torsdag 1 november 2012

Bond and Snow White

Yes, I know... Not the greatest blog subject in history. But it's been one of those weeks without any particular cultural highlight. Instead, making use of my local DVD rental's rent-more-than-one-film-and keep-them-for-a-week-deal, I rented A Quantum of Solace  - to get up to speed on Bond's development, with a view to possibly watching Skyfall at the cinema - and Snow White and the Huntsman. I'd already seen Mirror, Mirror and was interested to see what another take on the famous fairy-tale would look like.

When it comes to Bond, I know I'm not a connoisseur. Most of the Bond films I've seen are those I watched when I was still a kid or a teenager, which explains why I feel more warmly towards the flippant side of these films than most. I must be the only one in existence who doesn't double up with embarrassment over Jaws's love interest in Moonraker (why shouldn't he have a girlfriend? At least his redemption means Bond doesn't have to bump him off). I've never felt any need for Bond films to be "hard" and "gritty". Suave, non-thuggish, inner-depths-free Roger Moore was the kind of Bond I liked, as was Pierce Brosnan, especially in Goldeneye.

So, to get to the obvious point, Daniel Craig's Bond doesn't work for me. Yes, those icy blue eyes are attractive, but they don't make you forgive him everything. His looks and manner are definitely not the ones of the Bond of my girlhood. He is a grim, weather-beaten, psychologically damaged muscle-man, not a worldly-wise, witty, vodka martini-sipping gentleman spy. The troubling thing is, Craig may very well be closer to the "real" Bond, the one in Ian Fleming's books (which I haven't read), than the tamer version I've grown up with. I recall how shocked I was when Sean Connery's Bond locked a baddie in the sauna and turned up the heat - after said baddie had tried to do the same to him - in the early Bond film Thunderball, and how Bond actually chuckled with sadistic delight. But wait, he's the hero, isn't he supposed to be a bit more decent than the bad guys? I mean, boiling someone to death, who does that? A Quantum of Solace has a corresponding moment towards the end. Yes, the head villain is ultra-creepy (a bit my type, actually) and ruthless and bent on world domination and has killed one of Bond's squeezes etc. etc. Still, the way Bond handles him - again, who does that? I begin to suspect that were it not for the fact that Bond villains are so unbelievably wicked, there would be no reason to root for him at all. I'm in two minds about watching Skyfall on cinema now.

So, from Bond to Snow White. Get this - the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman has a nasty, white-haired brother sidekick. And I still thought the film was yawn-inducingly tedious.

I realise that fantasy - which is what most fairy-tale films resemble most nowadays - is a tricky genre. The attempts at humour in fantasy films (Two Towers, anyone?) can be so woeful that I can see why someone would want to dispense with light relief alltogether and go for straight-faced seriousness all the way. But the end result? Rain-soaked characters spouting earnest twaddle instead of getting on with the plot. Blimey, how dull. Character-building scenes are no good  when you really couldn't care less about the characters. It looks like a good idea, on paper, to big up the role of the huntsman a bit - in the original tale, Snow White does owe her life to him, and he takes quite a risk - but here, he is a dreary, wounded-macho specimen without much to recommend him. Snow White drifts around with a dreamlike, destiny-ridden look on her face (for the record, I thought the evil queen was fairer). The Prince (well, dukelet actually) is at a bit of a loose end, and who can blame him, when there's a rival for the hero part knocking about? We don't even get to know which of them Snow White picks, which some reviewers have seen as something very positive and indicative of the fact that she is a Person In Her Own Right. Is she? Could we please stop pretending that this moony girl will ever be the new Elizabeth I?

In the battle of the Snow Whites, Mirror, Mirror wins, though it can be very silly and the script could have been a great deal sharper (it's still Oscar Wilde compared with the Huntsman, though). It's got great costumes and Julia Roberts having a ball as the wicked stepmother. OK, so she doesn't have a nasty brother sidekick, but then one can't have everything.