No Time For Bond?

Film

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.

22 comments on “No Time For Bond?”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    You have my admiration. Watching Bond movies is a painful experience.

  2. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    My first boyfriend dragged me to several Bond films.
    He wasn’t my boyfriend for long.

  3. Brooke says:

    Why, oh, why do you continue writing about JB (and that oft-mentioned typist)?! Do you not understand that this site is precious digital space? What will induce you to stop? Random deliveries of KFC fried food at all hours of day and night? Handing you over, w.o. phone and laptop, to Extinction Rebellion? Posting your number as support hotline for women discarded by B**J**? Stop, please, stop.

  4. Liz Thompson says:

    I only ever watched one Bond film. Can’t even remember which. Pissed me off for ever. Yet I read nearly all the Anthony Price novels with great enjoyment. They somehow seemed to be real people rather than cardboard cut-outs from another dimension.

  5. Dave Kearns says:

    The Connery films need to be seen within the context of their times – the 1960s. They were genre-breaking, while still reflecting the era of the books (late 40s, early 50s). Very few films hold up 50-60 years later. After those, the series dissolved into pastiche. But I can still remember being thrilled by “From Russia with Love” back in the day.

  6. Ian Luck says:

    I actually like ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ It’s the only movie that is similar to the original book. But yes, the movies are of their time. My end point for the movies is ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, for the simple reason that it’s got Christopher Lee in it – and he’s excellent. I also like the idea of having M’s Hong Kong base being hidden in the wreck of the Queen Elizabeth. Ken Adam’s sets for that, with everything being on the skew, with new level floors installed, are simply wonderful. I have seen every Bond movie, though, but they are pale imitations of what was. I still have no real idea what ‘Quantum Of Solace’ was about – the original story is in the short story collection ‘For Your Eyes Only’, and is a tale told to Bond about marital infidelity in high office, and makes way more sense than the movie. I’ll always read the books – but I’m none too bothered about seeing the movies, any more.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Somehow I liked From Russia with Love, don’t know why. I have seen some of the others but there was always something troubling which always seemed to track back to the poor girl encased in gold.

  8. Brian Evans says:

    Three things I have never “got” in life-anything with Celebrity in the title, football and James Bond films (even as a child).

  9. admin says:

    Brian, I agree with two of the three…I have a love/hate relationship with 007.
    Brooke, generations of British boys were formed by Bond, and everyone has 2/3 favourites. You can’t ignore a phenomenon. As for wasted time, I refer you to most box-sets, superhero films and Jane bloody Eyre!

  10. Martin Tolley says:

    Way hay Liz Thompson… at last I’ve found another Anthony Price fan. “The Memory Trap” my favourite.
    If anyone wants a really good pastiche (p@## – take) of the Bond stuff, Anthony Burgess’s “Tremor of Intent” is a little gem. Burgess was commissioned to write the screenplay for The Spy who Loved me, but his script was rejected for being a bit too extreme – allegedly Burgess’s plot had an organisation that secretly inserted small nuclear bombs into wealthy patients and these were going to be detonated in the Sydney Opera House where Mrs Queen was to be present.. Bond with newly acquired acupuncture skills saved the day by performing an emergency operation to defuse the bombs. Now I think that might have been a film I’ve have liked to watch.

  11. Ian Luck says:

    Never got Football – 22 othewise unemployable people running about after a child’s toy. That’s what I see. I did once write an entry on a forum, that sport was invented to give thick kids something to do other than scribbling in the library books. It was in jest. I was honestly shocked when several hundred people commented, agreeing with me. I don’t know anybody who is a football fan. Not one person.
    And celebrity? Most proper celebrities have died of old age. The people touted as ‘celebrities’ nowadays… aren’t. I love it when people are having a conversation about ‘celebrities’, and ask me something, and I can reply:
    “I have no idea who you are talking about.” Or somebody might ask me about something about a show like ‘Strictly Seal-Clubbing’, or ‘The Great British Toss-Off’, or ‘Watercolour Deathmatch’, (I think that’s what those shows are called; I don’t pay much attention) and I’ll tell them, quite truthfully, that I’ve never watched any of them. Same goes for those awful talent shows – my willingness to watch such soul-destroying dreck was eroded by years of bloody ‘Opportunity Knocks’, with Hughie ‘Insincerity’ Green, and poxy ‘New Faces’, hosted by a faceless bloke in a crimplene suit. Both shows were on at mealtimes, so no chance of being able to miss them. It struck me, as I was writing this, that I’m sitting here, wearing a teeshirt bearing the Jean-Paul Sartre quote: “L’ enfer, c’est les autres.” My way of thinking, entirely.

