Why Die Another Day is the worst-ever James Bond movie
Die Another Day was released amid much hype in 2002. It was Bond’s 40th anniversary, and marked the 20th screen outing for 007. Boasting another huge budget, outrageous stunts and outlandish villains, this film promised to be a witty, exciting and memorable addition to the series, both a tribute to and a celebration of the iconic franchise.
Yet something, or rather a number of things, went badly wrong. Somehow, the filmmakers lost sight of what makes a Bond movie successful and jettisoned the winning formula, replacing it with one similar to standard action fare. Whereas the best Bond movies are a brash but well-crafted mix of intrigue, action and style, Die Another Day tries too hard to keep pace with the typical chase-shoot-kill adventure movie.
The plot veers from the nonsensical to the downright insulting, hinging on the farcical notion of gene therapy and DNA transplants. Yes, Bond is given enough reasons to hop across the globe to sexy locations, blowing things up and delving into dangerous pursuits along the way, but the viewer never once has the impression that any of these events could have happened in the real world. Of course, a Bond fan must suspend disbelief when viewing one of the 007 movies, and their overblown, cartoon-like quality is part of what makes them so much fun to watch. But in Die Another Day, a line is crossed. Whereas the best Bond movies feature situations and plot lines that are highly improbable, this film takes a step into the impossible. There is a subtle but distinct difference.
A prime example of this is Bond’s vehicle in the movie, the invisible Aston Martin. Now, we are used to watching Q equip Bond with a series of jaw-droppingly bonkers gadgets, ranging from laser-watches to bullet-filled ski poles. But an invisible car is a giant leap into the realms of science-fiction, and one that feels instinctively wrong for viewers used to seeing Bond use his gadgets wisely rather than ostentatiously.
However, the main area in which Die Another Day fails to live up to Bond standards is its overuse of special effects. The Bond series has obviously relied on visual effects before and since, but in most cases (with the exception of Moonraker), these have been judicious, a case of simple camera trickery to enhance existing scenes. Examples of this are the use of green-screen for close-ups of actors during daredevil stunts. Almost always, the stunt has taken place for real, and the close-up is merely a way of encouraging the audience to believe that Roger Moore or Sean Connery performed it. Die Another Day makes egregious use of special effects to simulate a disintegrating plane, a helicopter tumbling from the sky and, worst of all, Bond surfing on a glacier wave. In each of these scenes, the CGI looks cheap, shoddy and amateur, even compared to other special-effects laden films from a decade ago.
There are several other reasons Die Another Day should be classed as the worst Bond movie. The tone is uneven: a dark, interesting premise involving Bond’s capture and subsequent torture is later squandered for cheap laughs and cringeworthy double entendres. The script sounds as though it was written by adolescents eager to provide Halle Berry with risqué retorts. And recurring characters are treated with contempt: Moneypenny, for example, usually an intelligent and witty sparring partner for Bond, is here reduced to a frumpy secretary with only one thing on her mind.
As the Bond series celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, it should be celebrated as a unique and groundbreaking film franchise that has entertained millions across the world. Unfortunately, Die Another Day does its reputation no favours, and is best forgotten by both ardent and casual Bond fans.
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