Considering the now numerous and possibly exponential number of future movie franchises, one of the most discernible characters in movie franchise history was oddly named after an ornithologist named James Bond. For author Ian Fleming ironically wanted the blandest name possible for a personality that would be depicted in 23 official films, 2 unofficial films, 12 official novels, 2 sets of official short stories, and 30+ post Ian Fleming novels and short stories. Cinematic Impact explores the origins and future of the most debonair European in fictional history.
The military often places people in charge of personnel, equipment, and operations at an age so young; that those person(s) are often not old enough to legally enjoy an alcoholic beverage while on liberty. Although well beyond the legal drinking age in 1941, then 33 year-old Lt. Commander Ian Fleming spearheaded and led an intelligence plan known as Goldeneye. Operation Goldeneye was a concentrated effort by British Naval Intelligence to eavesdrop on the Spanish in case of their defection to the Axis Powers. Lt. Commander Fleming also led an espionage effort that gathered tons (literally thousands of pounds) of intelligence that would subsequently be used in the Nuremberg trials. Fleming accomplished all of the aforementioned escapades with only three years of military experience.
While Fleming never physically participated in any human intelligence operations, his experiences greatly influenced his journalism and literary career. He once attended an intelligence seminar in Jamaica, and decided that this would be his home. Dubbed “Goldeneye” the Fleming estate was where the first 007 novel was penned. Although Casino Royale would not have a “proper” film adaptation until 2006, the 1953 novel received rave reviews despite being written only over a two-month window. From a retrospective observation, it is fitting that producer and United Artists executives thought audiences were not likely to respond well to the plot of 007’s first outing. Casino Royale featured vast amounts of character development and subdued exposition that may have gone over as a good stand-alone movie, yet not an attractive first entry to a movie series. Although Dr. No was also devoid of gadgets and abundances of action scenes, Fleming’s debut novel did not have secret lairs and numerous attractive females for Bond to go into pimp mode to acquire. Instead a significant novel featured Bond going through numerous permutations in his mind to bankrupt the main antagonist, while fighting off his attraction for the lovely yet slightly naive Vesper Lynd. The one thrilling action sequence (involving a car-chase leading into a gut wrenching torture scenario) would not have been enough to make audiences return to theaters for another 007 film. The 18-49 male demographic needed more escapism and Dr. No fit the bill more accordingly.
Bond in literature and film.
Although American actor Barry Nelson was the earliest to portray 007, the camera panning to a somewhat muscular 6’2 Scottish actor lighting a cigarette and smoothly articulating the words “Bond, James Bond” sitting across from the beautiful Sylvia Trench in Dr. No was the world’s first bona fide introduction to James Bond. Connery would play the lead for five straight films and return twice for Diamonds are Forever and the unofficial Never Say Never Again. Until Daniel Craig emerged 44 years later, there was minimal debate over who was the best spy to don a designer tuxedo. The first three films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger are considered masterpieces and Thunderball is so popular within the studio, that executives have considered remaking the film on numerous occasions. Connery’s one time successor George Lazenby was the lead for the marvelous On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Director, producer, and writer Christopher Nolan has cited On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as his favorite Bond flick and the helicopter raid to save Bond’s future (yet tragically ephemeral) wife certainly inspired the climax of Inception. Unfortunately Critics and audiences were not terribly fond of Lazenby, and even though he did not desire to return as Bond, his performance is still negatively critiqued.
Roger Moore bought his trademark smirk to the series in the 1970s and the films evolved into slapstick-ish humor mill rather than true espionage. Although Moore was convincing, only The Spy Who Loved Me was considered effective. Octopussy is infamous for not only having a title that belongs in an aquatic edition of Playboy, but for having Bond dressed as a clown running around a deranged circus circuit for a large portion of the movie. Moonraker has absurd plotting, Live and Let Die had memorable set-pieces yet was ultimately a blaxploitation film, For Your Eyes Only was ..meh, and A View To A Kill is the lowest rated 007 film on rottentomatoes.com . The 39% of critics that gave A View To A Kill a favorable review must enjoy seeing a nearly stark naked Grace Jones escaping on a mining cart.
Timothy Dalton was considered to take over as Bond after Sir Sean Connery, but felt that he was too young for the role. Dalton reconsidered in the late 1980s and starred in The Living Daylights and License To Kill. Both films were darker in tone, yet the world was not ready for a non-campy Bond. Dalton’s presence was austere and the classically trained actor was not quite the correct fit for the role. Pierce Brosnan was an improvement in the portrayal spectrum but aside from the impressive GoldenEye and the hit and miss Tomorrow Never Dies, his outings were plagued with unnecessary gadgets and other ill contrived macguffins; such as exploding pens and invisible cars. While writing this article I noticed that Die Another Day was being broadcasted. The films over use of bright lighting, villains in ridiculous make-up and poor scripting makes one regrettably reminisce of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.