  12. Ken Mann says:

    It is possibly a sign of British self-image problems that it took me years to notice that a Brit constantly saving the world wasn’t striking me as odd, when it absolutely should.
    Signs of changing times; the hotel where Ian Fleming took part in a card game during the war, which he later used as inspiration for his first novel, in the last few weeks hosted an international meeting of users of the most popular network monitoring software.

  13. Brian Evans says:

    Ian-above is first thing I have read today and what a great start to the day. You are a man after my own heart and wonderfully cynical.

    At least a few years ago we had the biopic hatchet job of Hughie Green to watch with, I think, Trevor Eve playing the part. This was around the same time as the scathing biopic of another unwatchable TV creature- Fanny Craddock. Sadly, I forget who played her in this but what a memorable title-“Fear of Fanny”

    Just in case you anyone has views on 3 other no-no’s of mine, I will throw these into the works: Spike Milligan (incl “The Goon Show”), net curtains and-topically-Prince Andrew. I hope Mr F won’t mind me going a bit off-topic here.

  14. Brian Evans says:

    …should read “you or anyone else “

  15. Jeffrey Prior says:

    Ian-brilliant spoof. Never have I read such an accurate piss take of those self appointed cultural guardians who love to tell the rest of us how clever and aloof from any kind of popular culture they are. The bit about the 22 ‘othewise’ unemployable people was brilliant, the deliberate spelling mistake especially so.

  16. Trace Turner says:

    I’m sure I’ve seen bits and pieces of Bond films on TV, but I’ve only ever seen one in it’s entirety. I went to the movie theatre to see A View to a Kill but only because it had Grace Jones in it…

  17. Brooke says:

    Admin, judging by comments above, not sure how formative Bond was. Assume you’re using phenomenon is Kantian sense. Too busy for boxed sets, etc. And who reads JE anymore; she’s poor– nothing to learn there.

  18. Ken Mann says:

    The thing about tough gritty Bond is that it needs to make sense, and Spectre didn’t. Its a bit weird when earlier films about mad supervillains holding the world to ransom had some kind of internal logic, and more recent films pretending to be “realistic” don’t. I leave Moonraker out of this because it is totally bonkers, relying entirely on Roger Moore’s charm and the evident pleasure Michael Lonsdale is having being a Bond villain.

  19. Ian Luck says:

    Jeffery – I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I know it when I see it. And thank you. But that is me. I cannot stand anything like sport or poorly made, churned-out, ‘near enough’ television programmes. I watch less than five hours a week, and have done so for at least thirty five years. Some people are happy to watch rubbish. I am not. Simple as that. I’ve always preferred to go to museums, than sit on the beach when on holiday as a kid. That’s me. I’d much rather watch nine hours of Abel Gance’s silent classic ‘Napoleon’, than Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. I’ve never, ever felt superior. I’m the same as everyone else – a favourite status message of mine is: ‘Born. Still here. Will die eventually.’ People can do whatever they like. I just do the things I like. Football, I do not like. Millions love it, and I’m happy to be in a minority.

  20. Adam says:

    Oh, I don’t know. For a post Xmas day dinner treat, you might as well go the whole hog and slump down to watch Moonraker (bound to be on somewhere). By far the silliest, but I’ve a soft spot having seen it at age 8 at the Quinton Classic.

    I’ve only read one bond book (Goldfinger) and was surprised how modern it felt – short, pacy and very readable. More golf than I wanted, though…

  21. Helen Martin says:

    I have always wondered why there is such a large chunk of the television news given to sport and none to theatre either live or film, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the hockey and soccer clips because I do. Physical dexterity is a pleasure to watch. I don’t enjoy American football because they are hidden in massive helmets and shoulder pads and it’s just a straight forward run as far as you can before they pile on top of you. I went to basketball games in my teens and to baseball when I couldn’t get out of it (my brother played). Games are games, whether bridge, snakes and ladders, or football. Where I part company with fans is when you really care enough about a team to dislike those who back another one.

  22. SteveB says:

    I enjoy the original James Bond books, which did form my childhood, AND Anthony Price. So There! Tomorrow‘s Ghost is my favourite btw.

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