Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Licence to Kill [1989]

I have, so far, enjoyed the hell out of writing this blog.  However, I have a confession to make: around roughly the third or fourth post, I was already having serious reservations about the format I was using.  Not the conceit itself: I still like the idea of using a funky kind of math to assess the Bond series.

No, my concern is that the breakdown of categories is moderately broken.  Specifically, I think that the current format is a little too restrictive.  I occasionally find myself wanting to write about certain aspects of the filmmaking process that are not represented in my formula: the sound design, for example, or the vehicles and weaponry.  I've occasionally wondered if I ought to take the marketing of the film into consideration: posters, trailers, and so forth.

Eventually, I'll do a 2.0 reboot of the blog, and implement that updated/improved scoring system.  When I do, I think one of the categories I'm going to add is one that assesses big-picture-type production decisions, by which I mean how the producers of the series are handling the series on a picture-by-picture basis.  That's a slippery category to define, and I haven't figured out how to do so.  However, I know the need for it when I see it, and Licence to Kill offers a couple of excellent examples.

Example the first: the original title for the film was Licence Revoked, which, to my way of thinking, is a much better title for this particular movie than Licence to Kill is.  The reason for that is simple: for the majority of the film, Bond does not actually possess a licence to kill.  Or a license to kill, for that matter.  Allegedly, the fear was that American audiences would not be intelligent enough to figure out what "revoked" means.  This is patently ludicrous; American audiences are dumb as hell, but they weren't put off by the fact that none of them knew what a moonraker is, or a thunderball.  Take it from someone who knows: they mostly just ask for a ticket to James Bond anyways.

Example the second: the tone of the movie was a conscious attempt to move into a harder-edged, more realistic vein, such as could be (allegedly) found in the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard movies.  In a sense, that can be judged in the Mission Briefing category, but the screenplay was written in service of the tone mandate, and the tone was mandated by a decision from the producers.
I think it would be worthwhile to have a category (or, more likely, a subcategory) devoted to deciding whether decisions like these were good, bad, or somewhere in between, and to have that stand somewhat apart from the question of whether the execution of the decisions worked.

So bear in mind that, at some point in the future (probably while we're enjoying the adventures of the next 007 to take over after Daniel Craig's era has ended), that will be happening.

For now, though, let's soldier on.  It's too late to turn back now.  So using the same old ragged system we've been using so far, what do we think of Licence to Kill?

(1)  Bond ... James Bond

I like Timothy Dalton's take on James Bond a lot, as I made abundantly clear in my review of The Living Daylights.  And I think he's pretty good in Licence to Kill, too, but nowhere near AS good.  The tone of the movie was supposedly tailored to suit his style, i.e., darker and more realistic.  Maybe that's true, but there are numerous scenes in which he seems a bit ill at ease, almost as though he's being weighed down by the material.