Thursday, April 2, 2015

James Bond: In Service of Nothing review

A few weeks ago film maker Adi Shankar garnered world wide attention for his dark a gritty reboot of Power Rangers titled Power/Rangers.  The film presented the Mighty Morphin era's teenagers with attitude as adults, and actually skirted the line the show has never dared cross about the Rangers being child soldiers.  The film was meant to be a satire but Saban took down the film from both Vimeo where it was presented 100% uncut, and youtube where a slightly edited version was posted.

Saban however apparently reached an agreement with Shankar and allowed the video to be reposted a few days after it's removal.  Shankar wasted no time and posted his next project:  a short staring James Bond, specifically Sean Connery's Bond.

Power/Rangers wasn't Shankar's first foray into the short film universe.  Adi Shankar's film exploits are now universally known as the "BOOTLEG UNIVERSE" a name he has taken up for his own youtube channel and other outlets. Said tagname for his shorts is now present on Power/Rangers and Dirty Laundry, the awesome Punisher short from 2012 staring Thomas Jane that is also available on his youtube channel which I'll be linking here:

Okay so first thing's first, this film is actually tackling something I've been wanting a Bond film to do FOREVER now: Bond as an elderly agent. And I don't mean like, walker elderly, but far past his prime as an agent to the crown.  Second of all it should be noted this is animated, and deals with Sean Connery's Bond.  Clocking in at 10 minutes this short isn't overly long (Power/Rangers was 15 minutes long). Everything I've been reading about this states that it's likely this short was actually meant to be live-action, just like Power/Rangers, but so far has only gone the motion comic route.

What starts off as a traditional Bond romp complete with sexy Bond Babe and classic car chase action scenes (including head scratching physics that are commonplace in Bondland) quickly turns into a fast foward in time as we see Connery!Bond riding a train and giving a monologue about M and the crown giving him the boot. We discover through Bond's thoughts/internal monologue that he's spent the past 30 years tied down to a desk job listed under "mandatory retirement."

Bond has gotten so tired of receiving a pension and having a desk job that he goes to see H, a younger man who keeps tabs on contract jobs. Old men wanting to off their younger wives? People dealing in drugs and other illicits? That's what the world has evolved into over the 30 years Bond has been away. Bond comments on the arrogance of youth and how he misses it.

The young "conquered civilization without ever firing a shot" Bond laments as he walks the neon lit streets whilst young adults suffer from hangovers and take selfies in front of hobos begging for food or change or shelter. The streets are lined with peep shows and people with their heads down, eyes focused on the screens of their cells and ears blocked with headphones. In a surprising twist Bond states that the world, in fact, hasn't gone and left him behind, on the contrary it's actually caught up with him.

Bond ends up taking an OA (Open Assignment) in Liore, France. H tries to talk the elderly agent out of taking the job but Bond hears none of it and he makes the trip to France. Bond has a surprising resurgence, as soon as the train enters the station he's rejuvenated. He's on a mission, he's an agent again and even if he's now much older his senses are sharp, his blood is warmer and the world actually looks brighter, more crisp in his jaded eyes.

The elderly Bond flirts with a pretty lady, typical of Bonds of all ages, only to discover she's a prostitute even going so far as to call her a vulgar harlot. We see Bond in his room reminiscing on the personal touches of espionage and warfare; cyber security, unmanned aerial vehicles, and data analysis have replaced the old ways Bond is used to. The personal touch and respect between professionals is gone, there's a vast disconnect now. Bond pays the prostitute and they spend the night together.

The next morning Bond discovers his target is an unseeming looking man named Vanbelt. H asks Bond why he is doing this, he certainly doesn't need the money, but Bond doesn't answer. Bond confronts Vanbelt (Vanboot? It's hard to hear the correct pronunciation.) but a flashback clouds his mind. Vanbelt's dog barking shakes Bond out of his delusion but also alerts a woman (Vanbelt's wife?) to his presence and the two scuffle as Vanbelt escapes out a window. Bond shoves her away, only for the woman's head to hit the sharp corner of a table. Bond barely gives the woman a second glance as he follows Vanbelt down the fire escape and into the streets below. Vanbelt pleads for his life, offering Bond money but Bond swiftly rewards the man's blubbering with a bullet between the eyes.

The short ends with Bond back in England being driven down the dark and lonely streets. Bond again laments how the world has become conceited, absorbed in it's own self indulgence and people not worried about their service being for England or the good of others. Bond was forgiven for his transgressions long ago, but today the world will offer Bond no forgiveness...and he will not ask for it.

So how was the short? All in all it was a much darker take on something I've been wanting to see for a long time: a James Bond either being asked to come out of retirement or being so damn stubborn he does it anyway. It's something I've been wanting to see for over ten years now (because fuck you Daniel Craig, you're a shit Bond) and though this short went much more grim and dark than I ever wanted like all of Shankar's BOOTLEG UNIVERSE, there's something oddly satisfying about seeing it brought to that fruition as well.

Something interesting throughout this short was Bond's memory relapses and pseudo PTSD. In between lamenting idealogies and days gone by Bond has flashes of places and events. One instance is in the bar before the prostitute approaches. As Bond looks around the empty area we get a flash of a color image of a casino. That's another thing, this short is black and white. The only bits of color are the prologue and Bond's memory fragments. I'm sure it's meant to symbolize a "rose colored glasses" kind of ideology but in terms of the short, and especially because it utilized animation and a graphic novel style it had much more of an impact than this would have if it had been done in live action.

Overall I thought the short was good, Christopher Gee is our Sean Connery sound alike and he does a bang up job portraying Bond in the past (one liners included) and the jaded old man Bond has become after 30 years of sterilization by the country he fought for.

Apparently MGM did file a grievance and had this short taken down...only for it to now be back up. Hmmm...same thing happened with Power/Rangers...interesting...

I will note I do not know if (like Power/Rangers) In Service of Nothing is meant to be taken as satire or not. If it is, I'm not exactly seeing it, if it's not well then that was portrayed accurately as well.

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