UK / USA, 2002
Review by Beth Gilligan
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM DVD
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
Long before the official announcement that Pierce Brosnan was ready to hang up the tuxedo, frenzied speculation as to who would play the next Bond had already begun. At times, it seemed as though every male English/Scottish/Irish/Australian actor of a certain age was in the running, from Clive Owen to Ewan McGregor to Colin Farrell to Hugh Jackman. Whichever actor steps in the role will undoubtedly achieve fame and fortune, but those with a more serious interest in their craft may want to think twice before signing on, for as the most recent Bond outing, Die Another Day, makes clear, the real stars of these movies are the products featured in them.
Although the film’s producers made headlines for snagging Halle Berry for her first post-Oscar role (she plays a Bond Girl named Jinx), they pulled off an arguably more impressive coup in lining up a record twenty companies to fork over $70 million collectively to have their products featured in the movie. Vodka, car, and watch companies were among those who signed up, no doubt enticed by the multi-generational appeal of the films. Although the rest of Hollywood has not been immune to this trend (and with TiVo and remote controls diminishing the pull of television adverts, they’d be foolish not to pursue it further), the Bond series stands out for the aggressiveness with which it shoves the sponsored products in audiences’ faces. For instance, in a scene where Bond checks into a luxury hotel, he pointedly asks the concierge to send up a bottle of Bollinger champagne. Should this request have escaped anyone’s attention, the next shot is a loving close-up of the Bollinger, cozily nestled in a bucket of ice.
The Bond films have always featured the sorts of gadgets that appeal to men of all ages, but if Die Another Day is any indicator, the series is well on its way to becoming the first full-fledged live-action catalog. As it happens, product placement is about the only thing this film achieves successfully. The plot is no more or less far-fetched than some of the others, with 007 taking on the mad son of a North Korean general and his gang of henchmen, but at this point the formula is so worn out that you can more or less figure out what’s going to happen even if you can’t decipher plot specifics.
As for the Bond Girls, any hope that the addition of an A-list star like Berry would inspire the screenwriters to add a little more depth to the female characters is swiftly deflated when Berry’s Jinx emerges from the ocean in a bright orange bikini. While the bikini is meant to evoke the one worn by Ursula Andress in Bond’s first outing, Dr. No, it also signals the producers’ intentions in hiring Berry: they’ve clearly signed her up for her body, not her acting skills (not that the latter has ever been a prerequisite for the women in the series; cf. Madonna’s brief cameo as a fencing instructor in this film and Denise Richards’ nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough).
Although Die Another Day did healthy business at the box office, it leaves the undeniable impression that the series is at a crossroads. Devoid of the creative juices the fuel movies such as The Bourne Identity and it sequel, and TV shows like 24, Bond coasts by on antiquated jokes and gender stereotypes, desperately grasping onto whatever cool gadgets can be crammed into the pictures to make them seem relevant. 007 may be ahead of the game when it comes to advertising, but it’s going to find itself lagging behind if it can’t find a pulse.