I mean, is Bond shooting directly into the gun barrel? It’s kind of cool, although it is indicative of a film that is marred by excessive computer effects.
Lee Tamahori, the director of Die Another Day, says of the tweak to the gun barrel:
I decided to have a lot of fun on this movie. I said, "Guys, can I change some things? I only want to do it for one movie. I don't want you to do it for all of them." When I always saw that shot, I always felt like I was being shot, which you were supposed to feel. I thought, can we for the 20th movie and 40th anniversary, can we fire a bullet straight at the audience and put it in the surround speakers and make people feel like they're being shot? They said, 'Sure, you can do that." It's really done with a touch of love and reverence of the old movies and just shaking up them, but I hope they don't continue with it because I don't think it should become a staple of the movies that follow.
I mostly agree with him. You might think, from some of my previous comments, that I’m a purist when it comes to the gun barrel sequence. But, I like what they did with Casino Royale and I'm quite happy with this CGI bullet as a one-off. I enjoy variances and tweaks to it. In the same way that I like the way Google tweaks their logo for different events. There’s an art, though, to tweaking and changing staples while maintaining the continuity.
We open on a breach in North Korea, littered with giant three dimensional noughts and crosses boards. In the sea one, no two, no three figures are surfing in. The Bond theme creeps in.
I’m struck by how slow the pacing is. There’s exciting Bond music, and sound effects of crashing waves, but all we’re watching is some people surfing. I could go see that in Cornwall if I wanted to. If this were Quantum of Solace we'd nearly be at the end of the pre-credit sequence by now.
Bond and his associates sneak up, cut the power to something and set a beacon. Now that I watch this more closely, I don’t understand this. Did they cut the power from another beacon and then put theirs up as a dummy? If so, wouldn’t the helicopter pilot have noticed the beacon suddenly changing position? Maybe he’s in on it too; they're pointing a gun at him, but maybe that's a setup. If so, why bother letting the diamond seller get on the helicopter in the first place?
Van Dierk gets off the helicopter, a look of irritation on his face. It’s as if he’s all too familiar with his helicopter being re-directed by covert beacons. “Look,” he shouts, “what is this, I’m supposed to-“ Supposed to what? “supposed to sell some conflict diamonds to a bunch of North Koreans for weapons?” We never find out, because Bond, dressed in the same clothes as him, puts a gun to his head and takes his suitcase.
I wonder how MI6 knew what Van Dierk was going to be wearing on this one day? That’s some really good intelligence gathering. Maybe they’d tapped his phone while he was talking to his wife. “What do you think I should wear to meet these North Korean arms dealers?”, “How about that nice canvas jacket; you always look good in that?”
As a final outrage, Bond takes his sunglasses. In the helicopter, he hides some C4 under the diamonds. They’ll never think to look there. I wouldn’t say this is Bond’s best plan ever. Miraculously, it now seems to be daytime. Doesn’t time fly when you’re setting bombs?
The helicopter lands and a suspicious Zao snaps a shot on his Sony Ericsson smart phone. I think, at the time, the ability to take photos on your phone and send them to someone else was quite impressive.
“Few men have the guts to trade conflict diamonds since the U.N. embargo,” Bond says pointedly. He’s not actually very good at this being under cover thing. “Hiding weapons in the demilitarized zone.” He adds, tutting judgementally. Come on 007, at least try to pretend to be a diamond seller.
Meanwhile, Zao has received a message telling him that Bond is an MI6 agent. He warns Moon who grabs a tank-buster. Bond can barely hide his lack of interest. He looks away with an almost yawn. He wakes up though when Moon blows up the helicopter. Everyone jumps to attention actually. I think many of the soldiers aren’t quite sure what they’re on alert for. The guy behind Moon starts to aggressively point his gun at… nothing.
Bond pulls his gun too. I guess it’s the thought that counts. I mean, he’s in the middle of a huge military base, with guards all around him, and he’s just got a little pea-shooter of a Walther. He doesn’t even try to bluff his way out of it. Surely, that was at least worth a try. He just shows a look of recognition mixed with alarm when Moon says his name.
It seems 007 is in a sticky situation. But then Colonel Moon’s dad phones up and says he’ll be back soon and Colonel Moon should put all his toys away and get into bed before he’s home. Or something. Colonel Moon’s face falls.
