We Defend the Indefensible
007, one character at the centre of a franchise spanning over 60 years. Yet throughout all the rich tapestry that is the James Bond universe, Die Another Day is the one film constantly regarded as the worst. Join me on this review of espionage, witty one-liners and parasailing as I explain why Die Another Day is, in fact, the best James bond movie ever made.
Die Another Day set a franchise record by grossing $431 million worldwide. Combine Pierce Brosnan’s other grossing’s as the character and he became the first Billion Dollar Bond’. Whilst the numbers don’t lie, the reviews have sometimes been slightly less than complimentary. James Berardinelli of Reelviews.net said, “Die Another Day is an exercise in loud explosions and excruciatingly bad special effects.” Whilst Larry Carroll of CountingDown.com praised it for having “magnificently balanced the film so that it keeps true to the Bond legend’.
The film has a 6.1/10 rating on IMDB and 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. This suggests that whilst, this is the lowest ranking Bond film, the majority are still in favour of this cheesy slice of Spy cinema.
The Last Great Bond Film
Die Another Day is a homage to You Only Live Twice, Ian Fleming’s eleventh James Bond novel. Yet almost two decades after Brosnan’s final venture as 007, his tenure as the character is often criticised for having not aged well. This is in part to the juxtaposing revamp of the franchise with Casino Royale in 2006. Rebranded as a more realistic, gritty Bond. This reimagining abandoned all the pomp and theatrics that Bond had built up over 40 years at that point.
Gone were the bombastic Bond-isms that were rife in Die Another Day. No invisible car, no sun laser, no Madonna… well it wasn’t all bad. Whilst a reintroduction to a modern Bond was necessary for the new millennium, it has immortalised Die Another Day as the last great Bond film. A tonged in cheek, wink and a nod to the characters iconic past, with a modern touch.
No Time to Sigh…
If your main issue with Die Another Day is its plot holes or overall ridiculousness, you’re trying too hard. To give credit director Lee Tamahori, this film gives you no time to question anything.
From Bond escaping exile. Then travelling to a luxury hotel. Escaping a murderous masseuse and uncovering Chinese Spies with an ashtray… all this action takes around five minutes.
The frantic nature of Die Another Day doesn’t give you time to stew in the insanity. It’s a steady diet of bizarre characters and a handful of narrative twists. All before throwing it all in the trash and moving on to something else equally exciting. Boredom is not an option here.
Jinx, the Ultimate Bond Girl?
Whether its Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me or Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies, the bond girl is a staple of the Bond canon. Each character was redefined, but perhaps never quite as much as Halle Berry’s Jinx.
The first heroic African-American Bond girl, and possibly the first that could ever be considered a genuine equal to Bond. So much so that there were genuine plans for a Jinx spin-off movie, however, plans for Daniel Craig’s reboot soon put the nail in that coffin.
Even the obligatory James Bond sex scene takes a different tone. Out is the problematic cohesion where the international man of mystery strings some lies together. With some martini-fueled double-entendres of course. In, is the strong Jinx. Taking charge and established as the new breed of female Spy with enormous sexual prowess.
Is her dialogue corny? Yes. Are there some undeniable iconic moments? Yes. For every yo momma’ line, the is a moment of badassery to compensate. Whether Berry was drawing us into moments of suspense by drowning in the ice place. Or established herself in the zeitgeist in her iconic knife-carrying bikini. Jinx was a huge step forward for a franchise with deep roots in misogyny.
Is the Plot Actually Great?
You might be thinking, this is an easy “ha, no”. But think about it for a second. James Bond has always been a British, post-colonial fever dream. Where this white man can go to these far, exotic lands and do as he pleases with whom he pleases. All with a seance of national pride as he does whatever he does, on behalf of the Queen … to save the world.
Whilst that is obviously no different here, we do have a deeper narrative at play with the villain of Tan-Sun Moon. He states “I studied at Oxford and Harvard. Majored in Western Hypocrisy.” Whilst we could just chalk this up as another cheap Bond line. The theme of Westernization plays not only on the surface of Die Another Day but within James Bond.
