What About Bond?

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James Bond is sad. Really sad. He seems to spend most of his time these days moping around like a teenager who isn’t allowed to go to the prom. He is so mentally fragile of late that he looks more likely to don a Cure T-Shirt than a tuxedo. It’s a growing concern.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Bond to be like this. I don’t want him moody and wounded (emotionally or physically), I don’t want him carrying around a face that looks like he’s just been let down by a builder all the time. To paraphrase Alan Partridge, I want to see Bond necking with Fiona Fullerton. I want to see him flying a small plane out of a pretend horse’s bum, skiing on one ski, sneaking into a baddies’ lair in a hollowed out crocodile, stopping fat German blokes from cheating at cards and throwing men to their death and laughing about it. Not sulking in a dark room, drinking alone or endlessly looking in mirrors.

There can be no doubt that this is a side effect of his recent reboot, like when Jeff Goldblum stepped out of the teleporter. Something was wrong (very wrong), except rather than spitting up acid, being a fly or putting his chap in a glass jar, James Bond is now miserable and very boring. He is no longer the man men want to be. Sure women will probably still want to sleep with him(I mean look at him), but if you bumped into this James Bond at a party, you would want to neck your drink as an excuse to get away from him as he tells you his problems and ends every sentence with, “still, life goes on I suppose”. This James Bond would have probably taken the death of his newly wed wife differently. Rather than running around slapping and strangling people with bras to find out where Blofeld was, this one would probably attend support groups and buy an Eva Cassidy CD. Blofeld would be laughing up his sleeve.

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But where did it all go wrong?

Well I think we can all agree that after Die Another Day, things couldn’t go on. It was like when a respected band of old turns to doing a cover album of their own material, but adding keyboards and getting a modern producer to put trumpets on everything. Rather than gilding the lily, they are painting the iceberg that hit the Titanic. It’s unacceptable and a sure sign they have not only run out of ideas, but also collectively given up. Pierce Brosnan cut a sorry figure during that film, like a once great power-salesman now going door to door with dishmops. Something had to be done.

But should it have been a reboot? Surely the beauty of Bond is that it is fuelled by denial. James Bond can look like Sean Connery one minute, then George Lazenby the next, then BACK to Sean Connery. Once the producers finally got the Casino Royale rights, could they not have moved a new Bond in and tailored the script to not have him a rookie again? After all there aren’t many Bond books that are faithful to the original text. The producers instead want the cake and the rights to eat it too by introducing the car from Goldfinger into Skyfall – a universe where it doesn’t actually exist , or are we to believe that this new Bond has a hobby of buying classic cars and installing machine guns inside them?

In Casino Royale Bond was a puppy and had much to learn. He had charm, he exuded charisma and showed that he could handle himself in a fight (he also ran through walls). During the mission he learnt that feelings should be hidden, that poker tells are sometimes tells of tells, Mathis is skilled at exposition and that Bond can avoid strange women lying in the road while driving at high speeds. He also hurt his nuts. These events in combination with one another helped mould Bond into the man standing on over the wounded Mr. White at the film’s climax. Bond had arrived and he had the music to prove it. Overall it was an excellent film (aside from the massively baggy last forty minutes) and things were looking exciting. What followed then was the ultimate in shrugs: Quantum of Solace. In this film Bond began to show signs of becoming an emotional burden for all of us. He also provided us with his first selfish old person murder where he dragged poor Mathis out of a Radox bath and bedtime cocoa in Italy and took him to South America so he could be quickly murdered for no reason. Thanks James, nice one.

In Quantum of Solace, Bond learnt that women are largely disposable. In one case he left one, who had been knocked unconscious in a boat accident, with a random group of strange men, and with the other he drove her towards her inevitable death by oil (and didn’t seem to care at all) by winding up the bad guy so much when he crashed his opera. For the majority of the film Bond is grumpy. He doesn’t smile once and has seems to be wandering around the world collecting sob stories and being sensitive. He is not so much a super spy, but more a Samaritans call handler. By the end of the film he seems to say that he is fine now and over Vesper, but by the time Skyfall kicks off, he isn’t at all.

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Skyfall is not a James Bond film. It’s essentially a very, very nice looking drama about a bloke dealing with being shot and feeling old. When Roger Moore got old he ignored it, he carried on necking Fiona Fullerton in a hot tub and when Sean Connery got old, he just put on a natty wig and snogged Kim Basinger while winking at us. Yes that looks ridiculous, but it isn’t dwelt on and it doesn’t strip away the core of what Bond is and what Bond should be – bulletproof (emotionally and physically).

But this is the new Bond. He has to grow a beard, sulk and look bored while pretending to be dead on a beach. The villain in Skyfall is also a problem. He wastes our time telling us how amazing he is about doing something on a computer from thousands of miles away, then has a grand plan of shooting an elderly woman IN THE FACE in the same room – despite blowing up her office WHEN SHE WASN’T IN IT. The actor was a good choice and did very well, but the plot and writing just lets him down. There is also the massive missed opportunity of Bond and Silva (both 00 agents) having a fight. This never happens and it is a crime. Remember how exciting and fun the close quarter fights with Red Grant and Alec Trevelyan were? Well there is nothing here, just words and some touching up. Then there is Silva’s island, which is a perfect place for a final confrontation and is built up with lots of useless exposition about how it came to be vacant. Sadly it is used as the base for a quick Silva monologue and within minutes we have left it.

There then follows Bond’s second selfish old person murder. Silva is tracking M and wants her dead (despite the fact that he could have blown her up via email at any point) by shooting her in the face with a gun. Bond and Q work out that they can leave “cyber breadcrumbs” and lure Silva to his house. What Bond could have done here of course, was drive to his house and drop M at a Premier Inn on the way. That way she would still be alive now and Bond could take down Silva at his house as per the plan. Instead he drags her to Scotland and carries out a sweded version of Home Alone 1 & 2 and gets her killed by the very man he’s supposed to be saving her from.

The other broad problem with James Bond films over the last twenty years is the involvement of M. She was more and more becoming the focus of every film. In the good old days M would hand James a folder and then sod off to a wing backed chair in a club somewhere to drink whiskey until Bond came back with a woman and a double entendre. Since Goldeneye, M has suddenly become incredibly important and part of the plot in two cases. This shouldn’t be happening.

I think it is time to leave this Bond behind and get back to Bond being fun to be around. Whether that be hover-gondoliers or zero gravity space-sex, I don’t mind. I just want the bastard to smile occasionally and stop bringing us all down.

 

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