What’s gone wrong with James Bond? Firstly let me make it clear I’m not a James Bond purist. I have never read a novel by Ian Flemming, and I fully appreciate that Casino Royale is probably the closest Bond has ever been to Flemming’s character. I guess second place goes to Timothy Dalton in something like “Licence to Kill”, but – let’s face it – he pretty much sucked as James Bond.
What is Bond about? He’s the real-man super hero! The man all men wish they were, and all women wish they could be with. He can drink, smoke, fight, get poisoned, and still save the world and get the girl. He can shoot like no-one else, ski, fence, parachute, fly planes, drive anything faster and better than anyone else. Shirley Bassey had it right – “Baby you’re the best”. Oh yes, and he’s suave, sophisticated; never shaken or stirred!
And what is a Bond film about? Crazy “not even close to being believable” stunts, mad chases over air, sea, and land (and space, come to that). Super evil meglomaniac baddies who are going to kill us all. Weird and inventive ways JB is about to be killed before miraculously escaping at the last minute. Amazing gadgets for getting out of any tight squeeze. Let’s face it, Austin Powers hit it bang on the nose.
So why are they turning him into an ordinary joe public who happens to be paid by the British government to kill people? “Licence to kill” shouldn’t mean you can top anyone you feel like. And it really shouldn’t mean you are sent with the sole aim of assassinating some particular person that Tony considers undesirable.
So take Goldeneye. Brosnan’s Bond does a great bungee jump off a dam. Get’s inside the facility, and finds someone sitting on the loo. What does he do; knock him out with a swift upper cut while hanging from the ceiling. What would Craig’s Bond do? Almost certainly shoot him with a silenced gun, just for being in the way. Of course the latter option is the sensible thing to do if you’re breaking into a heavily guarded military bunker – Brosnan’s guard will wake up sooner or later and raise the alarm. But it’s not the Bond thing to do.
It’s one thing to shoot someone who’s shooting you – kill or be killed – quite another to ask M whether she wants “a clean kill or a warning shot?”.
Take the whole premise of the film – in Casino Royale, Bond is basically trying to stop someone who finances terrorism. He’ll be on to benefit fraudsters in the next film, I reckon. Or perhaps he’ll break a paedophile ring? While these are noble causes, and quite possibly what our Government should be spending time and money trying to sort out, it’s not what Her Majesty’s Secret Service do. He’s 007 for goodness sake, not some PC Plod in Scotland Yard.
What’s the most exciting sequence in the film? JB trying to stop someone blowing up an empty prototype place because the terrorist banker will make money on the Stock Exchange if it is blown up. Come on people!
My final complaint is that people really die. Not cartoon deaths, but “head being held in a sink of water until they drown death”. Or “falling down 5 storeys and landing on the ground” dying. You actually get the impression JB enjoys killing people. In fact, he’s really not that much of a good guy anymore.
I guess this is probably heathly – James Bond has always made espionage and assassination seem glamorous, even desireable. The message is you can drink, smoke, sleep around, and kill people without any side-effects to your physical or mental health. But the whole genre is so clearly over-the-top ridiculous escapism that it doesn’t matter so much. But if this is way Bond is going, I’m going to miss him.