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Ranking the Bond Movies: #19 – Die Another Day (2002)

I’m actually a little bit surprised this ended up here. At first glance, I’d have said this woud go #22 or #21. And when Living Daylights dropped down in there, I was certain this would be #20. But no — it ended up here. In retrospect it’s not too surprising, but still, you’d think this would be a lock for bottom three.

The reason I put this higher than For Your Eyes Only is because I see a good movie here. There is actually a potential good movie here. And in execution, there’s even a passable movie here. The real problem with this is that there’s too much stuff in it. The chases are extended and unnecessary, the dialogue is horribly written, and Halle Berry is probably the most miscast Bond girl in franchise history. It’s rare to have someone who can act in the role of a Bond girl, since they’re typically given ridiculously bad dialogue. You’d think a real actor could make that stuff work, but no, she only makes it sound worse.

The film is just so overdone it teeters on the point of ridiculousness. And then you think about what the first twenty minutes of this movie are like, and you go, “Man, they really could have done something good here.” Bond in a North Korean prison, getting tortured, going out to find who the traitor is — how the fuck do you end up with invisible cars and a Korean guy becoming a white guy?

There’s no way you can honestly tell me this movie belongs anywhere outside the bottom five Bond movies of all time. It’s just not very good amongst the other films of the franchise. The real shame is that they had a chance here to make something good. And they fucked up the end game.

The film begins in North Korea. Oh boy.

Bond is fucking surfing.

Along with someone else, apparently.

Two people.

Neat surfboard. Doesn’t that fuck up the balance?

They intercept a helicopter with a dude with a briefcase who is going to make a drop, and Bond takes the guy’s briefcase.

And his sunglasses. (Product what?)

TokyoRemix:

Shockingly enough, this wasn’t product placement. We get that later with specially designed Persol sunglasses. But just wait. I’m gonna tear apart “Buy Another Day.”

They’re forever.

Well, not when you put it like that.

So they then arrive at the happiest place on Earth.

Of course that’s what Asians do in their spare time.

Though there is that nice reveal of a dude being in the bag. So I’ll actually give them a pass on that one.

Also, the dude kicking the bag, he’s our Bond villain. Colonel Moon.

Oh look, he’s got a car collection. (I know someone who will be happy about that.)

TokyoRemix:

It’s a weird collection. I see a Ford GT 40, probably a kit car, a 1997 Porsche 993 Turbo S, the 2002 Jaguar XKR, a Ferrari F355 GTS (like Xenia’s in GoldenEye) that’s randomly a coupe later, and in other shots we catch a Mercedes SL to the left of that, as well as a Ferrari 360 Modena to the right of the Ford.

Basically, the point here is that Colonel Moon is trading guns for blood diamonds. Bond is there to make sure that doesn’t happen. And our primary henchman is Zao, Moon’s assistant. We’ll talk about Moon and Zao later, after they go to White Castle.

Pyongyang Drift.

Haven’t seen a hovercraft in Bond in a while. I like it.

Anyway, Zao figures out who Bond is, and Moon blows up Bond’s helicopter.

TokyoRemix:

Sony Ericsson: For all your spy-identifying needs!

Only, Moon’s father, General Moon, is coming over, and Moon’s not supposed to be playing with weapons. So he tells them to get the weapons the fuck out of there and kill Bond. (“Shit, dad’s coming! Put everything back the way it was!”)

Only –

TokyoRemix:

Well thank God he had his trusty Omega Seamaster!

The only good North Korean is a dead North Korean.

“Miii-iike!”

Oh, look, they can’t shoot.

WHY WOULD YOU SHOOT THE CARS?

Oh… that was a Porsche.

TokyoRemix:

I will never forgive you for this. Eon, you need to stop blowing up cars. So many other things explode, let those blow up instead.

And all those barrels, too…

Remember, this is a demilitarized zone.

Best. Face. Ever.

Also, apparently his Uzi did that. Sure.

This is actually a pretty good action sequence, all things considered.

These is professional drifters. This is also exactly how I picture North Korea — barren wasteland everywhere.

Not quite the Casino Royale flip.

Not the trees! There are probably only like eight of those in the entire country.

Jesus, you really fucking don’t like trees, do you?

Yeah, right – like they actually have signs in these places.

Crikey, these fucking mines are like stingrays.

TokyoRemix:

Oh NO. Stingin’ in the Vein.

(Mike Note; Absolutely no one got that, but it was hilarious, so laugh anyway.)

So Bond and Moon fight on top of the hovercraft (P.S. I like how – and I know it’s digital, but I’m still okay with it – how they tinted the opening. The whole thing feels very grayscale. Which is nice, since I expect North Korea is a place that is just devoid of light and color and sunshine and happiness. I know they did it for narrative purposes, but let’s be real here about which one is actually closer to the truth.)

TokyoRemix:

Unpleastantville.

No shot in action movies feels more fake than this one. Remember Independence Day? With the fucking dog? Come on. Let’s try something that doesn’t look obviously green-screened.

