CAUTION: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW FOR DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
When it comes to James Bond movies, you generally have three types of fans. There's the casual Bond fan, who has seen a few of the films and enjoys watching them now and then, there's the film critic Bond fan, who gets down and dirty with each film and analyzes them to a tee to discover which ones are superior, and then there are the devoted Bond fans.
These fans enjoy some Bond installments more than others, but overall enjoy all of the entries in the franchise for what they're worth. One of the reasons that the James Bond franchise is so strong and still going on, is the fact that regardless of the film, each has had its share of success that garnered a follow-up. People enjoy watching this character and seeing what adventures he will go on next.
Let's talk a little bit about Pierce Brosnan's last go as Ian Fleming's James Bond in Die Another Day. Many people denounce this film as Brosnan's worst Bond film. Why? Well, mainly because it crosses that line of what is believable in a James Bond film. The parasurfing scene, driving an invisible car, and so on, all tend to render this movie too cartoonish, and just too over the top for the James Bond character. But this film really does receive too much flack, and for primarily that reason.
It's very difficult for me to find where this line in the sand is of "believable," or "not believable." When I watch the James Bond movies, I take them seriously, as you are meant to, but only to a certain extent. All of the films have their moments where it seems like something ridiculous is happening, but then we remember it is James Bond, and he can do anything. It's one of the attributes that makes him who he is. Here James Bond surfs with a parachute. Well, so what? In A View to a Kill (1985), James Bond surfs on the water on one ski.
In Quantum of Solace (2008), James Bond finds and buys a helicopter in the middle of a desert. In Moonraker (1979), James Bond drives a gondola on the streets of Venice, Italy. It's hard to get upset with something deemed "over the top," when we have seen "over the top" before. So when I personally saw that Aston Martin V-12 Vanquish, and Bond coming up over the waves surfing with a parachute, I thought it was dang cool. I buy into it, because it is a fun, action-packed movie, and it makes sense for the espionage world that was created.
Some also give Halle Berry a hard time for her role too, but her character of Jinx did a lot more than people realize. Aside from Chinese agent Wai-Lin (Michelle Yeoh) in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 (incidentally, another underrated Pierce Brosnan Bond movie), Jinx is one of the first female Bond heroines that turned the phrase "Bond Girl" into "Bond Woman." While there have been some female Bond characters that knew how to throw a punch, Jinx presented a character that can hold her own with or against Bond, able to kick as much butt as he can, paving the way progressively for future female roles in the James Bond series that we have received and continue to see with positive audience reactions. What a great game changer from the world of 007 to start the 2000s with. Interestingly, Berry's character was almost given a spin-off film.
In viewing Die Another Day, I can agree that some of the filmmaking elements used from director Lee Tamahori (xXx: State of the Union (2005), Next (2007)) seem a little dated, or will at some point seem that way, like the slow-motion, speed-up shots akin to something like The Matrix (1999), but I think that minus a few of the special effects shots, this is something that will actually make this film stand out many years from now. It is worth remembering that Die Another Day is the James Bond movie that launched the new millennium, and might be frozen in the year of 2002, but in a good way for its style.
Similarly, Marvel's original Hulk (2003) from director Ang Lee is not widely regarded as a hit, but something it is remembered for is its cutting-edge editing technique that made the film appear like a comic book with multiple angle and multiple-sized shots all on screen at the same time. Some people liked the effect, others didn't, but either way the film did make strides as far as the post-production field of editing and comic book storytelling were concerned.
Besides the traditional Bond music that in this film was innovative in itself by the great David Arnold, the jaw-dropping and exotic locations and production design (like the Ice Palace), and the pulse-pounding action sequences, the performances all across the board really are phenomenal. Pierce Brosnan returns as a still believable, charismatic, and energized Bond, Halle Berry provides a great competitive, and pioneering role as Jinx from the NSA, and Rosamund Pike offers a mysterious but deliciously evil performance as double agent Miranda Frost, not to mention a great quipping scene between Bond and John Cleese's "Q," along with Bond and Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) sharing their first kiss.
Future audiences will see that Die Another Day was a Bond film product of its time, and these high-tech and more modern aspects will make the movie stand out as something different and unique. And say what you will about Madonna's title song, but it was nominated for Best Original Song at the 2003 Golden Globes. For both the casual and devoted Bond fans out there, give this movie another chance with some of these thoughts in mind.