What's the secret to making a film for a franchise that is still going strong in its 46th year? It's taking the very familiar and the completely unexpected and putting them together into a satisfying cocktail that is best shaken, not stirred. "Quantum of Solace," which opened No. 1 at the box office this weekend, earning an impressive $70.4 million in North America, is the 22nd entry in the James Bond franchise, and the follow-up to 2006's"Casino Royale." Daniel Craig is back as the most haunted and sinewy version of the British spy, but the director this time is Marc Forster, who is operating well outside expectations by taking on an action blockbuster after making his name with dramas such as "Finding Neverland," "Monster's Ball" and "The Kite Runner." The 39-year-old filmmaker did not come to the project as a major Bond fan, but he said that actually gave him the freedom to make his choices based on the present, not the past.
-- Geoff Boucher
Exploding pens and flame-throwing bagpipes, camera rings and rocket-launching boomboxes, even a razor-edged tea tray -- the Bond franchise has been a sort of kooky Sharper Image for spies through the years. Not this time. "People might say there are no gadgets in this movie, but to me the idea of carrying around five or six gadgets, that seems very old school to me," explained Forster. "People have iPhones now and we are all accustomed to devices that consolidate different technologies. A suitcase full of gadgets seems odd and also reminds me of all these superhero movies now. We wanted Bond to be more believable and realistic." So 007 has to settle for a sweet Sony Ericsson C905 phone and a non-exploding Omega Seamaster wristwatch.
Music and credits
This time around, Jack White and Alicia Keys team up for the Bond theme song, "Another Way to Die," a curious combination of menacing rock thunder and slinky spy themes. But Forster looked to the visuals of the opening credits to signal his affection for the old Bond films -- unlike "Casino Royale," "Quantum" returns to the classic montage of silhouetted women in varied states of undress. "We wanted those iconic images, the women and the guns, the retro look," he said. "The design company MK12 did the work and it is in the tradition, but it's also new and bold."
In "Casino Royale," Bond was troubled, flawed and rough around the edges -- far from the cool and polished spy of the classic Sean Connery movies. "Quantum" finds him on the path to that familiar cool and, during a break in the action, getting a lesson in martinis. He's aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight and the bartender in upper class makes him a martini -- shaken, not stirred, of course -- and recites the ingredients for the attentive spy. It was a way to touch on the familiar but with (ahem) a twist. "That was a fun way to show he is becoming the Bond that is familiar," Forster said.
The spy who loved Aston Martin is back in the driver's seat. "Quantum" opens with an intense car chase and gets plenty of road time in a gloriously sleek Aston Martin DBS. An Aston Martin has appeared in nine previous Bond films, such as the legendary DB5 models featured in "Goldfinger," "Thunderball" and "GoldenEye" and the V12 Vanquish that revved it up in "Die Another Day."
The classic Bond films featured beautiful and exotic women, but at some points they seemed more like props than people. Forster said that the traditional portrayal of woman in the Ian Fleming novels would make modern audiences wince -- "I think they would criticize that sort of character" -- so instead in this film Bond is given a battle-scarred and reluctant compatriot named Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) and he has a dalliance with an MI6 Agent named Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) whose final fate is . . . well, let's just say it may remind you of a scene from "Goldfinger."
'Bond, James Bond'
You won't hear that classic motto uttered in "Quantum," but Forster had hoped that you would. "We had that. He said 'Bond, James Bond.' But it was in a scene that ended up getting cut," Forster said. "It was the only scene that got cut; not because of that line, only because the scene itself was not working." What about next time? Will the German Swiss filmmaker return for an encore directing effort in the franchise and hear the spy deliver that money line? "Right now, I am not planning on doing another one. I believe I will be going in a different direction with my next film. But, as they say, never say never. . . ."