It’s been a while since I threw anything up on this here website, but I was so jolted by my moviegoing experiences this weekend that I felt compelled to pick up my pen (read: keyboard) and get something out there. So, courtesy of Marvel’s Eternals and Daniel Craig’s final film as James Bond, No Time To Die, here’s the first ever edition of NERD NEXUS REVIEWS.
I had purchased my tickets to opening night of Eternals at one of San Antonio’s Alamo Drafthouse locations weeks ago, but with COVID on the retreat and theaters starting to fill back up again, I figured I ought to take some time out of my extremely busy evening schedule to check up No Time To Die as well. So, I snagged my ticket (solo mission) and committed to back-to-back nights at a movie theater.
Let’s dig into what I saw!
No Time To Die
As indicated by the slick poster above, Daniel Craig’s final turn as James Bond was supposed to be released on April 2. Of 2020. But, like with its original release date, No Time To Die misses the mark by quite a bit.
I have always enjoyed Daniel Craig and Daniel Craig’s James Bond performances; there’s no denying that he brings that modern, gritty feel that audience have been swooning for since the mid-aughts. Like 2005’s Batman Begins, 2006’s Casino Royale reset a decades-old franchise by eschewing the past installments’ campy, over-the-top action for a more grounded, gritty feel. Audiences went wild for the new perspective, but with No Time To Die’s adjusted release date, we’re now fully fifteen years removed from Craig’s first turn as 007. Does the latest film hold up?
I’m sorry to say it, but No Time To Die often feels as clunky and outdated as Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond film.
It’s of course no fault of the filmmakers, but – and I’m not kidding you here – one of the main plot points of the film is that the bad guys are trying to release a deadly pathogen into the population that will spread throughout the world and kill everyone and reset the global economy or whatever. I mean….too soon? Again, this movie was filmed way before the global pandemic and there’s no way they could’ve predicted what would happen just two months before their original release date, but sheesh. Bad beat. One wonders what that board room meeting at MGM headquarters looked like in late March 2020:
“So uhh…we sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into a James Bond film that features a villain trying to incite a global pandemic…should we, uh, release this thing? Or maybe do some rewrites and reshoots?”
“What’ll that cost?”
“Another year and another $50 million.”
“….let’s….let’s wait it out.”
Triggering plot points aside, most of this film just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Sure, there are some pretty rad action sequences (Italy, Cuba), but the final act in particular seems to borrow from every trope in the history of the franchise, and not in a good way. Most of the premise of the film itself relies heavily on the fact that this is Craig’s last performance as the titular spy, so there are lots of nods, homages, and cap tips to the legacy that feel contrived. Didn’t we do that bit in Skyfall? We dig into Bond’s past, we run into old friends and old enemies (all of whom have fitting send-offs), and we even get a glimpse of what MI6 has been up to since Bond was last on active duty. Oh, yeah, that’s right: Bond once again has left active duty but, of course, he’s pulled back into the game for one last mission.
Seriously, when I watch this movie with my kids one day, I’ll have to explain to him/her that “this was Craig’s last movie, that’s why there’s this hokey sentimentality pervading the whole thing.” I bet that, without that context, most of this movie falls flatter than Léa Seydoux’s reprisal of her role as Dr. Madeleine Swann from Spectre.
Speaking of performances, okay Rami Malek, I get it, you’re weird. I love the guy, but everything he does onscreen feels like that weird kid from high school that ran to lunch really fast and wanted everyone to know that he was extremely into Naruto or whatever. How did we miss out on Malek as a Harkonnen in Dune? I will also hand out yawns to most of the rest of the cast, including Lashana Lynch as the new 007 that is positively miffed that Bond is back, Ralph Fiennes as M who is just there, and Ben Whishaw as the most boring Q there’s ever been. By the way, Christoph Waltz is back as Blofeld and whoever’s decision it was to confine Christoph Waltz to a chair for his entire cameo should be arrested because CHRISTOPH WALTZ SHOULD BE GIVEN A WIDE BERTH IN WHICH TO PLY HIS CRAFT.
Not all is lost with the cast, though. I must give high marks to Jeffrey Wright as a strangely-beefed up and plausibly hot Felix Lieter, our first run in with the CIA operative since 2008’s Quantum of Solace. There’s a reason why Jeffrey Wright is in everything these days, and it’s because he’s a badass. Speaking of badasses, I vote for Ana De Armas to also be in everything ever. I’m serious when I say that she is twice as talented as she is hot, and she has an incredible amount of fun with her 15-20 minutes of screen time. That’s the spin-off I want to see.
Daniel Craig is still a believable badass as James Bond, and while I wish he would’ve gone out with more style, it’s definitely his time to ride off into the sunset and let this franchise take a 5-year break. Film and audience sensibilities have changed, and James Bond’s footing in the world is uncertain. The terrorist attacks, induced pandemics, and billionaire-on-billionaire crimes that Bond endeavors to avert have sorta been hitting too close to home lately; I wonder how the filmgoing public’s pallete feels about the subject matter. Is there room for a womanizing white guy that wears Rolexes to play the hero anymore?
My read on it is that 2020 was a perfect time to die, and this film, like it’s lead character, is a relic of the past that was warmed over one too many times. We ought to go back to the drawing board in about 2026 and see if we can’t move this franchise into some modern territory (again).
Final Word: 6/10
I didn’t realize it until writing this review, but even were I planning on it, I don’t think I could’ve put together a double feature with two movies that are more of a mirror image of each other than No Time To Die and Marvel’s Eternals.
