Was Die Another Day Really That Bad?

James Bond, Halle Berry
At the time of writing, the last James Bond film was 2002's Die Another Day. It opened to a typically broad spread of reviews, mostly good. Broadsheet types were sniffy as they always are with these films, but overall DAD recieved a good reception and did very well at the box-office. Bond fans were somewhere in the middle. They liked the first half of the film more than the second and genuinely seemed to agree that Die Another Day was close to being a good film. As time went on this seemed to shift. When Craig was cast as Bond, Die Another Day seemed to become a vital component for the pro-Craig lobby. It was now, apparently, one of the worst films ever made. A hopeless, juvenile piece of s**t that even Michael G wilson seemed to distance himself from, and he actually co-produced the f****r. Somehow DAD was the reason Craig was drafted into a rebooted franchise. The other option was more of the same: more DAD. More space weapons and double-entrendres. Was this really true?  But first, a look at Die Another Day: was it really that bad?
The case for the prosecution:
Terrible special-effects. Para-surfing: unbelievably bad. Lack of coherent storyline culminating in third act collapse. Halle Berry average in poorly written part. Toby Stephens: too young and too dull to be a classic villain. Judi Dench as M...really starting to get boring now. Dreadful climax on CGI transport plane. Bears all the hallmarks of something thrown together quickly because they didn't have an ending. Special effects again astonishingly bad. Some of the dialogue by P & W is deeply embarrasing. Innuendo laden banter that does no favours to the actors who have to say these lines. Overlong action scenes that become mechanical and dull and don't make an awful lot of sense.
The case for the defence:
Solid performance by Brosnan.The film veers from down to earth to fantastical to silly but Pierce makes a decent fist of all styles. Not a great example of a James Bond film but somewhat entertaining. Where else would you ever expect to see an invisible car in a film? The direction and editing style has more punch than recent Bonds. It is supposed to be a celebration film. Forty years of Bond. Die Another Day is aware of this and why shouldn't it be? After the low-key The World Is Not Enough, Eon can't be accused of not putting money on the screen this time around.
David Arnold. He'll never be John Barry but he's getting better at scoring Bond films.
John Cleese. Funny as Q. Horror of horrors. Some laughs in a Bond film.
Die Another Day has been dragged by the lapels deep into the heart of the civil war between Bond fans that was triggered by the casting of Craig. For fans of Craig DAD is a prime example of why Eon had to make a big change. A lumbering, silly, over the top Bond film, inconsistent in tone, festooned with gadgets and double entrendres. If it takes Daniel Craig to put an end to this self-parody then so be it.
For the opponents of Craig, Casino Royale is a clear case of baby out with the bathwater. Yes, Die Another Day wasn't the best Bond film ever; but that was because it was poorly written and let down by aspects of the casting and special effects. It was entertaining and brash, and featured a fine Bond in Pierce Brosnan; and why would a fifth Brosnan film or any alternative actor to Craig for that matter have neccersarily meant a DAD part II? There are many fine actors out there who could have fitted into a new style of Bond and most of them looked a damn sight more like our collective conception of 007 than Craig. Is there really any reason why Gerard Butler couldn't have done Casino Royale? Not from where I'm standing.
My own view is that Die Another Day is a so-so entry in the Bond canon. Entertaining and inventive at times and certainly not deserving of the merciless trashing Bond fans have given it recently. Having said that it does have flaws that are even more jarring than usual for a film in the series. The CGI was a low point in the series. If the stunt couldn't have been shot with real people it should've been shelved. We need Bond in the thick of the action. Let's hope we never see digital Bond again. Casting on this was mixed. Halle Berry was saddled with a poorly written character. Shame because it was a coup to get her. Toby Stephens should never have got such a major part but Rosamund Pike was fine. In my opinion it is the story and script that work agaisnt Die Another Day more than anything. It isn't the first time this has hampered recent Bonds but everyone involved in DAD were always competing agaisnt a real stinker of a screenplay. That a half-decent film emerged at all is a credit to Brosnan and (shock, horror) Lee Tamahori who is never going to be mistaken for Alfred Hitchcock but is easily as competent as his uber-hack replacement Martin Campbell.
- Robert Fossil

c 2006 Alternative 007