Die Another Day (US - BD RA)
Gabe prefers the original title: "This One Also Has a Really Big Laser Beam"...
My Profile 1.0 Sony Blu-ray player is usually a curse. I can’t view most picture in picture options, my DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are downsampled, and occasionally I have to wait for a firmware update before I can even get a disc to play at all ( Iron Man was a particular problem). There were rumours about the internet community that the anti-piracy elements of the Die Another Day Blu-ray were making the disc unwatchable on many players. For once I thought that perhaps Profile 1.0 was going to be a blessing—an excuse to not sit through a bad film without ticking off a distributor. Well, not only does Die Another Day play, it loaded faster than any of the other Bond discs. Damn.
It’s interesting to note that the first section of Die Another Day makes some kind of attempt at bringing the character back to the terra firma of the early Connery films. After an almost excruciatingly generic action sequence Bond is captured and tortured for seemingly a long time. It’s a good try, and it does convey a certain emphasis on the character’s invisibility, but the torture is mostly cut to Madonna’s terrible title song, and inter-spliced with a series of glossy visuals, which has a massively negative effect on the impact of what should’ve been a series-changing moment. The genuinely brutal torture sequence that followed in Casino Royale doesn’t help the scene looking back.
The only other attempt at something original to the series the Die Another Day crew can be credited with is the treatment of Halle Berry’s Jinx character, who is the first official attempt I know of at creating an offshoot character. Thankfully, despite a rather large pile of cash, the film was deemed a big enough failure to not revisit the thinly written character, who’s obviously supposed to be a female Bond. Thanks to Berry’s complete lack of charisma the character comes off as just another wide-eyed hotty. For a full understanding of Berry’s failure just compare her performance and character to Rosamund Pike’s.
But the missed opportunities aren’t the film’s failure—that responsibility belongs to the lifeless script. Technically speaking, despite some lame choices in art direction, Die Another Day is a well made film, but it’s very workman like and can’t overcome its script. There’s a sense of listless storytelling in even the best Bond films, but the frivolous side plots and general lack of base plot wears thin to the point of exasperation around the one hour mark, which happens to coincide with the introduction of the stupidest Bond gadget in the history of the franchise—an invisible car. An invisible car that doesn’t serve a lot of purpose outside of one scene, to be exact. The bad storytelling is augmented by a series of increasingly dull action set pieces, which probably looked good on paper.
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond career is the most difficult to define of every guy that ever touched the role. Connery is obviously the best, and somewhat infallible, Lazenby has the disadvantage of being stuck between the two most archetypal players, Moore’s record is spotted by very well defined, and Dalton gets to be the underrated guy (I’m not gonna include the new guy yet). Brosnan takes the approach of amalgamation with his version of Bond, and his unfathomable coolness might end up making him one of the most memorable actors in the cannon, if only he’d been in more than one good movie. Following the genuine goodness of Goldeneye, and the generally acceptable nature of Tomorrow Never Dies, World is Not Enough and Die Another Day were massive disappointments. For the record I think WiNE is the worst of the Brosnan Bonds, featuring almost no redeeming qualities, but Die Another Day really was the last straw for the poor actor. Maybe he can make a comeback in a few years as a Bond baddy for Daniel Craig.
Die Another Day really can’t be compared to the other Bond Blu-ray releases, because it’s still a very new film, and the visuals are so purposefully glossy that it lends itself perfectly to the more modern advantages of the hi-def format. There’s a phony nature to the visuals throughout the entire film, which has a great bearing on my dismissive critique, but looks sharp on screen.
To the filmmakers’ credit, there is a wide range of visual styles in the film, which ends up leading to a decent workout for any hi-def television. The desaturated North Korea sequence features rich blacks and wonderful texture thanks to fine grain, and general dirtiness. The following Hong Kong sequence (which features one of the fakest looking backdrops in modern, big-budget history) features sharp, light and dark play, and one of the richest and most diverse colour pallets. The Cuba sequence revels in warmth and a softer sense of focus, both of which would’ve led to more compression noise on a lesser disc. The London scenes are the most naturally photographed in the film, which makes for some of the most highly detailed and realistically rendered shots on the disc. The majority of the rest of the film takes place in the cool blues of fake Iceland. One detail to look for in these scenes is the steam rising from the floor of the Ice Palace, which looked like ill-defined smog on the DVD release. There is a hair of edge enhancement throughout the transfer, but that’s about all I can find to complain about.