And that’s the end of Colonel Moon.

… or is it?

Yeah… you just killed his son, and are in the most ungodly place on Earth… I’m sure it’ll end well. The rest of them invite you to stay with them. I’m sure he’ll do the same.

Close.

This then leads to our credit sequence, set to Madonna’s “Die Another Day.”

Actually one of the best sequences they’ve ever done. I like that it works narratively too.

I can’t say the same about the song, though. (Yikes.)

Anyway, Bond ends up getting free on a prisoner exchange. The British somehow have Zao.

Aww, shit, look who’s in the house. What up, Madsen.

And Bond is immediately drugged and taken in for medical analysis.

They see that he’s clean, and that the North Koreans tortured him by letting scorpions sting him, then giving him the antidote, just so he’d feel the pain but not die.

There’s a great line where they go, “His internal organs seem unaffected. Liver not too good. It’s definitely him, then.”

Aww shit, Judi’s up in this bitch!

She’s not happy to see him. Turns out Zao tried to pull some horrible shit before he was caught. (Pretty sure he raped a baby and pulled his dick out at a U2 concert or something.) M thinks they spent too much to get Bond back.

We also get an interesting little aside where M mentions that Bond had his cyanide pill, so he wouldn’t have to go through the torture or give up information, and Bond is like, “I threw that away years ago.” Which might give us valuable insight into the character, or is basically his way of saying, “Bitch, please – they can torture me all they want, they ain’t getting anything.” Hard to tell.

M also thinks he gave up the top American agent in the North Korean high command. A signal was sent from his prison (he was the only person in it), so they figure he cracked and was giving up information, so they had to get him out of there.

I like the subtext of the whole conversation. I like that they never come out and say that she cares about his wellbeing, but it’s just there.

Bond says that Moon had someone in the west working for him. He says he’s gonna go find him. M says that ain’t happening – they gotta send him to be evaluated. He’s no longer a double-o.

“You’re no use to anyone, now.” Ouch.

He then figures out a way to get out of there – he gets his heart rate down to the point where he flatlines.

CALL A CODE! It’s not sarcoidosis.

TokyoRemix:

“HIS! HEART! IS! COLD!” Shaking my head.

(Mike Note: It’s actually the “But don’t go in!” line, but I got it. The joke here is based on one I’ve made about, how, every time I listen to “Goldfinger,” when Shirley Bassey says, “But don’t go in!”, in my head I hear/sing it in a Katharine Hepburn voice and do that little head shake thing she did when she got older because she had that disorder that caused her to shake. I never said it was classy, I just said it was a joke.)

And as soon as he’s awake – ZAP!

“I’m checking out.”

Oh, she want the magic dick.

Oh look – we’re on a boat motherfucker. I like when movies do that. Put someone in a hospital room or something that could be anywhere, and then reveal it’s not where you’d expect it to be.

Hey look, it’s the Miramax logo.

Nah, that ain’t a backdrop on a screen at all.

No shirt, no shoes, no problem. This isn’t even the weirdest way he’s shown up. (Ask him about the time with the llamas and the speedo.)

And just like that – he’s back.

TokyoRemix:

Say, is that a Norelco electric razor? What else can turn that North Korean prison camp look into the picture of society?

Oh, this is Asia. They send hookers up to the room like it’s free peanuts.

“I’ve been getting my dick wet for 14 months, but not the way I’d like it to have been.”

TokyoRemix:

I’m sure she can accommodate. Her name is “Peaceful Fountains of Desire.” That’s a squirter’s name if I ever heard one.

(Mike Note: I don’t know why, but for some reason I just got the image in my head of him activating the squirting after he whistled the first few bars of “Rule Brittania” into her snatch.)

Oh shit – she got a gun.

Dude, you’re in Asia. This shit is standard operating procedure.

His friend at the hotel is Chinese intelligence. Bond knew that. He makes him a deal – Zao killed some Chinese agents before he was caught. So Bond says he’ll kill Zao if they can get him into North Korea.

I’d like to stop and point out that the premise behind this movie is solid, and that the only real problem is how ridiculous they took certain elements. They really only fucked up the execution here, and only because they executed a bit too much. Most people forget that.

Anyway, the Chinese set up him real good. And send him to Cuba, where Zao is.

Welcome to Cuba.

Oh shit, they drop a Universal Exports reference.

He gets some help from some Cuban contacts and finds out Zao is on an island.

Shutter Island.

Bond car! (One of them.)

TokyoRemix:

Huge fan of the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. Bond tells his contact he needs a fast car, and the guy sort of chuckles before we cut to this shot. This was a fast car for its day, though, with between 190 and 245hp based on the engine. The car’s main selling point was that it had a retractable hardtop, making it effectively a coupe. This ’57 Fairlane is a homage to one we see with its top up, chasing Bond and getting blown off the road by Fiona Volpe in Thunderball.

Nice salsa version of the Bond theme here.

Oh, and then this happens:

The correct reaction is, “Damn, look at them titties!”

