TRIGGER WARNING: This review discusses a scene which contains sexual assault.
Goldfinger is the ur-Bond movie. It is the Platonic ideal of Bond movies. Watching it with only a cursory knowledge of James Bond is to experience a series of “Oh, so that’s where that came from” moments. Sure, a lot of Bond’s lines, music, and tropes were first established in the previous two movies, but it’s in Goldfinger that it feels like it’s all finally come together to create the quintessential form of James Bond. This is the entry that feels like the creators are fully aware of who James Bond is and are comfortable enough with him as a character to start poking fun at him. There’s a classic villain with a classic henchman. For the first time, the movie’s theme song plays over the opening credits. Bond finally gets his classic car, an array of gadgets, and he gets to say both “Bond, James Bond,” and “Martini, shaken not stirred.” This is James Bond.
That said, being the ultimate Bond movie doesn’t mean it’s a perfect movie. Its narrative loses all momentum in the second half, Bond essentially becomes a supporting character in his own movie as he’s led from scene to scene by other characters who are actually influencing the plot, and Bond does something near the end that is so heinous and offensive that, in a film series notorious for its disgusting sexism, stands out as a particular black mark on the franchise.
Dr. No starts with SPECTRE trying to cover up an evil plan, accidentally drawing the attention of MI6. Bond meets the sexy baccarat player Sylvia Trench before being called away to get his mission. He schmoozes with Moneypenny, gets some intel from M and a new piece of gear from Q, hooks up with Sylvia, and flies to an exotic location where a mysterious figure in a car spots him leaving the airport and tails him to his meeting with MI6’s local liaison.
From Russia With Love starts with SPECTRE initiating an evil plan to draw the attention of MI6. Bond hooks up with Sylvia Trench before being called away to get his mission. He schmoozes with Moneypenny, gets some intel from M and some new gadgets from Q, and flies to an exotic location where a mysterious figure in a car spots him leaving the airport and tails him to his meeting with MI6’s local liaison.
It’s amazing that James Bond, a film series with so many iconic images, lines, sounds, characters, and tropes, sprung into existence almost entirely fully formed. Right from the very beginning of Dr. No – with that theme, the gun barrel, the animated credits, “Bond, James Bond,” – it feels like a James Bond movie. I expected to see some classic Bond stuff here and there in the first entry, with other staples of the series layered in over the next few movies, but, nope, it’s all pretty much right here. From the the underground lair to the Bond girl to the cool car to the Vodka martini, shaken not stirred, Dr. No establishes almost every single trope that even a cursory fan like myself know Bond movies for.
James Bond has never really been a thing for me. Obviously I know all the tropes, cliches, musical stings, and classic lines, and I’ve certainly read a lot about him (particularly when it comes to how the movies portray women, sex, and race) but I haven’t ever made a concerted effort to actually watch the series. Most people my age seem to discover the movies through their parents’ love for them, but my mother was never interested in Bond and so neither was I.
There’s a beautiful irony to the new Ghostbusters. Despite all the hate, vitriol, whining, and crying from a certain sect of the internet about their childhoods being destroyed by “SJWs,” Ghostbusters isn’t nearly as explicitly feminist as anyone was probably expecting. Instead, the movie is mostly content in being an earnestly entertaining romp through an inventive sci-fi/supernatural world with four of the best comedians working today.
If you were able to watch the movie in an alternate universe where the cultural battle that has erupted around the movie never existed, what you would find is a delightful way to pass an hour-and-a-half. The four leads prove funny and engaging enough to warrant sequels, some scenes are bound to be quotable classics (“Mike Hat”), and there’s a genuinely awesome action sequence that could upstage anything in any blockbuster this year (God bless Kate McKinnon). But in this untainted alternate universe, you probably wouldn’t leave the movie and find many thinkpieces or ranting comments about what feminist statements the movie is making.
Ghostbusters isn’t trying to be a “feminist” movie; it just wants to be a good movie about a group of people proving a skeptical world wrong and becoming heroes in the process.
