A quantum of super-heroism

Quantum of Solace
Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench; Directed by Marc Forster

A dashing potential movie audience member (code named PUNK for Person Usually Not Knowledgeable) is being dispatched on a particularly perilous assignment — to check out the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace. His superiors in the Department of Mindless Entertainment (DOME) want him to infiltrate the theater and report back on whether it is worth seeing by the masses. The mission is a dicey one, as it will involve keeping an open mind, not being influenced by the wildly successful previous Bond flick Casino Royale, and not losing himself in the buzz and allure of the Bond machine.

Because this assignment is fraught with peril, the bigwigs at DOME have ordered PUNK to see their filmic device expert — an individual only known as CRITIC (for Crusty Rumpled Individual Taunting Insipid Crud). CRITIC’s office, in the sub-basement of the DOME HQ, is a big room filled with banks of video screens running continuously as technicians monitor them for sound and image quality. No one seems to pay any attention to PUNK as he enters because they are absorbed in their work. As he walks deeper into the room, however, he is noticed by a person in a white lab coat, who approaches him.

CRITIC: Ah, you must be Mr. PUNK. They told me you would be strolling in here. See anything you like? (CRITIC motions to the images on the screens all around them, which all seem to be showing various movies.)

PUNK: Yes. You have quite an impressive setup here. You must be CRITIC.

CRITIC (smarmily sarcastic): Brilliant deduction! Such powers of observation! I can see why they chose you. Do you understand your assignment?

PUNK: I’m looking forward to it.

CRITIC: Right. Well, then, what are we standing around for? Let’s get started. (He walks down a bank of video screens with PUNK in tow and stops at one.) Ah, here we are. Do you know what this is, PUNK?

PUNK: It’s a Samsung LN52A650, 52-inch, 1080p, 120Hz, LCD, HDTV flat screen ... with Red Touch of Color, I’d say.

CRITIC (sighing and rolling his eyes in mild annoyance): No, I mean what is on the screen. Can you see what is being shown, or are you too busy gawking at my assistant, Ms. Cashcoin, over there?

PUNK (turning back to the screen): Ah, well, it’s ah kinda hard to see as there seems to be lots of action ... car chases ... I think I see a fist fight ... oh, there’s an explosion ... and a cargo plane being chased and shot at by other planes ... and ...

CRITIC (growing impatiently condescending): That’s very good, PUNK. My 5-year-old daughter can see that. What I am trying to show you here is what you are likely to see in Quantum of Solace. Do you see this style of action? The way it is portrayed? Don’t just look at what is happening, but how it is happening. Can you do that?

PUNK (with a knowing smirk as he observes that CRITIC likes to hear himself talk): Why don’t you tell me?

CRITIC (with an air of exasperation): You audience members are all alike. You want your movies easy to explain and with splashy distractions. OK. Listen carefully. The movie you are about to infiltrate is shot very much like what you see here. This happens to be an amalgam of recent action films such as those produced and directed by Michael Bay. You remember him don’t you, PUNK? The nefarious director who brought us Transformers, Bad Boys, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor? This style of rapid-fire editing, dizzying action and swirling camera movements has become the state-of-the-art and will very likely be used in what you are about to see. It also has been captured in all the Jason Bourne films. It makes it hard to discern the action because it is all blurry and frenzied. And yet it can be quite ... (CRITIC notices that PUNK is mesmerized by the images on the screen, so he raises his voice) ... mesmerizing! PUNK, are you listening to me?

PUNK (snapping out of it): Yes.

CRITIC: See, this is just what I was worried about. If you are to succeed in your mission, you will need to resist this hypnotic effect. (He hands PUNK a fluorescent green capsule.) Here, take this.

PUNK: What is it?

CRITIC (forcefully thrusting the pill at PUNK): Just take it. You’ll need it. It contains a state-of-the-art mixture that will help you avoid the motion sickness that will be produced by this frenetic action.

PUNK (smiling): Ah, Dramamine.

CRITIC (angrily exasperated): No, not Dramamine. This is far more sophisticated. And you’ll need to take it before you see the film. Don’t forget. Moving on (walking PUNK to a new bank of screens), does this look familiar?

PUNK: That looks like Al Gore ... and he is showing a bunch of graphs and statistics ... how dastardly! That looks like An Inconvenient Truth. Why are you showing me this?

CRITIC: Because, PUNK, you’ll need to prepare for your next villain.

PUNK: Our former vice president and Nobel Prize winner?

CRITIC (with a harrumph and a sigh): No, PUNK. You need to view this because villains these days are not what they used to be — Soviets, terrorists, people with clown faces. The villains these days are global warming, drought, deforestation, endangerment of species. Things like that. So you’d better get ready to battle a new sort of nemesis.

PUNK: Uh, how do I do that?

CRITIC (with dismissive glee): The way you always do, PUNK. With chaos, mayhem and a high body count. But just in case, here’s a book that you can use in a pinch. (He hands him a copy of Earth in the Balance.) You do read, don’t you PUNK?

PUNK (with a mischievous glance back to Ms. Cashcoin): Who has time for books?

CRITIC: Right. Come along. (He takes PUNK to another set of screens.) Now, what do you see here?

PUNK: It looks like a hodgepodge of superhero films.

CRITIC: That’s fantastic, Mr. PUNK! You, also, must possess superpowers! Those superpowers no doubt told you that you are likely to encounter much of this in Quantum of Solace.

PUNK: Um, yes. But I thought James Bond was supposed to be more human, more of a suave ladies man who is vulnerable and yet dashing — certainly not like Batman, Spider-Man or The Hulk.

CRITIC: See, this is why you are down here PUNK. Had you been paying attention, you would have noticed that James Bond has morphed into a person of superhuman strength, endurance and stamina. That’s what people want in this age of computer games and graphic novels and computer animation. It just gets to be so standard and tired and ...

PUNK: Oooh! Sorry CRITIC, but my cell phone is buzzing. I need to get to the theater. Thanks for the preparation, book and pill.

CRITIC: Very well. And do be careful, PUNK. I’d like that book back in one piece. Oh, I almost forgot. Have a “kick-ass” time! Maybe one day you could take me with you for a change. It gets awfully stuffy down here.

PUNK: At the risk of leaving you hanging by your thumbs, I will review your request. Cheers!

Doug Young is, indeed, The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He also works for Congressman Mark Udall as an environmental policy adviser.