Titties be bouncin’.

This is Jinx. Our Bond girl.

A word about Jinx. (Hopefully one that includes how awful Halle Berry’s performance is. How is it possible a professional actress is a worse Bond girl than models who don’t speak English as their first language?)

TokyoRemix:

So, I don’t know if you guys noticed, but this is supposed to be an homage to Ursula Andress coming out of the ocean in Dr. No, one of the single most iconic moments of the whole franchise. She’s even got the bikini and Honey Ryder’s trademark diving knife. It’s not done nearly as well as the original, and there’s none of the same dynamic. Feels pretty wrong. They could have just had her come out of the water in another way and we get the same basic effect of, “Halle be thy name.”

For the rest of the movie, she’s the seemingly competent CIA agent who starts off as a rival for Bond and then becomes more and more useless. This is why they have to be careful about making Bond girls secret agents — no matter how good she is from the start, she has to mess up (or at least be vulnerable) later so Bond can save her. This formula’s been a bit played out. Halle is a good actress, but this character needs some serious work. Eon also enjoys making the CIA look like either incompetents or assholes — just once, I’d like someone to imagine a run-in between Roger Moore’s Bond and Jason Bourne. Let me know how that one turns out.

He says he’s an ornithologist, and flirts with her. The writing is pretty bad.

TokyoRemix:

The flirting is awful. His ornithologist thing is a reference to the book “Birds of the West Indies,” which is a real book written by a real ornithologist named James Bond. Ian Fleming owned the book and used the name for his character. We see Bond ask to borrow it, some binoculars, and a pistol in his Cuban contact’s office. Presumably he used it to study up on the local avian varieties.

She want the dick.

She got the dick.

This sex scene is a bit excessive. I don’t actually need to see her ridin’ the dick.

And climaxing.

Didn’t you get all of that out of you in Monster’s Ball? This is Bond, for christ’s sake.

All right. We get it. They’re fucking.

TokyoRemix:

Is that Bollinger I see? Nothing like some Bollinger when you’re…anytime, really. They paid us to say that.

(Mike Note: I never got that check.)

“Well I guess I ain’t getting any morning sex.”

Bond sees Jinx bartering passage out to the island. He finds – another way – to get there.

TokyoRemix:

I really enjoyed this bit. Bond knocks this guy the fuck out and enters his room, robs him and then kidnaps him. Meanwhile, his Cuban prostitute is acknowledging all of this and even says ‘hello’ nonchalantly. As if she were in on it. “Luis sent you, right? You’re early. We’ll split the take at the club later.”

(Mike Note: I like how we all just assume she’s a prostitute. It’s fucking Cuba.)

While there, he starts sneaking around. He finds a back room, naturally, where some evil shit is likely going down.

Meanwhile, Jinx is meeting with some surgeon, who explains what he does – DNA replacement. They take the DNA from “people who won’t be missed” and give it to the patients.

Tits.

He dead.

Tits.

While sneaking about, Bond finds his old buddy – Zao.

White Castl… yeah, you get it.

And Jinx basically finds the exposition explaining what’s going on.

This is your movie right here. Kill the fuck and it’s over. (As far as we know.)

Anyway – they fight.

And Zao escapes.

“I don’t have insurance!”

Jinx has a chance to kill that running fuck –

— but misses. And then this happens:

“I’ve gotten out of tickets before.”

Horrible CGI.

See the difference?

I like how you go to arrest the one person with the gun, but totally ignore the other person with a gun.

Oh look – he left some blood diamonds behind.

They lead to Gustav Graves.

Also — “London Calling”? Really?

TokyoRemix:

How else are we going to know where he’s going? It’s not like they’re going to cut to a scene at Buckingham Palace, or something.

Se we meet Gustav Graves, and Miranda Frost.

First, a word about Graves. Not much of one, since, as we’ll find out, we never actually meet Gustav Graves.

TokyoRemix:

What a dick. We’re later told that Graves modeled himself and his smirk after Bond’s arrogant ways. But Brosnan never makes it look this dickish. He’s an adrenaline junkie who loves speed and thrills. We see him doing high speed runs in a rocket car over ice for….I don’t know why, really. He’s also an Olympic-level fencer, but so is basically everyone else in this movie. He has a lot of diamonds — because they’re forever.

The joke about all of this is that the dude that was just described is dead, even though we don’t know it.

We’ll wait to talk about Frost, since – well – we’ll wait.

There’s an awful scene with reporters here. I’ve always hated reporter scenes. Sure, they’re incredibly helpful in doling out exposition, but they’re really easy to fuck up and have sound awful. See: this scene.

Also, I feel like, were this made six years earlier, Hugh Grant would have definitely been cast as Graves.

Brace yourselves, folks – the fencing scene is coming.

This is officially the point where the movie starts going off the rails. They made it about 50 minutes mostly unscathed (only a few cringe-worthy moments, but mostly on the level), but now – get ready. The suck is coming.

Yeah, it’s fucking Madonna.

