Nearly 20 years ago I walked into a pawn shop on the north side of Fredericton and bought a used copy of the James Bond film Goldeneye on VHS. I went home, popped it in and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Now almost 20 years later, I sat in a movie theatre waiting to watch the latest instalment of the franchise. I felt the same way I have every other time I watched a Bond film for the first time – excited.
Spectre, the newest film in the series, was released l Thursday. It stars Daniel Craig in his fourth turn at the character. It’s not Skyfall; there will be not Academy Award talk. Still, it’s probably one of the funniest Bond films, with enough Craig grit to insure it never become camp.
The quintessential spy series has given fans like me 24 official films, the lone holdout being Never Say Never Again with an even older, balder Sean Connery still giving a Bond-worthy performance.
That’s not to say everyone likes the films, or that there’s nothing wrong with them. Any franchise with character names like Pussy Galore, Kissy Suzuki, Holly Goodhead and Xena Onatopp (on top, get it?) would have to evolve.
That’s also not to say the films are bastions of forward thinking. In the early films James Bond hit more women in the fictional universe than Sean Connery did in the real one. In You Only Live Twice, Bond gets surgery to become Japanese, complete with an eye job. In Live and Let Die it seems that every black person in Harlem works for the bad guy, a world leader/heroin kingpin with a penchant for voodoo. Even the Craig films aren’t immune.
“In Skyfall, Bond identifies a woman that he meets as a sex worker. Who was, as he says, forced into it at a young age,” said Jordan McAdam, a student at STU. “He sneaks uninvited into the place where she’s taking a shower and has sex with her.”
Another criticism against the Bond films is the disconnect to real life. In short, spies do not act this way. Espionage is actually pretty tedious work, with little in the way of car chases or explosions. They generally don’t have the gadgets that Bond has. They’ve never even been to space. Their lives are not nearly as glamorous.
“Spies are, when they actually are individual spies, they’re lonely people, they take to drugs, they drink, they have sleepless nights,” said Miron Rezun, a political science professor at UNB who teaches a course in spies. “They’re miserable, depressed most of the time because they’re on pills, and they go see a shrink.”
Also, let’s be honest, some of the films are kind of stupid. Diamonds Are Forever contains a death beam constructed by, you guessed it, thousands of diamonds. The Man with the Golden Gun has a car jump complete with slide whistle. A View to a Kill features a Beach Boys song playing during a ski chase. During the obligatory sex scene in The World is Not Enough, Bond remarks to his conquest, Dr. Christmas Jones, “I thought Christmas came only once a year.”
Yet even with all these flaws, after 50-some years, we are still drawn to this character. We see something in him. Maybe it’s just his intensity, or his suave charm or maybe just the cars.
That’s not to say that Bond can never change. Can we have a black Bond? Yes. Can it be Idris Elba? Yes. Would he have to shave his goatee? Most definitely.
Just don’t change him too much. He still should be British, smooth and drink enough alcohol to give any addiction expert pause.
While we may not know what will happen next, one thing is clear. James Bond will return.
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