Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Daniel Craig Must Get Naked In The Next Bond Movie

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

Why Daniel Craig Must Get Naked In The Next Bond Movie

When I heard “Quantum of Solace” director Marc Forster say in the promo trailer that he tried to make the Bond film he always wanted to see, I thought “Uh-oh.” But my “Uh-oh” turned to “Oh, shit,” once I got to the screening and saw Paul Haggis listed in the credits as one of the writers, my distaste for “Finding Neverland” Forster trumped only by my loathing of faux-deep Haggis. And yet none of this mattered in the least because I was going to see “Quantum of Solace” for one reason and one reason only: to watch Daniel Craig get naked. (Heck, I’d have happily sat through “Crash” a dozen times if Haggis had tossed in a naked Daniel Craig every once in awhile!)

You see, ever since Craig’s debut in the remake of “Casino Royale,” the dusty old, 007 series was offered a prime opportunity to expand its audience for the first time in decades. Not only would hardcore Fleming franchise fans and massive car explosion enthusiasts be lining up for tickets; there was now a third audience of those like me, indifferent to the Bond legacy and shaky cam chases alike, but hot and bothered by Mr. Craig. And Forster and Haggis, not surprisingly considering their very un-sexy track record, blew it.

It’s not like I was expecting another gay S&M scene smack dab in the middle of the film (I realize a repeat of soft-core porn “Casino Royale” would have been too much to ask), but the makers of “Quantum of Solace” not only ignore Daniel Craig’s raging sexuality, they practically neuter him as well. A full hour goes by before Craig even so much as takes off his shirt – the only flesh he bares in the entire film! Instead he’s shown in a vast array of tuxedoes, suits and some ill-advised, Ralph Lauren-like leisurewear – as if he’s refined Roger Moore and not working class Craig. It’s like Forster has some cookie cutter image of a courtly Moore/Brosnan Bond stuck in his head, completely unaware that he’s dealing with a thug in a tux.

And yet this is precisely why Daniel Craig is the hottest Bond ever, the tension between his blue-collar physicality and the debonair restraints of the role are what makes him sizzle right off the screen. Closer in spirit to the rebellious Connery than to any of the suave and sophisticated Bonds to follow, Craig’s Agent 007 isn’t comfortable pent up in expensive duds. He wants to run wild on a beach half-naked (and I want to see him run wild on a beach half-naked). Sure, I’d be thrilled to attend the opera with Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan on my arm. But I’d much rather skip Tosca and be locked in a hotel room with Daniel Craig.

In essence, “Quantum of Solace” is nothing more than a two-hour tease without the money shot. Even when Bond steals a tux at a luxurious party Forster frustratingly cuts away. In lieu of a hot shot of Bond changing into the suit, we inexplicably get some doughy, topless dude searching around for his pilfered threads! And Haggis’ script fares no better in understanding the allure of this particular Bond. For example, when Agent 007 eschews the down-and-dirty hotel in Bolivia for a five-star resort it makes total sense – for Moore’s proper Bond. But it makes absolutely no sense for the Bond character that Craig is playing! Craig’s Bond is rough-and-tumble like his C.I.A. counterpart Felix Leiter (played by always-at-the-top-of-his-game Jeffrey Wright), a warrior who only goes along with the snooty stuff because it’s part of his job. Watching Craig’s Bond one gets the sense he’d rather be talking football in the pub with the lads. (Besides, Craig’s Bond happens to still be in mourning for his beloved Vesper so he’s not focused on material comforts – only on revenge.)

For the makers of “Casino Royale” implicitly understood Craig, tailored the film around his sex appeal. For better or worse, the Fleming franchise belongs to the actor playing Bond and the filmmakers have to follow that lead. There’s downright arrogance in Forster and Haggis ignoring Craig’s enormous assets – as if they could care less who plays Bond (heck, it wasn’t up to them anyway!) Yes, auteur is king if you’re making a Hollywood boutique film – the actor must accommodate himself into the script. But this is the Bond series – thus the script must be tweaked to fit the actor playing the iconic agent!

For Craig is rightly reinterpreting the role – and Forster is not picking up on it. Craig’s been a stage and screen actor for decades so there’s a wealth of material Forster and Haggis could have studied to grasp Craig’s sensuous physicality. But I’d be surprised if they’d seen him in anything other than “Casino Royale” or “Munich,” if they’d actually done their homework. Craig was selected to play Bond for a reason – a different reason than Moore or even Connery was. The Bond role is evolving even as Forster and Haggis are stuck trying to repeat the past (evidenced by “Quantum’s” Bond-posing-with-a-gun retro opening).

It’s problematic that Mathieu Amalric as baddie Dominic Greene and Olga Kurylenko as Camille are the only actors who seem to be having a ball (probably because English is not their first language so they don’t realize how bloody awful their dialogue really is), but it’s unforgivable that these two are actually sexier than Bond. Haggis’ script just may be the worst Bond screenplay of all time, drained of all playfulness, the “wink” that is the key to the series’ longevity. Only when Bond responds “I sure hope so,” to the line “I do think she has handcuffs,” and “Not in the least” with a smile full of relish to Camille’s inquiry as to whether her use of sex as an infiltration tool offends him do Craig’s mischievous eyes light up. All other traces of witty, tongue-in-cheek, Bond double entendres are nowhere to be found. Sadly, even with the sexiest man alive in the lead, “Quantum of Solace” is far from titillating, as dry as the desert sand.

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