Die Another Day [Blu-ray]

For the last movie in the first wave of Bond on Blu-ray, the studio chose to bypass the Timothy Dalton years and move to Pierce Brosnan’s take on Bond. In an odd move, however, they didn’t use Brosnan’s first Bond picture, like they did with Connery and Moore. Instead we leap to Brosnan’s last adventure, Die Another Day. It’s an odd choice to include, since it was probably one of the worst received of the actor’s stint as the spy, but in retrospect it’s not as bad a movie as we remember it. By the time Pierce Brosnan took over the mantle of Bond, the franchise had steered into the action genre pretty heavily. At this point, the mystery and drama of the earlier adventures of Bond had given way to big chases and explosions. Still, Brosnan was almost born to play the British spy, and even his weakest outing has its charms. As an action film, however, don’t expect anything that doesn’t shoot, run, or explode to provide much value though. Some of the dialogue scenes are particularly awkward and painful - but thankfully there’s always something ready to explode to put an end to uncomfortable talking.

Die Another Day does its best to keep Bond in his comfort zone, relying on all the things that had made the spy such a success in the past - big scenery to chew on for the action, a bigger than live villain threatening the world, and lots of opportunity for Bond to show his skills both in and out of bed (especially in bed though, with Bond’s first real sex scene shown in this movie).

This time around the threat is a North Korean Colonel, who is attempting to expand North Korea into Korea as a whole, and become a world power to contend with. Of course Bond is there to stop him, and appears to succeed in his assassination, but things don’t go well and the spy winds up a prisoner for fourteen months. When he is finally regains his freedom, both the British and American governments worry that the spy has been compromised. Bond is determined to find who led to his capture and regain his good name, but the spy is forced to work outside of the system, no resources, no double-oh number, nothing. Of course, this isn’t the first time Bond has faced those problems, so it’s not as difficult a task as it sounds on paper.

The Bond franchise traditionally introduced new actresses as the main Bond babe, but the Brosnan years saw the integration of quite a few established actresses in the role. None were as high profile as Die Another Day’s Halle Berry, who had already won her Oscar award prior to her appearance here. She is also one of the weakest parts of the movie, and it feels like the script was altered to give the notable actress a more prominent part, playing a bigger part of the overall story, including the story’s resolution, than most other Bond babes. She is part of the weak dialogue scenes though, particularly her introductory scene, which has its lines delivered so awkwardly, I was waiting for it to be revealed that her character and Bond were speaking in code. No such luck, unless it was code for, “my bed or yours?”

A lot of people challenge the movie’s outrageous scope, criticizing the albino, diamond embedded henchman and a huge ice palace setting. Having recently sat through so many other Bond adventures, I have to say this is just status quo for the spy. It doesn’t work as well as movies and expectations of action films in particular have changed, but it’s what Bond has always done, so why should Brosnan’s years be any different? If anything though, it’s a decent example of why the franchise needed a reboot with Daniel Craig, to meet a contemporary audience’s expectations.

Die Another Day’s biggest problem is that, as the franchise’s 20th film, the producers and writers tried too hard to make it a celebration of all things Bond. Of the entire franchise, this is the most self-referential, making numerous inside jokes and references to previous Bond films. At the time it was neat, albeit a bit corny, but in retrospect this wasn’t the best choice, because it clearly sets this movie apart from all of the others. Never before has a Bond movie referred so frequently and obviously to previous events, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit separated from the story as it tried to celebrate previous Bond moments.

There’s not really anything wrong with Die Another Day. As an action movie, it does a great job putting high velocity action and explosions on stage. It gets a little stale when the bullets aren’t flying and Berry is a bit annoying, but all in all it’s a story on par with the rest of Bond’s adventures. The fact that we as an audience have changed our expectations isn’t really the spy’s fault, and now that it’s lined up with Bond’s past instead of being a product of the present, I think it’s a much better movie than we originally gave it credit for. You can tell Die Another Day came out on DVD shortly after the original DVD releases of the rest of the movies in this Bond Blu-ray wave, because the extra material doesn’t match up with the other DVDs in the sequence. This is both good and bad, which is kind of nice, because after five other discs I finally have something new to talk about.

Before I dive into the content, let me say that Die Another Day is the best sounding disc in this first wave of releases. Mostly that’s because the movie is the only one in the series to come out recently enough that it had a surround sound mix originally. Since the film was constructed with that in mind, it has the best mix of the group. Visually I still think For Your Eyes Only is better, only because it has more vivid locales to portray. The snowy set piece that makes up a good part of Die Another Day is crisp though, and the image is very nice throughout.

This disc brings something different to the Bond Blu-rays - a “MI6 Datastream” trivia track to accompany the movie. This was previously released on DVD, but it’s more akin to what I expected to find on a Bond Blu-ray movie. Unfortunately this is the only movie to make use of it, and that’s only because it was already developed for the previous release. There are also two commentary tracks, both of which were previously released.

What is missing from this Blu-ray release is the “Inside…” documentary that was the highlight of all of the other Blu-ray discs. This is particularly strange, since the two-disc DVD release of Die Another Day featured a documentary titled “Inside Die Another Day.” Why include the documentary on all of the other movies’ Blu-ray releases, but not on this one? Consistency should be key here, but for some reason it isn’t.

That documentary isn’t the only thing absent that’s previously been released with this movie. I can understand not including a making-of documentary about a 007 video game, but why isn’t Madonna’s “Die Another Day” music video on here? Not that I’m a huge fan of the song, but still, it belongs here.

There are a couple of really good featurettes on here, but none of them have been refinished in high definition like on other discs. Basically, Die Another Day has taken a step further and offered even less reason to pick up this Blu-ray than the others in the series. At least they have some HD offerings beside the movie. Here I just don’t think a separate purchase is worth it, especially if you can watch the original DVD on an upscale player. It may not be high definition, but the cost difference just to watch Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry in 1080p just isn’t worthwhile when you’re getting nothing else for that money.