15 years old this week, here's why we should be grateful for the worst Bond film yet
Sigmund Freud, analyse this...
Released on 20 November 2002, the fourth outing by Pierce Brosnan as James Bond is seen by many as the complete and total nadir point for the Bond series to date.
Following on from the rough'n'ready redo of GoldenEye, the interesting misfire of Tomorrow Never Dies, and the back-to-basic averageness of The World Is Not Enough, there was a lot riding on Die Another Day.
Not only was it the 20th outing in the official Bond franchise, but it was also released on the 40th anniversary of Bond's first cinematic outing in Dr. No, so MGM and Eon Productions wanted to get this right.
What they proceeded to do was make every wrong decision imaginable.
First up they hired Lee Tamahori, who descended upon Hollywood in a hail of mediocrity (Mulholland Falls, The Edge) and out-and-out crap (Along Came A Spider), so quite why he was chosen to take the reins on this mega-production remains something of a mystery.
Additionally, they gave him a then near-record breaking budget of $145 million to play with, which may explain the movie's divergence away from the impressive real-world set-pieces - just think of the dam sequence at the start of GoldenEye, or the motorbike/helicopter jump in Tomorrow Never Dies - and replaced them with scenes containing not just way too much CGI, but really crap CGI.
How crap was the CGI, you might ask? Well, take a look at the now infamous tidal wave sequence:
Clip via aschubert
This scene takes place about half-way through the movie, and you'd be forgiven that you've just walked in on someone playing a video game on their PS One.
Somehow, this is taking place in the same movie that kicks off with Bond being taken prisoner by the North Koreans and being kept as a prisoner of war for 14 months. The opening sequence, involving the Korean mine border and an escape attempt on a giant, militarised hovercraft (something that Mythbusters proved was technically possible), was a hugely ballsy way of kicking off a Bond movie.
What happened next, though, sent up red flags with everyone.
Before we got to the giant sun lasers and ice-berg tidal waves, before we got to English man Toby Jones playing a Korean bad guy using digital white-face, before we got to invisible car chases and Halle "Looks like we're going down together" Berry, we got ... this.
Clip via Music of All Times
Madonna's theme song isn't just a bad song, it is a bad BOND song. Somehow, Madonna managed to write a better song for an Austin Powers movie than she did for a Bond movie, and that just isn't acceptable.
Inexplicably, it was nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Original Song, while also nominated at the Golden Raspberry's for Worst Original Song. It didn't win either, but Madonna herself did pick up the Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actress for her teeny tiny role as a fencing instructor.
Madonna's on-screen presence was indicative of a greater problem, which involved 20 different products paying for on-screen tie-in opportunities, paying off a then-record $70 million of the movie's budget, leading to many people renaming the film as Buy Another Day.
Bond stopped being a movie and became little more than an opportunity to sell stuff.
Die Another Day was the Batman & Robin of the franchise: ridiculous, camp, badly acted, written and directed, and little more than an expensive opportunity to create potential tie-ins. And, despite all that, still hugely profitable: Die Another Die went on to make $435 million at the box office.
However, just like Batman & Robin, it forced everyone involved to have a big think about the future of the franchise, throw out the current formula, and start anew.
Brosnan very nearly starred in an extremely scaled back Bond thriller directed by none other than Quentin Tarantino, but concerned that Pierce being present would make people think they were going to be getting another Die Another Day, the producers recast the role completely, and just like Batman Begins, they got dark and gritty and gave us a visceral and hugely entertaining origin story.
Without Die Another Day being as bad as it was, the kick-you-to-the-balls arrival of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig might never have happened.
Admittedly, they didn't continue making great Bond movies successfully after that, as the limp Quantum Of Solace followed, then the sublime Skyfall, and then most recently we got the over-stuffed Spectre.
Still though, only when the chips are down and you've nothing left to lose, you get to take the risks that result in a successful overhaul.
So we thank you Die Another Day, the worst James Bond movie we hope we ever have to endure.
Now let us take a look at Bond in a shooting simulation that begins with him CLEANING HIS GUN.
IN A SHOOTING SIMULATOR!
Seriously, this movie...
Clip via casiron maiden