Beware—Bond is back, but by “Bond”, I mean the old, misogynistic Bond from, well, pretty much every Bond film but 2006's Casino Royale.
Casino Royale marked a break from the longtime Bond tradition—a new Bond (Daniel Craig), a new director, and a restart to the aging franchise. Here we had a completely different take on the Bond character—not so funny, not campy at all, and much closer to Fleming's Bond. And the film reflected that darker, crueller Bond with its rapid cuts; handheld cameras; grittier, nastier action; more blood; serious, down-and-dirty fist fights; and nary a gadget, gizmo, or bimbo in sight, all inspired by the success of the Jason Bourne movies and the Parkour craze.
Even more impressively, for the first time we have a female lead in Eva Green's Vesper who is cooly professional, has her own agenda, and can hold her own against Bond. (Judi Dench, as M, is also a strong female figure who does as well as anyone in keeping Bond in line.)
Alas, Quantum of Solace is the old Bond back again. The teaser is fine, a beautifully shot car chase with Bond threading his Aston Martin DBX through dense traffic in the Italian Alps, pursued by machine-gun wielding villains. The chase is resolved, not by one of Q's magic gadgets but by Bond's driving skills alone. Then the movie gets dumb, fast.
The big warning comes with the opening title sequence. Whereas Casino Royale features Bond in a landscape based on the images from a deck of cards, with guns appearing as threats, Quantum brings back the silhouetted bimbos of old, gyrating amongst rephallicized pistols ejaculating bullets across the screen, accompanied by a gush of “smoke”.
The rest of the film isn't much better. It looks good, sure, and there are some nice action sequences. But the story seemed very choppy—we have a new evil organization, but despite their supposed ability to remain undiscovered for years whilst building their power and holdings, they seem to be incredibly disorganized and careless. And Bond gets to have meaningless sex with a girl with a standard stupid Bond-girl name (Strawberry Fields; seriously), who conveniently end up dead, along with a pile of baddies and a couple of friends. And M has nothing more important to do than fly around the world chasing after Bond. And America does deals with bad guys. And there are chases in cars, boats, and planes. And it all climaxes with a Bond-style exploding super-villain hideout spectacular. (Complete with blatant foreshadowing. Try not to laugh as loudly as I did when they set it up.).
Even the female lead, Olga Kurylenko's Camille, falls prey to the Bond stupidity ray, clinging to Bond to help her kill off the man who killed her family, despite her being an accomplished spy herself, who was doing pretty well right up until she met Bond.
Perhaps the saddest thing about the whole film is the way that it takes all the good aspects of Casino Royale and waters them down with some of the worst aspects of one of the Moore-era Bond films. But it throws away all of the things in those films that made them fun. No gadgets (and no Q). No super villain or evil group with a clearly defined purpose. No secret complex of doom (and, no, a hotel in the middle of a desert that uses hydrogen fuel cells just so they could blow it up instead of solar power really doesn't count). And no monologuing.
So be warned. If you had been turned off by Bond films but were lured back by Casino Royale's remix, especially the way the film allowed its female lead to be the professional they told us she was, you'll hate this film. If all you want is action, and don't care much about a sensible plot that you can actually follow, or a bad guy whose motives you can understand, you'll probably be okay with it. But if you liked the Bond bimbos, they're back. Maybe with the next film, Q and his campy gadgets and Bond's endless quips will be back, too.