This weekend Bond came up in conversation and I have been thinking about the iconoclastic Mr. Bond. He is a character that borders on archetypal, if not already having achieved that status, and he has evolved with Western culture over the past three or more decades.
Bond in truth has always been nothing more than a foot soldier.
He has always been a killer. One friend characterized him as an aristocratic thug.
I am not sure that I agree entirely with this, but Daniel Craig’s Bond does seem to move closer to that description in my estimation.
To me what sets James Bond apart is not the sex appeal of an extraordinarily handsome and fit man. Or the gadgetry. Or the fact that he is dangerous. He is a thinking specialist with a set of skills for extreme situations that no one else could be expected to manage. He calmly uses his problem solving abilities to think on his feet and use all of the resources whether internal or external to accomplish his missions. In my assessment this is what makes the character extraordinary. Intelligence is what sets Bond apart.
This is why I do not believe that the character is just a thug. A thug acts without thought or intent. There is this marvelous scene in one of the Brosnan films where Bond/Brosnan is all suave and he is putting on these gloves to kill another character. He is utterly charming and chillingly dangerous because you suddenly realize the intent. This is a job and he is doing his job as he has decided is appropriate. The difference between the incarnation of Bond as brought to the films by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, is that Craig’s Bond at the end of Quantum of Solace comes away after interrogating Vesper’s supposed former boyfriend about Vesper and M actually asks him if he left something for them to interrogate. There is this whole ambience that he has acted without reason and only with explosive and uncalculated emotion. The intelligence, intent, and problem solving is gone. He is mere animal.
And I wonder what that says about our current time period and the expectations of the character, action films, etc.
Sean Connery’s Bond was suave and misogynistic in an age when the behavior was acceptable and applauded. He was a man’s man and considered sexy.
Roger Moore’s Bond was a bit campy, but that was something attractive in the seventies. Also the look, feel, and gee-whiz of the Bond gadgetry grew into a larger part of the films.
Timothy Dalton’s Bond never really had the charisma or zing of Bond in my assessment, but I have been told by others that they felt he was closer to the James Bond of the books. I am not sure that I agree with that either.
And then there was Pierce Brosnan’s Bond. OMG. Still makes me weak in the knees and what they did with the character was brilliant. Brosnan brought a life to the character that the books and stories didn’t really have in the same way. I think that the franchise did some marvelous commentary with Pierce Brosnan and turning M into a woman. The first Brosnan Bond film had bite. It showed him to be an anachronistic figure and that he was potentially misogynistic and suddenly he had a female boss. Ooo baby! It stirred things up. The largely inconsequential Siberian computer programmer is the source of the misogynistic humor and he gets absolutely no where with the girl. Brosnan brought life, humor, and a thinking sex appeal to the character.
And then with Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale the franchise became confused. It started with a wonderful and exciting and LONG action sequence that took almost twenty minutes without adding very much to the plot. The movie then became a quite nice exploration of Bond’s character and the reasons behind him being a misogynist.
And then they shied off.
It was like they just couldn’t bear to take the character out in the open to that place and admit it. So it became a lame action movie in the last. Quantum of Solace left Bond as a brute.
I sincerely hope that the character will continue to evolve.