Meet your new Iron Man
Following the conclusion of Civil War II on September 21, Tony Stark will (due to as of yet unknown reasons) no longer be Iron Man. Either by death or retirement, the Iron Mantle will be passed to Riri Williams in October in her own series, simply titled Invincible Iron Man.
With that announcement, the final Marvel mainstay has moved on, leaving all of Marvel’s most iconic superhero identities in new hands.
Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America. Thor Odinson no longer wields the hammer Mjölnir. Bruce Banner no longer hulks out. The yellow spandex of Wolverine isn’t worn by Logan. Peter Parker still uses the name Spider-Man, but there’s another wall-crawler in New York City who’s also taken that name. And now Tony Stark is no longer Iron Man. The Avengers don’t look like they used to.
Recently I’ve taken an interest in chess. I downloaded a chess app, watched some basic YouTube tutorials on openings and checkmating, and read up on some of the greats like Bobby Fischer, Gary Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen. When I told a friend that I had been playing chess, he said, “The game of intellectuals… Why are you playing it?”
He’s real funny.
But there is something interesting about that sentiment. Chess is seen as an intellectual pursuit. The chess world’s grandmasters are often referred to as geniuses and savants. Chess clubs are often encouraged as extracurriculars in schools because of this idea that chess will make children smarter.
Hamilton, the hip-hop musical starring the Founding Fathers and the best thing on planet Earth right now, recently found itself in a spot of controversy when some took umbrage with a casting call that said the show was “seeking non-white men and women” for its lead cast. Some made a stink about the listing, labeling it with made-up phrases like “reverse racism” and other nonsense. Though the wording of the listing was changed to state that the characters (and not the sought after actors) would be non-white, a spokesperson for the show reaffirmed the cast and crew’s philosophy of only casting people of color for its revolutionary leads.
Honestly, what I found most astonishing about the whole incident was that it was the first time I’d seen any amount of negativity surrounding the show’s racebending of the Founding Fathers. For months, Hamilton has been taking over pop culture and creating legions of nerd acolytes online having dubbed themselves #Hamiltrash, and not a single time had I seen its black, Latin@, and mixed-race cast discussed with anything less than praise. The only other response to the cast that I’d seen that wasn’t unequivocal adulation was simple astounded admiration at the cast having delivered on the show’s lofty promises.
And that really is surprising; that Hamilton has “gotten away” with racebending the most famous and hallowed white men and women in American history, at a time when race is such a contentious issue.
I think it’s fair to say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a contentious movie. Spider-Man fans are pretty evenly divided on it, some claiming that it’s the best Spidey movie to date and some claiming pretty much the exact opposite (including high profile voices like MovieBob, Devin Faraci, and Film Crit Hulk). Its lackluster box office returns and disastrous production (you’d think Sony would learn to stop meddling with their directors) led to the Amazing series being canned and Spidey getting a new start over at Marvel Studios in their Cinematic Universe.
Pair all that with my own lukewarm reception to the first Amazing Spider-Man and I wasn’t expecting to have a good time with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But by the time Electro was blowing up Times Square and Dane DeHaan was sleazing around Oscorp I was on board with Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s not a great movie (maybe even not a good one) and unlike the Sam Raimi movies it doesn’t really have any goal or arc for Peter Parker besides “have stuff happen to him,” but, to its credit, it tries to fix what ASM1 did to Peter Parker (albeit unsuccessfully), the villains are fun to watch, and it has a couple of legitimately great action scenes to keep it afloat.
Thanks to a wonderful comment from swanpride, this piece has been revised and updated to address Peter and Gwen’s crucial talk on the bleachers.
In its desperation to distance itself from Sam Raimi’s classic trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man radically changes the order and details of Peter Parker’s origin story as much as it can. But, as a result of that restructuring, the actual lesson and message integral to Spider-Man’s origin story gets lost. Peter never learns Uncle Ben’s big lesson (though in this version it’s attributed to Peter’s missing father) and he spends the entirety of the movie without an ethos or proper motivation. Add to that some dodgy scripting and design around Peter himself and what you’re left with is a dull, serviceable film with a horribly broken and unlikable character at its center.