I went to see No Time To Die alone in a nearly-empty theater, whereas my showing for Eternals was with my wife right in the middle of a packed house that was buzzing. Thursday night’s movie was the final film in a legendary franchise that sees a long-time actor ride off into the sunset; Friday night’s movie was a brand new franchise introducing all new characters. The first film features a middle-aged (hot) British white guy as the leading man, while the second features a different hot British man that should garner serious consideration as the next guy to lead that franchise. One film hops all over the globe as our hero fights evil, while the other film hops…well…okay, they hop all over the globe to fight evil as well.
Most of our MCU heroes have their own original stories; the Disney formula has worked very well in this regard, but with Phase 4 now well-underway, Eternals is easily the MCU’s biggest new introduction since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Introducing an all new franchise with all new characters can be a really daunting task, but I think one thing Eternals did well was casting their titular Eternals with (mostly) faces that we all know and love. “Oh look, it’s Dinesh from Silicon Valley, but now he’s buff!” “Yo, it’s Paper Boi from Atlanta!” “Oh shiddd, it’s the friend from Crazy Rich Asians!” “Seven hells, it’s Jon Snow AND Robb Stark from Game of Thrones! Look, it’s…wait, is that Angelia Jolie and Salma Hayek??”
Of course, we’re being incredibly reductive here (this blog has written extensively regarding Kumail Nanjiani’s, uh, talents), but it’s no mistake that Chloé Zhao, Sarah Halley Finn, and the production team assembled this talent for the film. They’re relying on a lot of name & face recognition to help audience get ahold of who this new group is; there is no “risky casting” as was the case with Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord – the Eternals cast is meant to grab your attention. Hell, even the marketing campaign leading up to the film really harped on it being MARVEL‘S Eternals, and each trailer worked in a reference to various Avengers. The lead-up to the release date seemed to have all of the hallmarks of a new powerhouse MCU franchise for Kevin Feige and Disney; the casting and marketing had people raving, and the director winning the Academy Award for Best Picture & Best Director sure didn’t hurt. No way this isn’t successful, right?
This is all well & good and certainly packed ’em in on opening weekend (to the tune of $71 million domestically), but the thing that doesn’t bode so well for the Eternals going forward is that, um, the movie kinda sucks.
On multiple occasions during the final act of the film, Julianne of Movie Quest fame had to be asked to sit still because she was fidgeting out of boredom; at one point she leaned over and checked my watch to see what time it was. There are lots of cool ideas in Eternals, but telling a coherent and compelling story just never seemed to be one of them.
Again, I give kudos to the cast and the casting: I would watch Gemma Chan read a phone book for ten hours, and I’ll be damned if Richard Madden isn’t the most handsome son of a bitch on this side of Winterfell. And, of course, shoutout to the original Short King:
But the Eternals just doesn’t work.
The first time I knew something was amiss was when the titular group arrived on Earth in 5,000 B.C. and promptly began using what appeared to be American Sign Language. Now, I will not profess to be an expert in signing and I would need to consult the official Nerd Nexus sign language interpreter for notes on this, but it sure did look like a language that’s only been around for less than 200 years. While this is certainly a nitpicky and pedantic note, I found myself wondering why they didn’t have the characters maybe speaking/signing an amalgam of now-extant languages, and as the plot of the movie progresses, we learn that all modern language was brought to us by these beings. I mean, Dune created languages for the future, including a sign language! Why couldn’t Eternals have gone to those lengths?!?! Again, this is nitpicky, but within 5 minutes I already had a siren going off in my head and I was fighting to suspend my disbelief.
As the movie wore on, I found myself at odds with what I was seeing onscreen. I didn’t care much for the time-jumping structure that gave us glimpses of our heroes at different points in history, and I really didn’t think that the initial murder that kicked off the plot was handled very well – too much jumping back and forth to wedge in a monologue or reveal a character’s motivations. Later, I found myself asking “why are there even Deviants at all?” and “if they’re not actually the real bad guys, why are we spending so much time with this one in a cave while Thena thumps him?” It was all contrived and none of it ever felt like it had any weight. Julianne said that the events of the film should’ve been a culmination of a trilogy, not an introductory movie, and I see no lies.
Further adding to my sense of disbelief is the film’s finale in which, I guess, it is revealed that there is a celestial at the center of the Earth’s core that is about to be birthed? And the Eternals stop it by, I guess, turning it to stone? So, like, what does that do for the Earth in terms of geology? Like, did we just kill the planet by turning the core into solid (not molten liquid) stone? Isn’t this going to, I dunno, change the temperature of the oceans to the point that major, major climate change happens basically overnight? And, what do we do about the giant hand and half-face that’s currently sticking out of the Indian Ocean??? Also, like, were the characters speaking to literally God during most of the movie, and was that kinda weird? If the first gay kiss in the MCU didn’t fire up the right-wing media, the whole Getting-Instructions-From-Arishem bit may have a shot.
As I write this review days removed from viewing Eternals, I’m perplexed by the fact that in a shared universe featuring time travel, parallel multiverses, Norse Gods, Dark Elves, sentient ducks, and Tony Stark creating a new element in his garage with laser beams, it’s the shenanigans of Eternals that makes me pull up on the reigns and say “whoa there, now this is a bit far-fetched.”
Final Word: 5/10
One more thing: Are the Eternals just a bittt too Power Rangers-y for y’all? Like, they all have different colored costumes, and their secret movie is to put bracelets on so that their powers can combine and save the world? Wait, no…that’s Captain Planet, who coincidentally, has the same haircut as Sprite.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and stay tuned – there’s more to come. This website and it’s social media accounts aren’t dead yet, so keep an eye peeled for more dumb stuff right here at Nerd-Nexus.com and even dumber stuff on social media at @Nerd.Nexus on Instagram and at @NerdNexus on Twitter.