And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Licence to Kill (1989)
Isn't it just as cute as a death button?

Isn’t it just as cute as a death button?

By now, EON Productions had these Bond films running on a rock-solid two year schedule. Writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson seemed to have hit upon a winning formula: fuse the few remaining pieces of Fleming’s short stories together with plot elements “torn straight from the headlines of today’s newspapers.” This served the twin purpose of keeping James Bond “relevant” to a changing movie landscape and shaking up the stale formulas that had constrained the series for two decades.

Inevitably, the loudest criticisms of The Living Daylights and its sequel come from Bond fans who felt (and still feel) this series grand quest for “relevance” was a whole lot of tilting at windmills. The Dalton Era gets a lot of flack for a lot of things, but nothing more so than its lack of “fun”; that “campy” “charm” which supposedly made the Moore Era so much “enjoyable” and the Connery films “instant classics.” Gods forbid anyone treat those like “serious” spy-fi action pictures…even if that’s exactly what they were intended to be.

They succeed on their own merits with no “camp,” required, save the kind its audience brings with it via the expectations in their heads. If you want real “camp,” I’ve got a version of Casino Royale you should check out…me, I think Bond should’ve gone “darker” decades prior. He might’ve stayed ahead of the trends instead of constantly playing catch-up. Licence to Kill almost does this and, on the strength of that almost, becomes my favorite Bond film of its decade…and the preceding one. Continue reading

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Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Plenty of critics dismissed Mortal Kombat during its initial run in theaters. Even the genre critics gave it a lukewarm reception. They found it fun in a vague, flat-tasting sort of way; another pitiful Enter the Dragon rip-off with a vaguely mythological twist.

Still, the damn thing made $70 million domestic, three and a half times its initial budget. Hollywood’s obsession with the “sure bet” is a well-documented phenomena, and we shall dwell upon it another time. We shall only pause to say that this “franchise” mentality is rapidly becoming the norm in video games as well. Be sure to expect a lot less overall originality from the folks at all your favorite design houses. The business of video games has, apparently, become Business.

Not that it was ever anything but business, mind you…ah, enough stalling. It’s time for me to repeat myself:

Fighter games, by their very nature, are short on plot and long on action. A Character (you, in other words) is magically whisked from one flashy arena to the next, where you must hit an opponent until he/she stops moving. Repeat. So in one sense, many of this movie’s critics are correct: it is slavishly faithful to its source material in terms of structure and style. {More}