The size of this DTS-HD Master Audio track is almost ridiculous, featuring some of the most unnecessary surround effects I’ve ever heard. It’s almost like the audio technicians had a mandate stating that no channel could feature more effects work than any other channel. If something loud whips through the right channel, you can be sure you’ll hear something similar coming through the other channels within a minute. The track is, of course, very aggressive, very loud, and very bassy, so if you’re looking for a simple system work out you should be happy. However, the effects mix is just as oddly mechanical as everything else in the film. This is a textbook case of style over substance, and the audio layering is surprisingly flat considering the scope of the format.
Musically speaking, David Arnold’s score is a pretty effective updating of the old John Barry music, but it’s often mixed so slightly into the centre-heavy mix that it entirely disappears. Concerning the title song, have no problem poking fun of the dated quality of many of the Bond themes, but Madonna’s take on Die Another Day may be one of the most dated of them all. At only six years old that is quite an achievement.
First up in the extras department are two commentary tracks, the first featuring actors Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. Brosnan’s part of the track is a depressing case of excuse making. The actor has nothing but great things to say about the film, but he really has to delve further into the subtext than the filmmakers were ever willing to go, and I think he’s finding deep and meaningful bits where there are none. Pike’s contribution is similar, but her character is one of the film’s few bright spots, so she gets a pass. The second track features director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson, and is a little more of a realistic look at a bad movie. The pair mostly ignore the film’s massive and obvious problems, but also have the taste to mostly only praise the technical merits. There’s also a lot mention of the film’s many in jokes, of which there were many, in honour of the series’ fortieth anniversary.
The MI6 Vault isn’t quite as charming this time around, mostly because it doesn’t feature any thirty-plus year old featurettes. The featurettes here are much more in keeping with the kind of thing you find on other new releases, which is too bad, because I really like the format used on the older Bond discs. ‘From Script to Screen’ is a enormously subdued, almost depressing look at the filmmaking process. The fifty minute featurette runs covers pretty much everything, including script writing and the pre-production process, the oddball casting of art house darling Lee Tamahori as director, the early rumors that surrounded the film, special effects preparation, machine wrangling, location scouting, re-writes, and filming, and is narrated by Robert Carlyle. It’s amazing, but not surprising how little scripting was done before they started building giant sets.
The remaining featurettes are much shorter and a little fluffier. ‘Shaken and Stirred on Ice’ is a more specific and flashy look at the Icecapades inspired car stunts and set construction, ‘Just Another Day’ is basically an EPK video diary (no spoilers), ‘The British Touch’ is a sort of elongated ad for British Airwaves, and ‘On Location with Peter Lamont’ is a general look at production design. Everything comes to an end with trailers, TV spots, Madonna’s retarded music video, the interactive guide (the only new extra), and image galleries.
I know that Bond films are made to push my suspension of disbelief, but Die Another Day so packed with nonsense and sloppy conveniences that I think I may’ve pulled a disbelief muscle. Why have an invisible car if you’re just going to break the invisibility part before the character can use it for anything useful? Why didn’t the bad guys just shoot Jinx, why’d they have to melt the ice palace around her? Why do the bad guys use their gigantic laser when it didn’t work in Goldeneye? The disc looks and sounds good, but do you really care?
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 21st October 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
Extras: Director/Producer Commentary, Actor Commentary, From Script to Screen, Shaken and Stirred on Ice, Just Another Day, The British Touch: Bond Arrives in London, On Location With Peter Lamont, Trailers, TV Spots, Music Video, Interactive Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lee Tamahori
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 127 minutes
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