This post is long, long overdue. I think it was a little over two months ago now that Roger Moore’s death was announced. He died of old age, nothing that would be a theme of a murder mystery, and in the theatre chain in our country it was announced that there would be a viewing of ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.
A few weeks before Moore’s death, my friend and I were eating dinner. We got into an interesting conversation on why I like the James Bond franchise so much — she announced that, while she hardly watched any of the Bond movies even though she’s a big film-fanatic, she was heavily under the expression that Bond is a misogynistic serial killer who drives fancy cars…and breaks them, among other things. While this all is certainly true, to me there’s so much more to the James Bond franchise.
Even though I actually call myself a feminist. I find myself even to be willing enough to ‘overlook’ the bad things surrounding the franchise as something that I find culturally interesting. And this really intrigued me maybe most of all. But while we were at dinner I couldn’t quite express why and what it was about the franchise that appealed to me so much. I stammered a bit about Timothy Dalton, the amazing filming locations, Judi Dench as M and the strong theme songs. You know, being the charismatic fuck that I am.
Of course we went to the viewing of Tomorrow Never Dies. And I decided to make a bit of a blogpost trying to pin down for myself what it is about the franchise that I still enjoy so, so much.
There are several reasons why I rave about the James Bond franchise. I am well aware people don’t agree with me. So please, don’t get your knickers in a twist and just hear me out. If you don’t understand my opinion (agreeing is something entirely different) after reading this, I cordially invite you to the comment section because that would be fun.
I categorised the facets of my appreciation in six different topics, just to make it a bit more easy to read (or skip through).
1) The films are culturally informative
This is definitely my number one reason why I like the franchise so much. It’s been going on for decades and depicts the cultural aspects of each place in time. It’s a bit like a time machine, just more fun to see as you ‘travel’ across the different cultural landscapes. Each film pays homage to the time in history they were made in. Obviously because they made it from their point of view(ish) and tried to keep things interesting and futuristic-y for the audience.
Of course, it’s all a bit magnified and glamorised. But then again, it’s a movie! Movies are generally made for entertainment! Each film is made for an audience of that specific time. The film had to appeal to the audience of that time to do well at the box office. You can see the cultural aspects back see it back in the storyline, the fashion, the places, the jokes and the gadgets from Q. But maybe also mostly through the characterisation of the James Bond-figure.
I always try to look at a Bond film in relation to the cultural landscape around it. For example, the start of Daniel Craig as James: we’re in a world were it seems society has become much more violent and interconnected. We know about disasters around the world much quicker than ever before. Therefore I think that his persona of being tough and a bit gruff and his way of ploughing through the film, just punching his way through the action is a very interesting difference with, say Sean Connery as Bond being mostly slick, smooth and suave – not just around women but in everything he does. But at the same time, they’re both James Bond, being bad-ass, self-assured, confident, and unapologetic. That might have a bit a of a timeless appeal.
I did study Cultural Heritage after all. And this is definitely something that really appeals me in the franchise.
2) The films are really beautiful
Yes, I know this is a wholly non-factual aspect (OK, none of these things are – forgive me), but you’ve got to give it to them. I especially get the chills from the intros from the latest films like Casino Royale, but also Skyfall was top notch. Aside from that, I think the cinematographic value of the films is fantastic. Not only from the latest films, but throughout the decades they have tried out new things constantly. Within the franchise, they always try to work with ‘the best of’ their time. They always try to be on top of the trends, or even better: set the trends.
The locations of the movies are always interesting for the plot. But apart from that, it’s really interwoven with the stunts, the fashion, the gadgets… everything. They make the most of the locations and really work with them. They set the tone. But apart from that, there’s always those beautiful lighting, stunning views from the skyline, pristine beaches, expansive housing. And some meticulous Britishness is always intertwined somehow.
If this doesn’t satisfy you, at least get happy from the consistent product placement. I’m all here for it. Shaken not stirred anyone? Or what about the beautiful, beautiful Aston Martin cars (oh, and did I mention they are beautiful?).
I can go and explain to you why I think the movies are beautiful, but I can also tell you to give watching a James Bond film a whirl. See for yourself. Immerse yourself in the lusciousness of the James Bond universe.
3) The pre-title sequence & theme songs
Briefly acknowledged this in the previous bit, but I love the pre-title & theme parts of any James Bond film. James Bond films have this standard thing when you get a 3 minute intro, usually some kind of fighting or infiltration happening, and then BANG! You get a theme where the movie is introduced under an (usually) epic or beautiful score.
And ok, yes. In many of these there seems to be a lot happening with silhouettes of naked ladies. But it’s always infused with the theme of the movie, trying to be on top of the latest artsy trends. My personal favourite? I’d say Casino Royale.
4) It’s a genre of its own
There’s the action genre, which consists of a lot of spy movies. But then there’s also James Bond films. Admittedly, I do not think James Bond movies are not really of the espionage genre. But mainly as an espionage film, I know I can’t take it seriously. I feel the franchise isn’t for the die-hard espionage fans. It’s for the James Bond fan. If you want a good espionage film, go watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or Bridge of Spies or Kingsman even.
Now, I do enjoy good espionage and mystery movies. And sure, I feel like James Bond movies do have really important role to play in the history/development of espionage films in cinema. But this Bond-character is actually very one dimensional. Character development is all well and good, but one of the strengths of the Bond franchise is that they can be thrown out of the window. We don’t need to know why Bond does what he does or what he’s been getting up to in his spare time or what motivates him. M calls him in and hands him a folder marked “for your eyes only” and he goes off to stop the bad guy. No further explanation is required. And the fun can start.
He’s a spy! And not at nasty, real world spy. No, he’s a cool spy fighting larger than life villains. The James Bond universe is a very black and white world. These guys truly are villainous, and we need a debonair British MI5 agent to save us from these mad men who want to harm us all.
5) The cast is always on point
Now, I know a lot of fella’s would like the franchise for the Bondgirls. And in my opinion, the Bond Girls (or women) are the most fantastic of them all. I love Zena Marshall, Akiko Wakabayashi, Diana Rigg, Grace Jones, Rosamund Pike, Eva Green, Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton (yes, Quantum of Solace was a bit of a favourite).
On the other hand, it’s the men who were cast to play Bond. it’s the old saying: men want to be him, women want to be with him. And yes, I’d say the politically correct answer: they are all very amazing. The other men in the franchise are also cast brilliantly, Ben Whishaw anybody? But back to Bond. My favourites? George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig.
And I do wonder who we’ll see cast next.
tl;dr James Bond is epic. But do tell me what you think!