For the record: not British. Not a good choice for the theme song. No point whatsoever for her to be in the movie. Understanding? None. Bafflement? Supreme.

What follows is a series of awful double entendres about sword fighting and penises that would make even Roger Moore say, “I’m glad I didn’t have to say that shit.”

The joke here is that Madonna’s character is a lesbian. Or doesn’t like dick. Both of which are hilarious to me.

Madonna’s character’s name is also Verity. I’ve taken Latin, and let me personally say – fuck you.

Here we get “Bond. James Bond.” They teased it before but gave it to us now.

No, he doesn’t look remotely Asian.

So they sword fight. I’ll spare you the screenshots. Bond wins. (They’ve established this all the way back in Dr. No. Bond always wins.)

TokyoRemix:

Remember when I said that everyone in this movie is an Olympic-level fencer? Madonna, Graves, Frost…and apparently Bond could be on the British Olympic team for just about any sport and win medals.

They stop in the middle and Bond basically says, “I know all about you and your diamonds. I’m the one that fucked up your shit in Cuba.” Which totally rings false to me. I liked it so much better when shit went unsaid and it was all layered on top of, “Let’s have a friendly contest. Please, stay at my villa,” and then they put a fucking scorpion in his room because they knew it was him.

Now they’re using real swords. Oh boy.

Yawn. If it’s not on a pirate ship or a battlefield, I don’t give a fuck about a sword fight.

This scene is a perfect example of how they fucked this movie up. Why do you need to turn this into an action scene that goes all over the fucking grounds? Why can’t the competition itself be the drama? They take what could work as a scene and then overdo it to the point where it’s just boring.

TokyoRemix:

The value in this scene is about Bond provoking Graves and drawing out the villainous side. We don’t need to have an extended action scene to show Graves losing his usual composure, which is the point. He can lose it for five seconds and we’ve got the scene. Maybe he misses and slices a chair by accident, just enough to show him intimidated by Bond. With this, they try to kill each other in public, trash the place, and endanger other people in the process. How is everyone letting it slide?

Graves then invites Bond to Iceland. And Bond gets a package. (Nice dropping of “Commander Bond.” See – when they’re not fucking up royally, they are doing a good job of making it a Bond movie.)

Ah… Florence.

He then goes into an underground train station that’s apparently no longer in use. (Was it one of the air raid shelters from the war or something?) And there –

Judi!

M tells Bond he’s reinstated and offers to help him. (They also hint at some post-9/11 shit here, which is really not what I wanted to see. This movie is 9/11 to me.) She sends him to Iceland, where Graves is unveiling something called “Icarus.” (And here I know exactly one line that will be appearing in the script later.)

Oh yeah, then we cut to this weird training exercise thing that makes no sense at all this late in the film. Of course we reveal that it’s a Q gadget, but still – why? Maybe you could have just introduced Q the old fashioned way. Maybe we didn’t need yet another action sequence for the sake of having it.

I will say though – the first gadget Q shows him, the ring that emits a high frequency sound that breaks glass – I can buy that. It’s actually a plausible gadget (that really works well inside the plot). But then this happens –

It’s our official Bond car for the film… and it’s invisible.

TokyoRemix:

The Aston Martin “Vanish”: brushing aside the simplest issues with this car, like how any open gaps — between spokes, the grille, etc — can’t be invisible, why do we need an invisible car in the first place? It only gets used for sneaking around (which he should be doing on foot) and for disappearing before Zao’s final attack. It’s completely useless otherwise. Zao’s spy car has infared imaging, which renders it nothing more than a gimmick. So much for an invisible car — it even has a telltale shimmer (like Predator)!

I guess the one compelling argument to make it invisible is that 2002 was smack in the middle of Aston Martin’s worst-ever era for styling. Astons usually give me goosebumps; the 2002 Vanquish is so strangely unappealing it gives me hives. In retrospect, they could’ve gone with the DB7 Vantage V12 GT, which was new for 2002 and looked slightly better, but this car was never going to be a success.

Also — Bond leaves without getting a full briefing on the car, and even shreds the manual with the guns. They seem to be motion-sensitive, but they don’t kill Bond or John Cleese as they’re walking around it. Okay. Magic guns that only shoot enemies and instruction manuals! It also has grille-fired missiles, because apparently the car has no engine, and it uses magic to move, too.

(Mike Note: So a pretty positive review, I’d say. To me, I see this car and say – it’s the kind of thing that would be used in a Bond film, and yet, in this particular Bond film, it’s an absolute joke. (Remember, this is a franchise that made you go – “Car that turns into a submarine? Awesome!”) So it’s actually not that horrible a move. Just – maybe don’t have it chased around by a sun laser. If not for that, I could buy the car (for the most part).)

Anyway, we then cut to M talking to –

Miranda Frost. Now would be a good time to talk about our Bond villain chick.

TokyoRemix:

She’s pretty. Pretty EVIL! Oh, snap, he’s got jokes. But seriously, ten to one, there are no windows in her house. 