Hurriedly, Moon puts all his hovercraft away, and Bond put in front of a firing squad. This is a really well put together scene. There’s none of the usual “let’s send Mr Bond to face an easily escapable, slow death.” Instead, they put him up against a wall and prepare to shoot him. With the quick cuts to the case and back, you can see Bond’s mind racing. His movement to his watch to detonate the C4 is, for once, actually subtle.
In a scene reminiscent of Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond runs across the military base, takes over a hovercraft and starts blowing things up. You’d have thought it would be easier to kill one person when you have, literally, a whole army standing by. But apparently not. I guess communication is everything. Maybe the soldiers haven’t been ordered to shoot, and the paperwork has got stuck at head office waiting to be signed. Or maybe Bond has got better with practice.
Carnage complete, Bond sets off after Moon, and the theme tune kicks off properly. Moon has a collection of weapons. His depleted uranium gun (he misses every shot), a chain gun mounted on top of the hovercraft (misses again) and a flamethrower (he mainly uses this for roasting the vegetation). 007, however, is such a good shot that he can shoot a mine when he’s not even looking at it. While travelling at high speed. In a hovercraft. Over bumpy ground.
Unfortunately, Moon is a champion martial arts fighter; we saw this at the beginning when he beat the crap out of that defenceless punch bag. However, being a black belt in kickboxing doesn’t seem to do much against a right hook from Bond. As a point of interest, the green screen work here is really quite bad, and a sign of things to come in a number of later scenes.
Moon is off swimming, but Bond doesn’t have very long to savour his victory before General Moon turns up with the rest of the North Korean army. Bond is captured, and taken to be tortured. The music rises in pitch and crashes into the title sequence.
For the only time in the James Bond series, the title sequence is not purely abstract. Instead, it continues the story from the pre-credit sequence, as we see Bond’s torture continuing. For what will become a silly story about space lasers and robotic arms, this is a surprisingly dark beginning.
Name Rank and Number
- Zao says, “His name is James Bond, a British assassin.”
- The image Zao is sent has Bond’s “licensed to kill” status as a “note”, and has 007 under the heading, “Agent”.
I think he got the Point
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- “I majored in Western hypocrisy”, Moon says. I really like the dialogue in these Brosnan Bond films; it sparkles. Bond nods at the sports cars. “With your modest little collection of cars I’d never have guessed”
- Referring to the tanks and hovercraft in the demilitarized zone, Bond says “Bit of a minefield out there”
- “Don’t blow it all at once”, he says as he hands over the diamonds with the bomb in. Really, Bond, could you be any less subtle? The idea is to say the quip after you’ve killed them, when the coast is clear. You’re getting cocky now.
- “You will not live to see the day when all Korea is ruled by the North.” Moon says. “Then you and I have something in common.” Bond responds. Moon is more offended by this than you might expect.
- “Saved by the bell,” Bond quips to himself as he hangs from the bell rope.
Listen Carefully 007
We don’t see what happens to Mr Van Bierk. Does Bond put a bullet in the back of the head, or leave him to die in the forest outside a North Korean military base? Either way, I think it’s unlikely that he survives.
- Bond’s first victim is the diamond expert who studies the diamonds in the booby-trapped case.
- Bond wreaks havoc in the military base, but we don’t see any direct or confirmed kills. It’s safe to say, I think, that the casualty and fatality count is high here.
- Two people die in the hovercraft that crashes into the gate that Bond lowers
- Bond flips one hovercraft and two people die in the ensuing explosion
- Bond shoots one of the men outright aboard Moon’s hovercraft
- Two men die in a hovercraft crash after Bond shoots the mine underneath them
- The unconscious man that Bond leaves in his hovercraft is killed when Moon’s hovercraft rams it. Although whether you can put this death down to Bond is debatable.
- Bond shoots the driver of Moon’s hovercraft
- Bond assumes he kills Moon (that was, after all, the whole point of the mission). But actually, he doesn’t manage to. That’s some bad luck when you consider he basically blew up an entirely military base but didn’t manage to kill the one man he was after.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- We can add surfing to Bond’s list of skills. Bond actually uses the skill again later on in the film when he wind surfs off of the hanging race car.
- There is C4 hidden inside Bond’s surfboard. Behind a motorized compartment. Surely just a mechanical hatch would have been easier. I mean, surfboards are quite likely to get wet.
- Bond uses a small beacon hidden inside his surfboard to attract the plane
- Bond has a detonator hidden inside his watch.
SP will return…