Tan-Sun Moon literally becomes a white British man and whilst this is an absurd narrative device, the thematic point is the same. Tan-Sun Moon’s objective is to conquer the western world, yet he must assimilate and become what he hates in order to try and take Bond down. There is a poetic irony at play here not to mention the god-like Gustav Graves who utilizes the power of the sun to try to kill his enemies.
Die Another Day is consistent with its insanity. It harnesses its plot to let you know that these aren’t just villains… it’s Graves the sinister solar-powered demi-god. It’s not just one South Korean murder after Bond, its Tan-Sun Moon the race-shifting reminder of Britain’s colonial history.
Bonds Hidden History
Die Another Day marked the 40th anniversary of the franchise. To mark the occasion there are scatted references throughout as only this cheeky, self-aware film could. The iconic shot of Jinx walking out of the sea in a bikini with the white belt and a diving knife is a. reference to Dr No (1962).
Graves’ engineer holds the Icarus control and petting it like a cat, another iconic image in tribute to From Russia with Love (1963). While Bond fences in a duel with Graves, the villain says, “Well, diamonds are for everyone.” A nod to Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Madonna’s character is introduced as a few bars of “Nobody Does it Better” is played. The official song of The is “A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies”, written by James Bond. Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, famously named Bond after the author as he believed it was the dullest name possible.
Even Q glances at the fourth wall when he hands Bond his new watch. “This is your twentieth, I believe” a direct remark to note that Die Another Day is the twentieth official James Bond film.
Yes, Madonna Is In it
People like to compare Madonna’s musical efforts to the iconic theme song of Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die or Shirly Bassey’s Goldfinger. But, you could argue that Madonna’s synthesised electro-pop theme song for Die Another Day was the perfect fit.
An artist famous for reinvention, with a new take on the orchestral Bond sound, seems fitting for a film where the main character is regenerated too. Plus, even if you hated the song at least the video was impressive. Shot as almost its own mini-film to accompany the Bond film. Madonna’s character Verity is seen held captive, duelling with herself and fighting her way free with yet more nods to Bonds rich history.
Her cameo was everything it needed to be, brief. A quick one-liner about “cockfights” and done. She slides through her scene as any celebrity cameo should and reaffirms the film’s sense of post – Cool Britannia’ self-awareness.
Die Another Day isn’t Madonna’s only track associated with an International Man of Mystery. She also went on to give us Beautiful Stranger. An awesome tune for the second Austin Powers movie.
The Final Act of Fantasy Before the Era of Realism
Die Another Day was released months after The Borne Identity (2002) began ushering in a new wave of Spy cinema. Much like Casino Royal (2006) the appetite for darker, slightly more believable heroes and situations was needed for a post 9/11 audience.
This is the first film of the franchise released after 11 September 2001. Die Another Day is a film with its head in the sand, looking for one last-ditch effort to give you escapism instead of another grim look into the mirror.
This is clear throughout the film. The longer you watch Die Another Day, the longer you fall down the rabbit hole of Bond. A Bond film tries to adapt with the time, yet pay respect to its history and it all becomes one fantastical implosion. Consider this film as a reflection of its time, like Moonraker.
Whether its overly ambitious CGI or the confident female heroine of Jinx, this Bond represents a changing of the guard. It’s impossible to tell if Die Another Day is a meta take on Bond or if it’s just one big blowout playing all the hits and then some.
That’s why I’m claiming that this is the ultimate Bond film. It encapsulates the whole franchise in 133 minutes and remains a cult classic. Bond is always ridiculous… but it’s far from boring.
And that’s why Die Another Day is the best James Bond movie. Is there anything we missed out that you think could’ve been on this list? Or are we way out of our depth with this argument? If so, leave us a comment below.
We defend more of the indefensible HERE.
Read IMDB information about Die Another Day HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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