I don’t really buy her character. Let’s take a closer look at her back story. Goes to college, befriends the only North Korean kid there. He was shy and got teased for his exotic car collection, but she could see the psychopathic, maniacal, genetic science project that he would grow up to be. They fence together, and when she competes at the Olympics, he orchestrates a drug OD for her top competitor resulting in disqualification and a gold medal for Miranda. She then goes to work for MI6, presumably to help him by becoming a mole.

So — the difference between a silver medal and the gold in a single Olympic event was enough to get this chick to sell out and betray her country to help a guy bent on North Korea’s world domination? Even Uganda got a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Are we to believe she’s THAT easily bought?

She also just stands there obediently when Graves tells Bond that she’s basically his slave. Oh, no, not white slavery! Bond does her — caribou style — and she has a ridiculous ending. Not too high on my list of Bond girls. 

So M talks to her and basically lets us know that even though she seemed like a villain chick and is an MI6 agent – she’s still working for the villain. That’s how action movies work. They make one move and show you three moves ahead.

Frost also she says she absolutely would not sleep with Bond. Remember that in about four paragraphs.

We then cut to Iceland, where Graves keeps a pretty subtle hideout, I’d say.

Graves then shows up and there’s a horrible exchange where he basically hints at his true identity. (It’s not horribly written, just horribly delivered.)

And there’s Jinx. In another car.

TokyoRemix:

Jinx drives a Ford Thunderbird. It’s got that retro futuristic styling we’ve all come to hate — this is the PT Cruiser of sports cars. Of course, it’s not involved with any chases because it’s way too slow. This car is a sad, sad piece of metal, with all the inbreeding of an 17th century European royal family. It was only in the movie because of Ford’s three-movie product placement deal that began with this movie. It doesn’t belong here, but it’s here. Gotta give Jinx something Ford and American.

(Mike Note: In all fairness — I like the car. Of course, I know nothing about cars, so I see the red and the design and I go, “That’s pretty interesting.” So — there’s that.)

TokyoRemix:

Back in 2002, Ford still owned both Aston Martin and Jaguar, which is why they ended up in the movie. Die Another Day is the prime example for why really bad choices in terms of product placement ruined Bond’s whole car situation between Licence to Kill and Casino Royale. I still contend that until Casino Royale came out, the last passable Bond car was the V8 Vantage from 1987’s The Living Daylights, although I’m somewhat lenient with the BMW Z8 from The World is Not Enough. Ultimately, the best cars in Die Another Day were the ones owned by Colonel Moon and the ones we see in Cuba.

“I’d recognize dat ass anywhere.”

So they talk. Berry is terrible.

Then we cut to Zao arriving and talking to Graves. And we find out Graves is Moon. (The performances here are awful.)

Let’s talk about him now, I guess.

TokyoRemix:

I already sort of talked about Graves, who is actually Moon after gene therapy. Apparently you can just rewrite someone’s genetic code by giving them some bone marrow and putting a Lite-Brite on their face.

Colonel Moon is the sun (Hah. Shoot me.) of a North Korean general. He studied at Oxford and Harvard, majoring in “Western Hypocrisy” — I can’t believe how bad this writing is. On returning to North Korea, he amasses a private army through arms deals and blood diamond trading. His ultimate plan is to use Icarus, which we’re about to see, to clear the DMZ for his army to take over South Korea. What an awful villain.

And then Graves introduces Icarus, which is a satellite that looks like this –

It reflects sunlight.

Bond follows the controls to Icarus into a heavily guarded building. So what does he do? Uses his invisible car, of course.

And he sneaks around, they find him, he gets out of there. Nothing of substance.

Then Frost comes to fuck. Though she says she’s only doing it to help out a fellow agent. Yeah, whatever.

See?

Jinx then breaks into the building Bond was trying to break into, and comes within seconds of killing Zao.

But Graves has an electric glove (don’t ask).

CG what?

Oh look, Bond has a laser watch.

And so does Graves.

So Bond breaks into the place, discovers Jinx is there, then –

Oh boy… a fight scene in between lasers.

Explain to me how this makes any sense and how they’re all not killed instantly. There comes a point where the choreography is just too perfect.

So that happened.

And then Bond realizes Moon is alive.

“So you live to die another day.”

Too bad. It’s a good title.

Oh, well there’s a fucking surprise.

The backstory behind this is pretty dumb. See, earlier, we found out from Madonna (in some hilariously bad exposition, but I guess that goes unsaid at this point) that Frost was a world-class fencer. And she won the fencing championships by default, because her opponent OD’d on steroids. Turns out, Graves/Moon organized it. (I wonder if he used “The Doctor.”) And because of that, she became a double agent. (Really?)

Bond escapes (as if there was even a fucking question). And –

Yeah. That’s happening.

Oh shit. Icarus is a Transformer.

This motherfucker just seeks out trees everywhere, doesn’t he?

(Also – this place is all ice. Why the fuck are the trees green?)

