Milestone-ism rears its ugly head in the 20th James Bond feature, which also happens to have come on the series 40th anniversary.
Alas, the only things that will remind viewers of 1963's classic "Dr. No" are a few pretty ocean views and Halle Barry's orange bikini with the white knife belt.
Instead of working on making another quality James Bond movie, there is a deliberate attempt to bring too many Bond elements together, and make the Ultimate Bond. Instead, "Die Another Day" drags on like an overlong TV clip show-hey, here are more lasers than "Goldfinger! A cooler space station than "Moonraker!" Remember Ursula Andress's swimsuit? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
The first hour is promising enough. Bond creates mayhem going after a rogue North Korean colonel with plans to cross the DMZ with an invasion force. Bond is captured, jailed and tortured for a year. 007 then goes rogue, looking for the traitor who set him up, while MI-5 supposedly (he travels under his own name) tries to track him down.
Along the way, Bond tangles with Jinx (Halle Barry) an American agent who seems to always be after the same bad guys he is.
The first hour of "Die Another Day" is more like a Timothy Dalton Bond, a little darker and grimmer than the average. About half way through we get the usual conference with M (Judi Densch) and the new Q (an all too short scene with a hillarious John Cleese) which generally takes place right after the opening action sequence. After that, the film has the lighter feel of a Roger Moore Bond film, but gets loaded down with mediocre CGI special effects.
Particularly unconvincing are a paragliding/surfing scene in which Pierce Brosnan looks like he's been superimposed on a Playstation 2 game; and a disintegrating air transport plane which after-and the movie makes a point of this-leveling off at 5,000 feet and flying through the beam of the doomsday weapon which is wreaking nuclear-like havoc on the ground, takes about 10 minutes to crash so our various protagonists and antagonists can finish their fights inside of it.
The villain's lair in this case, is an ice hotel set in one of those movie-Arctic places where ice doesn't melt, but no one needs to bundle up against the cold and negate their screen presence, either. Since the bad guy's backstory is a major plot twist, I won't discuss how really nonsensical it is.
This is one of the sillier Bonds, but the actors seem to be having fun, the pace is quick, and there's a lot to look at. At least it's not a bore like "Tomorrow Never Dies."
Actually, the most memorable action sequence is special effects free. It's a terrific swordfight between Bond and Gustave Graves (Toby Stephens) who's quite good as this film's megalomaniac with visions of world domination. It's in a classic setting, and the actors have a real sense of animosity, besides showing off their athletic prowess.
Brosnan and Berry are fine, generating a few sparks, but they don't exactly set the screen afire. Barry definitely makes more of an impression, however, than her rival for Bond's attention, Rosamund Pike as Amanda Frost.
Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade show that their fine collaboration in "The World is Not Enough" was a fluke, and that their first script, the supposed action comedy "Plunkett and Macleane" is their natural level. Director Lee Tamahori should go back to art house films.
This series has survived far worse than "Die Another Day" (Remember "A View to a Kill? Actually, Madonna's electronica theme for this film replaces Duran Duran's from THAT mess as the worst Bond song ever.) and Brosnan still works better as Bond than Roger Moore ever did.
But next time, the producers need to remember that Bond is more about clever than about bombast, and start with a smarter script.