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Let Bond Be Bond: What We Want from Bond 23

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

The 23rd Bond movie had its release date confirmed as 9th November 2012, putting an end to the perpetual development hell that it seemed trapped in. With Oscar-winner Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, there would seem to be very little to worry about, but I thought – nonetheless – I’d collect some thoughts on what I’d like to see in the 23rd instalment of the long-running film series.

Shaken... but not stirred...

The previous entry, Quantum of Solace, gets a bit of a bad wrap. A lot of people will acknowledge it’s a well-made action film, even if it’s not a spectacular Bond film. I’ve always been somewhat confused by this. Compared to Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is brimming with the tropes of the film series. It pushes the evil nebulous organisation more to the fore, features a confrontation in an exploding villain lair and features a plot to gain control of the world’s resources. Those aren’t the hallmarks of modern spy thrillers, they’re plot elements which define the Bond franchise.

Perhaps it’s better to say that Quantum of Solace, despite all that, doesn’t feel like a Bond film. Sure, objectively, it may have more of the classic ingredients for an entertaining Bond adventure than its well-received predecessor, but all anybody remembers are the fight sequences choreographed by the stunt coordinator from the Bourne films. Despite the fact that Daniel Craig wears a tuxedo and delivers a solid performance, the movie feels more like a generic modern spy thriller than a Bond film. So, why is that?

Have things heat up...

Truth be told, I’m not sure. If you were to measure Quantum of Solace by any objective measure, it’s more quintessentially Bond than Casino Royale – and yet it feels much less so. I think that this problem has less to do with the movie itself and the plotting of the script, but is more focused around the title character. There’s a reason that the movies are called “the Bond films” and not “the Ian Fleming spy films”. Bond himself is a key part of the deal.

The audience knows Bond, sort of like an old family friend. We practically know how he likes his coffee, whether he’ll want a brandy or a martini. Sure, his face (and even mood and temperament) may change from iteration, but there’s a certain core of the character which stays consistent throughout the film – a certain “Bondness” if you will.

We don’t just accept the character, we love him. We anticipate his own quirky way of doing things because, well, this is his show. He’s not the most believable spy in the world – he’s too prone to rebel and far too fond of making a show – but that’s precisely why we love him. We want Bond to be Bond – we want him to do something that no other spy can do. We want him to be more than just a generic player in the espionage genre.

Give it a shot...

And I think that this illustrates the reason that Casino Royale is more highly regarded than Quantum of Solace. Nobody but Bond could play cards for an entire movie and hold our interest. Jason Bourne doesn’t belong in a tuxedo at a poker game, but Bond does. It might not be realistic, and it might suggest a level of class and sophistication which don’t really exist, but it’s a very “Bond” thing to do. That image of him, with the cards and the chips, is iconic. That, along with the Union parachute, comes to mind when I think of Bond.

In contrast, the Bond of Quantum of Solace is just another spy. There isn’t even a sense that he is, to quote M, “blinded by revenge”. He’s cold and dispassionate, but also even cruder and blunter than when he started. You could ask Matt Damon to step in and play the role as Jason Bourne, and the movie would still work – despite the plot for world domination or fight scenes in the villain’s stronghold.

So, my request for Bond 23 is this: please let Bond be Bond. Let him do things that no other spy can do. Acknowledge what makes him distinct from every other action hero out there, and give us the stuff that we can’t get elsewhere. I don’t care if you “go big” or “go small”. It might be nice to make a film based on Fleming’s Moonraker or to redo The Man With The Golden Gun (properly), but I know that ain’t gonna happen. So, please – just make a Bond film, ratehr than a film featuring Bond.

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4 Responses

  1. I thought Craig was Bond. It’s just Bond without quips, only rage.

    • Great article, Darren and I share your sentiment wholeheartedly. I think you nailed it here “Nobody but Bond could play cards for an entire movie and hold our interest. Jason Bourne doesn’t belong in a tuxedo at a poker game, but Bond does. It might not be realistic, and it might suggest a level of class and sophistication which don’t really exist, but it’s a very “Bond” thing to do.” In Quantum, all that rage and personal vendetta just takes the fun out of a Bond film. People had similar complaints with Licence to Kill, but at least Dalton still got to do some fun there w/ the card game and frolicking with Talisa Soto.

      • Yep. Licence to Kill involved the idea of Bond as a human being perhaps better than Quantum of Solace, and managed to fit in all manner of undoubtedly “Bond” moments. Hiijacking a plane in mid-air after jetskiing witha harpoon? Classic Bond. I just didn’t feel any of that in Quantum of Solace. Sure, he was fighting in an exploding villain hideout, but it just felt like a fight scene from any other movie.

    • I think Craig is great in the role (he’s certainly one of the better Bonds), but the problem is that Bond doesn’t do anything remotely “Bond-esque” during the film. Digitally insert Matt Damon over Craig and the film could be Bourne movie.

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