I’m not sure which is more realistic, Bond outrunning a laser that shoots sunlight, or John Cusack outrunning the end of the world in a limousine.

Computers? No, this is clearly all practical.

Speed Racer would have handled it better.

I love that the sunlight is just hovering there like the fucking magnet from The Brave Little Toaster.

So that happened.

So you guys think Brosnan took a lot of surfing lessons for that, or…?

Wow, she kicked him in the face real good.

HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THAT?

TokyoRemix:

You can ride one of the many exciting vehicles made by Ski-Doo, just like James Bond!

(Mike Note: It would be great if someone offered henchmen lessons, either as a joke, showing them how to miss and run into trees and shit, or legitimately. Because seriously, that was a giant fucking yellow and black thing in a sea of white. Either on the ground or RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE, how do you not see that coming? Good help must really be hard to find. I guess he wasn’t an olympic athlete.)

So Bond returns to the hideout, and oh yeah, he has an invisible car.

What the fuck did he need a manual for if it tells you all the shit the car has in it?

So that happens, and then the chase is on.

Zao got a spy car too.

TokyoRemix:

Zao’s car is a Jaguar XKR, which would normally be the most appealing of these three cars, but in this case, it’s tied with the other two for last place. When Zao sees the snowmobile go flying, he thinks, “Right! An invisible car!” and hops in his own spy car. Since he chases invisible cars regularly, his Jag is outfitted with a prominently displayed thermal imaging unit that acts as auto-targeting for his dorsally-mounted minigun. Bet he regretted taking that convertible to the arctic.

The Jag also has grille missiles, cause it’s magic too. Oh, side missiles, in case the grille missiles run out. When they cut to his display screen, it shows the full armament of his car, and there are missiles in the entire front half of the car; I’m not exaggerating about there being no place for an engine.

And no way you’re fitting any bodies in this trunk, cause we got mortars up in here! And a giant battering ram thing, which is the only thing that seems to frighten Bond. Hey, isn’t that battering ram where the missiles are suppo– ah, fuck it.

Missile fight!

TokyoRemix:

Bond has grille-mounted machine guns, too! Lots of space at the front of a car when there’s not a V12 engine in there and you can drive on magic. He’s also got the spiked tires that he uses to avoid Zao, but doesn’t use them during the whole rest of that chase on the ice.

My fundamental issues with this car become more apparent when you consider that he’s ramming shit CONSTANTLY. The snowmobile hits him, no problem. Then he rams Zao, in spite of having a nearly inexhaustible supply of comic book weapons. Then he hits two snowmobiles and sends them flying, and all of this after taking minigun fire for like five minutes. We can assume that the car’s been strengthened a bit for spy use, despite already being the fat kid of Aston Martins. So now we’ve got a car that should weigh roughly the same as an Escalade, with an invisibility cloak and missiles where the engine should be. Magic!

This is one of the worst Bond cars simply because it comes off like something a five-year-old thought up. “Missiles everywhere! And guns that shoot anything, even bad guy missiles! And it can’t get damaged no matter what! It’s the fastest car there is! And it’s INVISIBLE!” Are we sure this wasn’t made by Mattel?

What’s funny is that Zao’s guy probably does have a Q in his name.

Sure.

TokyoRemix:

It’s an homage to the Goldfinger DB5. It has a trick roof and passenger side ejector seat. I guess we’ll skip how he slides back that roof panel while all 4000 pounds of asshole car are pressing it into the ice.

Oh, yeah – they go to kill Jinx too.

Pretty sure there are some spots on P-2.

Zao dead.

So apparently that works.

And now basically we’re in that final portion – let’s go get them at their last stand.

In North Korea.

Right, like they have grass there.

Oh boy, a plane ending.

Graves/Moon then brings his father, General Moon (remember him?), down to see him.

As he destroys the DMZ.

Papa Moon don’t like that.

Goodnight Moon.

Bond put a hole in the plane. Shouldn’t there be a rule that movies can’t remind you of better movies?

Of course that had to happen.

TokyoRemix:

You’re gonna wanna be careful. Even the best Russian An-124s are held together with duct tape. This is a North Korean model. I’m surprised it even flies.

TokyoRemix:

I don’t know what kind of weird bra contraption Miranda’s wearing here, but it’s working for me. Get out of that camo, Halle.

(Mike Note: It’s actually working for me too. I’d even consider still hitting it even after the knife went through her chest. …only for a few seconds! I’m sure the emptied bowels would dissuade me within twenty seconds.)

So that’s happening.

And that.

Knifed the bitch.

TokyoRemix:

What the shit. So, yet again, we have an Olympic fencer with a sword being outdone by a random agent. Halle Berry playing Shank the Skank. Pinning The Art of War to her was a little much.

(Mike Note: Petition to make Shank the Skank an olympic event.)

Goodnight other Moon.

Just like John Cusack.

Oh, yeah – this happens.

And then this happens.

TokyoRemix:

Yeah, put the Lamborghini Diablo face down, sticking out of a North Korean rice paddy. Or mud patty, or whatever. What do North Koreans eat, when they do?

