The problem with probing each new Bond entry for sociological significance is that the series has always actively contributed to the tenor of its present moment rather than simply reflecting it, as all good capitalist enterprises should. Popular entertainment does not simply reflect tastes, it deliberately seeks to shape them; thus the current public’s supposed appetite for “darkness” and “edginess” derives at least as much from the determination of megabudget, market-swamping movies to provide those qualities in spades as from any palpable desires or fears on the part of the milling herd. We can be thankful at least that the Bond “mythology” has always been more a matter of gestures and rituals than the brooding, tortured “essence” at the heart of a certain other caped-n’-cowled franchise—our wish-fulfillment, product worship, and juvenile impulses need not be intruded upon by any pretensions to psychological, political, or philosophical depth.
So the unfortunate failure of Quantum of Solace certainly can’t be ascribed to an overdose of capital-s Seriousness, the Paul Haggis-ized shout-outs to rapacious corporate greed—embodied in the faux-environmentalist kingpin Dominic Greene, warping Mathieu Amalric’s endearingly froggy features into malevolent mode—undernourished Bolivian peons, and U.S. governmental connivance with dictators and terrorists notwithstanding. To paraphrase Stanley Kauffmann, such frills are just serious enough to be entertaining, not enough to be serious. Where the film fails is in a regrettable abandonment of the (ever more surprising in hindsight) narrative integrity of Casino Royale, and in a sidelining of the brawny enigma that that first “reboot” (bloody word. . .) took as its obsessive focus and fascination.
Click here to read the rest of Andrew Tracy’s review of Quantum of Solace.