No Time For Bond?
Never go back, that’s all I can say. Despite what anyone may try to convince you, James Bond films were dad films that are now granddad films.
Last week I went over the old 007 movies in the light of new books coming out on this pop-cultural phenomenon, including Thunderbook, a very funny fanboy scene-by-scene analysis ridiculing the 24 films to date (Bond with a seagull on his head, a plane coming out of a horse’s bottom etc) and expected the older ones to fare badly in the gender stakes, but what surprised me was that they weren’t in comparison with the more recent films, which should know better.
The earlier Sean Connery 007s set a gold standard because they were not trying to be anything other than globe-trotting spy adventures. The disastrous appearance of George Lazenby in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ gave us flat, talky scenes interspersed with bursts of a great John Barry score (you know you’re in trouble when the second-unit footage is superior to the main scenes). It fractured the series, preparing the way for Roger Moore’s increasingly horrific seduction of girls one third his age.
By the time we get to Daniel Craig there’s a painfully earnest effort made to insist that the Bond girls are now fully rounded independent women because they get to kickbox and have two lines of dialogue before falling into bed with Bond. ‘Casino Royale’ kicked off a modern reboot of the franchise set in a recognisable world, with the Daniel Craig films going for a different kind of tough glamour; rainy London night streets, dirty fighting, steely glances, women who don’t parade around in bikinis.
However, the last offering ‘Spectre’ offers the worst example in many years of the old shag-and-kill plots, paying lip-service to a post Me-Too world while completely ignoring it. In this one, Bond beds the daughter of a dead informant, and it’s many-levels wrong. Of course it’s escapist nonsense and we know this, but it feels as if a line has been drawn between our old and new societies that can no longer be crossed.
The most ridiculous part of this is the fact that the press seized upon Phoebe Waller-Bridge being brought in as a writer to signal that times have changed. The series – for many years a Hollywood creation in all but name – has regular American scriptwriters who use a UK writer to anglicise the final script. Last time the playwright Jez Butterworth lent his name to the wash-and-brush-up job.
Bond will continue exactly as before but with a bit of nice new Woke window-dressing, because without its core sensibility of guns and girls there is nothing left. It’s not exactly John Le Carré. We do we tolerate Bond’s behaviour? Because we’ve been given a reason for it now; he is a broken man. And because (like Ian Fleming) he’s considered to exist in a class above us.
It’s appropriate that such an English hero should play the class card; he briefly allows us safe passage into the upper echelons. Bond in a bow-tie was once exotic, back when a gold cigarette case was glamorous. Now he’s exotic because his type no longer exists.