(Mike Note: Hope.)

But anyway – they’re fucking.

With blood diamonds.

Final lines:

“I’m so good.”

“Especially when you’re bad.”

Jesus. This had the potential to be so good from the first thirty minutes, and then from the fencing scene on, it just went totally and completely off the rails. The bad writing is one thing — this was bad plotting, and bad execution. Bad dialogue doesn’t explain why you have an invisible car and a Korean guy suddenly becoming a white guy. And why Madonna is a fucking fencing instructor. It seems like this one was more about the money than the storytelling. But hey, if it got them to realize what they did and learn from it (and from the direction the franchise is currently headed, they definitely learned from it), I can accept this being bad, and instead of shitting on it, can think about the good things this does and play the better version of this movie in my head. Plus, look at the three films below this on the list — it could have been worse.

Final Thoughts on Die Another Day:

TokyoRemix:

Could have been so, so much better. There’s a lot of potential here, but the dialogue is shitty, the plot goes way off the deep end, the car is a mess, the action sequences are too long and lacking in substance…need I go on? I like to watch the first 40 or so minutes of this movie, shut it off, and then pretend the rest of it makes even a bit of sense.

Finally — product placement. I covered some of what you could see in the screenshots here, but there was so much more, from Finlandia vodka to labeled Brioni suits on the bed in Hong Kong. Skyfall is getting criticized for having around $46 million in product placement deals. Adjusted for inflation, Die Another Day‘s product placement totaled over $150 million. We noticed.

My Final Thoughts:

There was product placement in this movie?

– – – – –

Official Bond Number: #20

Release Date: November 20, 2002 (UK)

November 22, 2002 (US)

Run Time: 133 minutes

Budget: $142 million

Box Office: $160.9 million domestically, $432 million worldwide

Title Song: “Die Another Day,” by Madonna

Music By: David Arnold

Based On: Nothing, really. Mostly just Bond.

Director: Lee Tamahori

Writer: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade

First Line: “Look, what is this? I’m supposed to…”

Last Line: “We really have to get these back.” “Still the good guys, huh?” “I’m still not quite sure how good you are.” “I am so good.” “Especially when you’re bad.”

– – – – –

Cast:

Pierce Brosnan, as James Bond
Judi Dench, as M
John Cleese, as Q
Samantha Bond, as Miss Moneypenny
Halle Berry, as Jinx Johnson
Will Yun Lee, as Colonel Moon
Toby Stephens, as Gustav Graves / Colonel Moon
Rick Yune, as Zao
Rosamund Pike, as Miranda Frost
Michael Madsen, as Damian Falco
Lawrence Makoare, as Mr. Kil
Colin Salmon, as Charles Robinson (MI6 Chief of Staff)

– – – – –

Bond Villain:

  • Colonel Moon (and, in a way, Gustav Graves)

Bond Girl:

  • Jinx Johnson

Secondary Villain:

  • None, really.

Secondary Bond Girl:

  • None.

Bond Villain Chick:

  • Miranda Frost

Henchmen:

  • Zao
  • Mr. Kil

Allies:

  • Actually… none.

Other Important Characters:

  • Damian Falco
  • General Moon

– – – – –

Locations:

  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Havana, Cuba
  • London
  • Iceland

– – – – –

Cars:

  • Aston Martin V12 Vanquish (Bond)
  • Jaguar XKR (Zao)
  • Ford Thunderbird (Jinx)
  • Ford Fairland (Bond in Cuba)

– – – – –

Gadgets:

  • Bond’s surfboard has a hidden panel with communications, explosives and his Walther P99.
  • Bond’s ring emits an ultra-high frequency sound that can break glass.
  • His watch has a laser beam and detonator.
  • He has that little breathing apparatus for underwater just like in Thunderball.
  • The virtual combat simulator glasses Q has.

– – – – –

Trivia:

