One of the most derided entries in the James Bond canon, Die Another Day opened in November of 2002 to coincide with 007's 40-year cinematic anniversary. It was Pierce Brosnan's fourth and final outing as the inimitable superspy, and the first Bond film to embrace the use of CGI for its action scenes (which was a major source of said derision). Yet despite the misgivings of critics and Bond fans alike, Die Another Day managed to gross $432 million worldwide - the highest-grossing franchise entry up to that point (unadjusted for inflation). The plot, for the uninitiated, centers around a failed mission in North Korea during which Bond is captured and held prisoner for 14 months. Once released, Bond finds he's been disavowed by MI6 and that his 00 status has been rescinded... but never one to shrink from a challenge (ahem), decides to go "rogue" in order to clear his name and discover the identity of the agent who betrayed him. Along the way, Bond makes friends with a bikini-clad sidekick, engages his enemy in a “winner takes all” sporting match, drives around in his patented Aston Martin with built-in patented ejector seat, hangs off cliffs, has his cover blown by facial recognition software, and disarms a solar-powered superweapon (not in that order).
If any of that sounds at all familiar to you, congratulations: you've seen enough James Bond in your lifetime to know that Die Another Day cribs from the best (and some of the not-so-best) of them. (And those are: Bond going rogue = Licence To Kill; betrayed by fellow agent = GoldenEye; bikini sidekick = Dr. No; sporting match + ejector seat = Goldfinger; cliff-hanging = For Your Eyes Only; facial recognition = A View To A Kill; solar superweapon = The Man With The Golden Gun.) But is this a case of pure laziness on the filmmakers' part, or simply par for the course at this point? Like any good soup or stew, we expect our Bond films to be stuffed with all the familiar ingredients - a sprinkle of outlandish gadgetry here, a dollop of double entendres there, three cups of vehicular mayhem over there. And while I admit having a soft spot for the film itself (I like the devil-may-care, adrenaline-pumping pace of the thing, despite the ridiculousness of the plot), I'll also be the first to admit that Die Another Day, more than The World Is Not Enough before it, plays more like a Greatest Hits assemblage of previous Bond adventures than an actual movie.
The franchise's 40th Anniversary might have more to do with this than we initially suspected. The makers of Die Another Day had two simple requirements: one, make the movie accessible to The Fast And The Furious set, and two, include enough homages to Bond's cinema past while trying to appeal to the The Fast And The Furious set. As such, 007's 20th big-screen endeavor is not only loaded with crash-zooms and extreme sports sequences but also references to every (official) Bond film ever made. Some of these are subtle - others, not so much. Then again, James Bond has never been one for subtlety.