It wasn’t planned, but I recently watched a number of films in which Gemma Arterton appeared, and so that’s the theme for this filmic offering.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Daniel Craig’s second outing as James Bond, in a film with a more or less random title and a plot that many people thought a tad oblique. From my perspective it was pretty much Bond business as usual, albeit most definitely a lull between the glories of “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall”. Dominic Greene has made a fortune out of caring for the environment and general philanthropy, but of course you just know he is a bad guy (subtext – don’t trust the tree huggers), and his firm turns out to be a front for criminal organisation Spectre. Their latest plot involves taking control of the utilities of a South American nation after installing a deposed general as the head of state. Naturally James Bond is on hand to make sure that it all blows up in their faces. You pretty much get what you expect from a Bond film, including lots of fire fights, car chases, life or death struggles, Bond forced to go off the radar (again) because of traitors in the ranks, and so on and so forth. It’s all ridiculous, and ridiculously entertaining, more or less, and you’ll only tie yourself up in knots trying to make it sound credible and/or convincing. In parts it reminded me of Matthew McConaughey vehicle “Sahara”. There are, naturally, ridiculously good looking women in the mix, with Olga Kurylenko the main female lead as the daughter of a man killed by the general and seeking revenge. Gemma Arterton’s role is more or less negligible, eye candy even, as signified by her character’s name of Strawberry Fields. She’s an MI5 (6?) desk jockey sent to bring James Bond in from the cold, naïve and hopelessly out of her depth, and inevitably she ends up bedding our hero and then gets killed horribly to provide him (and us) with one more reason to hate the bad guy, while adding a touch of poetic justice to his demise.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Remake of the 1981 ‘classic’ that showcased animation by Ray Harryhausen, with a plot that plays fast and loose with Greek mythology. When mortals antagonise the gods they unwittingly play into the hands of Hades, who wishes to usurp the primacy of his brother Zeus. Both mortals and Zeus himself must rely on the demigod Perseus to thwart the plans of Hades, who is going to release the monstrous Kraken and send it against the city of Argos unless the Princess Andromeda is sacrificed. To defeat the Kraken the hero must secure the head of the gorgon Medusa. It’s all pretty much a by the numbers remake, with plenty of spectacle – fights against harpies, giant scorpions, blind witches, the gorgon, and the Kraken itself – but while the cgi might be state of the art it all feels a little lacking in soul compared to the glorious stop motion of Harryhausen. Star Sam Worthington mails in his performance as lead Perseus, while thespians of the stature of Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes try to bring a little gravity to the roles of Greek gods but at times seem to feel slightly embarrassed at finding themselves in this trite and trivial production. Gemma Arterton plays Io, who has been keeping an eye on Perseus throughout his life, for reasons never clearly specified, and steps out of the shadows to guide him on his quest, and she doesn’t really make much of an impact on the movie, though her role has a bit too much meat to it to be dismissed as simply eye candy. For reasons we needn’t go into, I smirk like an idiot every time somebody shouts ‘Release the Kraken!’
Gemma Arterton takes on her first starring role as the eponymous Alice. The daughter of a millionaire she is kidnapped and held for ransom by two men, Vic and Danny. But one of the kidnappers is not who he claims to be and Alice herself soon learns how to use her feminine wiles to turn the tables on her captors, becoming as ruthless as they are to survive and prosper. This is low budget, with a cast of three and most of the action taking place in one room, but it manages to hold the interest and entertain with believable characters and a selection of twists and turns. Initially Alice is stripped naked by her captors, but there’s nothing gratuitous or ‘sexy’ about this; it is simply a device to make her situation feel all the more harrowing and adds an extra frisson to our fears of what will happen to her at the hands of these men, before we realise that Alice is more than capable of holding her own. You never really know where the film is going, and I could almost feel sorry for career criminal and hard man Vic as he gets sucked further into the games going on between Alice and Danny. Almost, but not quite, and by the end of the last reel everyone has got more or less what they deserve.
As children the two are abandoned in the forest by their parents and find their way to a witch’s house made out of candy, where they escape from the oven and burn the witch, and at this point any resemblance to the story recorded by the Brothers Grimm ends. Hansel and Gretel grow up to be Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton; leather clad and armed with an assortment of unlikely firearms they make a career out of killing witches, rather like some steampunk version of the Winchester boys acting with extreme prejudice. To paraphrase an earlier template – Who ya gonna call? Hansel and Gretel! A trip to Augsburg where children are disappearing brings the pair their greatest challenge, as they have to deal with a gathering of witches under the leadership of grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen). Along the way they have to deal with the secrets of their own past and learn that not all witches are bad, plus there is human treachery and a troll. Not much to be said about this. The plot is pretty basic and ditto for characterisation, though I have a sneaking suspicion it was intended to be seen as deep, with character development etc. (in parenthesis, I did cheer when Gretel ‘punched out’ a male chauvinist pig). Janssen as the leering Muriel acts everybody off the screen, and appears to be throwing her all into the role while chucking spells and fireballs at everyone else. It is primarily an sfx vehicle and horror-lite, encompassing lots of witchy shenanigans, plenty of fights, and copious use of big weapons, resulting in copious bloodshed, with bodies flying apart and turning to crimson mush at the drop of a hat, and if you take it at face value then it’s tolerably entertaining, or does what it says on the tin, as the saying goes. I enjoyed myself for the ninety odd minutes it lasted, but don’t think I’ll watch it again any time soon or rush out to catch the sequel that is reputed to be in the works.
Anyone caught “Byzantium”? Looking at GA’s back catalogue that would seem to be the one I ought to have watched.