Quantum of Solace - The Book to Film Preview
As I detailed in my monolithic review, I found the short story Quantum of Solace to be excellent. Equally, I thought Craig’s first Bond film, Casino Royale, was a much needed breath of fresh air to the Bond franchise and, possibly, stands as the best Bond film of all time. Naturally, therefore, I’m excited about the film currently in production, which is to take the name Quantum of Solace.
As source material for a plot is concerned, the short story from which the title originates has a narrow and limited scope. After all, it’s little more than a brief, albeit fascinating tale told to Bond from a retired and respected civil servant during a rather dull dinner party. The producers and script-writers, then, have had a big project on their hands, effectively tasked with creating the film’s plot from the ground up.
It was stated during the release of Casino Royale that the subsequent film would be very much the 'second part' to the story. Indeed, as producer, Michael G Wilson, let slip last at the unveiling of the film’s name back in January, the plot will pick up from where Casino Royale left off – about half an hour later, to be exact.
Moreover, co-producer, Barbara Broccoli stated: "It's not a revenge movie. It's much more complicated than that. There's much more action and it also deals with the inner turmoil of Bond following Casino Royale.
And inner turmoil is exactly what QoS - the short story – deals with. Instead of being a mere tale about intense and bitter human emotions between a man and a woman where a relationship degenerates beyond repair, the plot in the film promises to be more complex.
At this stage, I’ve got mixed feelings about the prospect of the new Bond film. The fact this second part of the Casino story started as a blank canvas makes me nervous. Bond films which depart dramatically from the stories as Fleming crafted them, have generally been much less well-received than those which remain faithful. Casino Royale merely called for some padding and fleshing-out added to the plot - very different and much less risky than what's called for this time around. Equally, expectations are enormously high with this movie, such was the success of Casino Royale; QoS has a hard act to live up to. Add to that the new director, Marc Forster, and I think there are enough changes from the previous film to make my nervousness and concerns justified.
On the other hand, though, there are two things very much in favour of this film. For starters, the world seems ready for this new, back to basics Bond, Daniel Craig style. He slotted in perfectly and was welcomed, by and large, with open arms. The fact the film was such an international hit, bears this out. Secondly, the idea of making this the second instalment to the Casino Royale story, keeping the same values, bringing out and expanding on the new, grittier and more realistic Bond is a sound one. This allows the storyline and characters to take on a colder, rawer edge than was previously possible and to more closely mirror Fleming’s Bond as found in the novels. If there was one single key to Casino Royale’s success it was the re-establishing of the character as a human being, one who felt raw, embittered emotions rather than concerning himself with superficial Hollywood gunplay. The producers must ensure they don’t lose sight of this or we’ll have a Brosnan mark II on our hands.
Is the title right and apt for the new film? Yes, in a word. I’m still amused, though, by the frankly ridiculous argument that it would prove a disaster to put music to in a title sequence song. I’ve also heard the whinging question ‘what does it mean?’ muttered more times than I care to remember and, best of all, “it doesn’t sound like a Bond title”. Firstly, who ever said that the title sequence has to include film’s name – there are plenty of Bonds that don’t. Secondly, if the titles ‘The World is Not Enough’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ can be worked into music, I don’t see what problem Quantum of Solace would present. And finally, the day that a title – particularly a Fleming original – is dismissed because of concerns over song-writing, is the day the Bond film franchise should be put to bed for good, quite honestly.
Of the film’s name, co-producer, Michael G Wilson said: "We thought it was an intriguing title that references what's happening to Bond and what's happening to him in this film."
I couldn’t agree more. After Vesper Lynd's death at the close of Casino Royale, James Bond reached a crucial crossroads in his career and life. Given the anguish and sheer hell into which he descended towards the latter end of his assignment, Vesper's death could easily have been the final straw and resulted in him winding up a broken, mutilated, shell of a man.
But he doesn’t. The character who emerges finds a new, rich vein of energy, fuelled by the need to disentangle the truth from a complex web of lies and deceit. Uncovering the facts behind who or what was the driving force behind Le Chiffre is priority number one; avenging his dead lover, Vesper, is saved for later. At the end of Casino Royale, where Craig famously ‘becomes Bond’ he makes his first breakthrough when he catches up with Mr White. We can expect QoS to pick the story virtually straight up from there.
James Bond’s journey to hell and back hasn’t, of course, come without a cost; he’s left with insidious ill-effects and terrible emotional baggage. As a character, he's a complex paradox: on the one hand he's a train-wreck of emotions, with his emotional circuitry largely burnt out. On the other he's gained his first battle-scars and started down the invariably hazardous but often short life as a double 0. Vesper's death was a crucial lesson in surviving life in his profession; it has tempered him, but the process is still incomplete. And like a piece of semi-hardened steel, he’s now surprisingly brittle and wont to snap. Having his capabilities for conventional and sensitive human emotions ground out of him like a cigarette-end on pavement is a painful yet crucial stage of his career. Trust no one, believe nothing and fight for survival at all costs are his new maxims. Now James Bond will take his first steps as a seasoned, well-honed killer.
This, I hope, is what we'll get with Bond in QoS. For one, I'm eager to see that harder, crueller Bond emerge; the natural and logical progression from the one we saw in Casino Royale. One who's more guarded, untrusting, and suspicious, who carries with him the baggage of a bitter and heartbroken man.
I truly hope the new-found richness of the Bond character - that more closely resembled the Bond as Fleming wrote him is not lost in the new film. The producers must avoid at all costs the temptation to sex-up the film with conventional action sequences, inane gadgetry and fake, vacuous, Bond girls if they come at the expense of exploring this grittier and deeper Bond character.
I’m particularly concerned about the prospect of a greater role for Judi Dench as M. I’ve never been a fan of her in the role and thankfully, her last performance in Casino Royale was by far her least offensive. When she last took on a significant role as the character - in Brosnan’s 3rd film, The World is Not Enough – it was a an unmitigated disaster. M should be sat in his office in London with the weight of the world on his shoulders playing a complex game of chess in which the pieces are his agents in the field. He (or she) should not, suffice to say, be gallivanting around the world playing at Cowboys and Indians. Giving M a greater role is just stupid. And let's remember: it’s not as though the writers are short of characters.
Don’t get me wrong, however. I am cautiously optimistic for the film as a whole. Quantum of Solace could turn out to be another winner, providing the production team keep in mind the reasons why Casino Royale was such a hit and the lessons learned from the past. Most of all, though, I’m hoping this isn’t where the dream ends and reality sets in - that Casino Royale was the jewel in the Bond-film crown and it’s all downhill from here. I await the new film in earnest.