  • Halle Berry is the first Oscar winner to play a Bond girl. (And second, I believe, person to be in a Bond film after winning an Oscar, after Christopher Walken.)
  • This is the first time Bond is shown with a beard.
  • Zao is the first Korean henchman since Oddjob.
  • Apparently Pierce Brosnan lobbied for Bret Ratner to be hired as director. Mecifully, the Broccolis said fuck that. Why? They didn’t like his previous work. (Great call there.)
  • Foreign title translations: (Brazil) A New Day to Die, (Portugal) You Die in Another Day, (Argentina, Peru & Venezuela) Another Day to Die, (Poland) Death Comes Tomorrow, (Czech Republic) Don’t Die Today, (Russia) Die, But Not Today, (Finland and Italy) Death Can Wait.
  • This is only the second Bond film to show Bond’s actual office (the other being On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
  • This is also the only gun barrel sequence in Bond history to actually show the bullet zooming by the frame. (Yeah… about that…)
  • Icarus was originally going to be called Solaris until they realized Soderbergh was remaking that movie.
  • This is the first time a Bond villain was played by two actors.
  • This is the first Bond movie to open in an even-numbered year since The Man with the Golden Gun. (That’s interesting… which Bond movies are even years and which are odd years? … the even years are Dr. No, Goldfinger, Man with the Golden Gun, this, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. I like weird shit like that.) Apparently this would have been ready to go for 2001, but they delayed production so it could come out on the 40th anniversary of Bond.
  • The song “Die Another Day” peaked at #8 on the US pop charts. (Jesus.)
  • I’ll quote this direct from IMDB: “Roger Moore actively voiced his displeasure with the film, citing the invisible car and the weak CGI as being a low for the series.”
  • Apparently they almost had Madonna be the one to say, “Bond. James Bond.” Isn’t it weird finding out that the film dodged more bullets than the ones that are already stuck in it?
  • Since it was the 40th anniversary of Bond, apparently they deliberately referenced all the previous films in the series. Here are some examples:
    • Halle Berry walking out of the ocean is just like Ursula Andress in Dr. No. (They also use the synthesizer sounds from the opening credits as Bond escapes the hospital boat.)
    • The shoe with the poison-tipped blade from From Russia with Love is in Q’s lab, and they repeat the line of the Bond girl saying, “My friends call me (name),” and Bond saying, “Mine call me James Bond.”
    • The laser scene, for one, is a clear Goldfinger reference. Q also repeats the line, “I never joke about my work, 007.” And the fencing scene is apparently supposed to be like the golfing scene (which says a lot). Not to mention the depressurized plane cabin and the electricity.
    • Q’s lab also has the jetpack from Thunderball, and Bond also uses an underwater breathing apparatus like the one in that film.
    • You Only Live Twice is referenced vaguely. Jinx enters the ice palace the way the ninjas enter the volcano, and they also (sort of) fake Bond’s death so he can move around a little freer. They don’t really reference this one that much.
    • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — the acronym is written on Moneypenny’s desk at the end, and in the car chase on the ice, the score references the theme from the film.
    • Diamonds Are Forever — diamonds play a pretty big part in the film, and there’s the whole  satellite that turns into a laser that fucks shit up part as well. Oh, and the villain changes his appearance. That’s also a big one.
    • Live and Let Die — the laser blowing up the North Korean land mines is reminiscent of Kananga’s poppy fields going up. Bond also apparently uses a pistol in the film like the one he uses on San Monique.
    • The Man with the Golden Gun — well, the solar-powered weapon is a dead giveaway. They also reference Scaramanga’s funhouse in the hospital, with the mirrors. And MI6’s hospital is set up off the coast of Hong Kong in a ship. (Oh, and Jinx has a diamond in her navel, like the belly dancer with Scaramanga’s bullet.)
    • The Spy Who Loved Me — the Union Jack parachute, and the flooding of the ice palace is kind of like Atlantis. And apparently they play a few bars of “Nobody Does It Better” in the score when they introduce Madonna.
    • Moonraker — Bond coming up from underwater in the ice palace is like him coming up in Drax’s hideout. There’s also someone named Chang in both films. And Moon going over the waterfall is kind of like Jaws going over as well.
    • For Your Eyes Only — Bond’s diving helmet is in Q’s lab, and Bond hanging off the ice cliff is also a bit like the scene of him scaling Kristatos’ hideout.
    • Octopussy — Q has both the crocodile submarine and the MiniJet in his lab. And Jinx falling over the cliff is also kind of like Magda’s exit from Bond’s hotel room.
    • A View to a Kill — Graves/Moon watching the destruction of North Korea is like Zorin watching Silicon Valley. Oh, and Bond’s identity is discovered through a face recognition program.
    • The Living Daylights — vehicles exit the cargo hold of a plane, and the Aston Martin has spikes in the tires.
    • Licence to Kill — Bond’s licence to kill is rescinded and he goes out on his own. The hooker at the beginning has her weapon in the exact same place Pam Bouvier did. The laser controller in the ice palace is the same controller they have for the shark tank in the warehouse.
    • GoldenEye — Bond has a laser watch that he uses to cut through something (here, the ice, there, the train floor). Jinx sets a bomb timer for three minutes. There’s also a similar line about “cold” keeping Bond alive.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies — Bond’s escape from the ice palace is kind of like Wai Lin’s escape down the wall. Also, the footage of a ship shooting the missile at Icarus is the same footage used in Tomorrow Never Dies, as they launch the missile at the terrorist camp.
    • The World Is Not Enough — This one feels like they’re reaching — Bond’s training program is the same as the second level of this movie’s video game.

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2 responses

  1. Great review! I have seen Die Another Day but it was a long time ago, not much of a Bond fan myself (although Daniel Craig is beginning to convert me) and have just reviewed Casino Royale myself. Will read through your Bond reviews to give me some more explanation! :)

    October 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  2. Andrew

    I minor nitpick, but why did they have Brosnan shave after having his character escape? I wish Bond would have kept the beard a little longer.

    August 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

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