Every actor to play James Bond for multiple movies ends up with one film not-so-loved by the fanbase. Sean Connery had Diamonds Are Forever, Roger Moore had films like Moonraker and A View To A Kill. Even Timothy Dalton had a rough start as Bond in The Living Daylights but vastly improved in a sequel.
However, none of those films gets the same amount of disdain as Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day and Daniel Craig’s Spectre. It’s true that both films feature massive detractors but also very different kinds of detractors due to their very different styles of filmmaking. So which one is worse than the other? And what did each movie get so wrong?
For the first three Pierce Brosnan films, Samantha Bond had perfected her Miss Moneypenny. However, Die Another Day puts the final nail in its coffin by dragging Moneypenny down with it. Using the virtual reality glasses that Q had developed for Bond’s training, Moneypenny lives out a lust-filled fantasy in which she becomes a Bond girl.
Many fans agreed that this was very unlike Moneypenny’s character. Moneypenny’s whole dynamic with James Bond is that there is sexual tension between the two but Bond always strikes out. Why she doesn’t have an interest is usually never explained but that’s part of the charm. So it feels like a slap in the face when the character is completely reversed in the last few minutes just for a cheap gag.
Everyone loves the MI6 regulars in Bond films who always steal the show when on screen. The filmmakers seemed to want to capitalize on this in Spectre as Ralph Fiennes’ M and Ben Whishaw’s Q along with Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny join Bond in the final battle. Q also makes several appearances throughout the film and while it’s nice to see the MI6 gang in action, it felt forced.
Especially since no other MI6 agents are with them and M himself is getting into the action which is very unwise for someone in that position. Now, this would be fine if the MI6 regulars happened to have some standout action/thriller scene but no, most of it is still just Bond at work.
Granted, James Bond up until that point in 2002 had never really been grounded in hyper-realism. Plenty of James Bond films of the past went for campiness and over the top action, even some of the best Bond films. However, there is also such a thing as going too far, and Die Another Day jumped the shark.
From the palace made of ice, the villain’s RoboCop-esque suit, virtual reality, etc. Bigger does not always equal better and Die Another Day tried way too hard to go as big as possible while failing in every way. This is why a more grounded approach was taken for Casino Royale.