The incredibly insipid website danielcraigisnotbond.com is still active today. Established after the announcement that the Road To Perdition and Munich co-star would be the lead in the series, the site is dedicated to proving that Daniel Craig is too short, blond, and non-suave to be James Bond. This is incredibly ironic since his remarkable debut in 2006’s Casino Royale fans on this site have voted him the best bond. Along with Batman Begins, I personally believe that Casino Royale is the archetype reboot. This film featured steady pacing, traditional stunt work, and seamless action scenes fueled by practical effects over cartoonish CGI. Also all of the aforementioned attributed of the 2006 film would not have been possible for adaptation in the 1960s. In regards to Craig’s acting, he was the first Bond actor to receive a BAFTA nomination and Roger Moore predicts that Craig will be considered the best 007 ever once Craig retires from the series. The 2007-2008 writers strike plagued the uneven but still ambitious Quantum of Solace. To make matters worse MGM went bankrupt and left main distributor Sony Pictures in a very precarious place. Without going into specific, a near perfect Bond film was made despite the odds just in time for the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s creation.
There is a unique style when it comes to a James Bond film and when I say the term Bond; I mean it with capital ‘B.’ - The impeccable Daniel Craig as James Bond is back. And, this time, he’s back with vengeance and to proof to us all that he does deserve to sport in all those classy suits and save the world from the hands of the most dangerous villains, performs his role as Bond, Mr. Craig, in my opinion, always stays tight in the frame, with ready-to-go attitude and a sense of unique discipline as an actor. The perfect Bond of our era and the mind wonders at times, who else is going to step in and win our hearts as the new Bond once Mr. Craig’s contract nears its expiration with the studios, who has two more films, which are respectively deserved for his respective name after the recent immaculate, artistic, sapid and edgy Skyfall.
Helmed by the talented Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) ardently and written by James Bond veterans Neal Purvis, John Logan and Robert Wade, Skyfall, is the daring act of Mr. Mendes, for the film marks the filmmaker’s first ever dive into the genres known as action/thriller. Oh, and it’s not small as we all know; a world that Mr. Mendes has never attempted to experience floating in its atmosphere before. But, Mr. Mendes as the professional and as the true auteur handles the situation professionally. He’s consecrated his time and attention to bring the best Bond film ever. And, he, in fact, does with a style. Skyfall is the 23rd Bond film, canonical, as it should be. Perhaps it’s that rule that Mr. Mendes was eager to follow in order to succeed.
What makes Skyfall unforgettable and perhaps one of the best Bond films of all time is that it deals with human drama; the emotion and sentiment. Bond weeps, and feels distant as much as we feel close to his emotions, for we comprehend here who really Bond is finally. The dark past and a future that is uncertain. Besides, the well-structured and compelling film-making of Mr. Mendes, Skyfall is stylish, pure magic and yes, powerful and too sapid and sagacious due to its magnificent cinematography by Mr. Roger Deakins (No Country of old Men). To compose the score and introduce the film in even more artistic manner, Thomas Newman’s work as the composer makes one feel to shed tears for its sheer beauty and darkness. And, not to forget the powerful and glorious theme song performed by Adele, which completes the perfection of this Bond film.
The performances by the entire cast are ardent and convincing; not only by Daniel as Bond and Javier Bardem as the villain, Silva, who by the way once again surprises us all. He proves that when it comes to limn a character twisted in nature, Mr. Bardem dares to step in the frame and challenge his director and fellow co-stars. Skyfall is that gunshot of Mr. Mendes that my skin is still feeling its heat. Perhaps it will keep my skin warm forever as the bar here has been set too high. My wife purchased the 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray set as a gift to celebrate my eighth anniversary in the United States Navy. I am waiting eagerly to slide Skyfall into its reserved spot in the Blu-Ray set.
Would Ian Fleming Roll Over In His Grave?
I would like to apologize in advance for if at anytime in this article I appeared to be overreaching my grasp. For I primarily intend to revere the world’s longest running film franchise, yet discuss the state of society. Film, regardless of the genre is a reflection of society.
After reviewing as many articles and excerpts from Ian Fleming biographies, I have not found evidence that any of Ian Fleming’s significant acquaintances were non-white males. With this in mind is it reasonable that a black man (or other minority) could portray the world’s most famous fictional spy? I bring forth this question because series producer Barbara Broccoli has approached British actor Idris Elba about possibly taking over the series. Before I go deeper into the controversial subject of race, I would like to further discuss the impact of Ian Fleming’s writings on the world. I saw my first James Bond film on Turner Broadcasting Station during one of its many Bond marathons. The film was The Spy Who Loved Me, and although I would later enjoy the Sean Connery films more, this was Roger Moore’s best outing. I viewed a world (with the annoyance of commercial interruptions) that featured a man with the lifestyle and occupation that fulfilled many male’s fantasies. Expensive/sophisticated cars, finely tailored suits, and droves of temptresses of all nationalities originated from Ian Fleming’s 14 novels and 9 short stories. It was not until a fellow serviceman suggested that I read the novels, that I gained a true appreciation for the Bond character and Ian Fleming’s experiences as an intelligence officer and journalist. As I expected the novels are darker and introduce an emotionally scarred man that despite being brave in the face of tumultuous situations, is vulnerable to the simplest yet most powerful emotion: Love. The reader was also placed in the minds of villains such as Le Chiffre, Blofeld and Auric Goldfinger. Decent writers such as Raymond Benson and Sebastian Faulks have penned good but not so memorable entries into the spy series. Only Robert Markham’s Colonel Sun has garnered acclaim equal to the original 14 novels. Multiple award winning writer William Boyd is set to author the next bond novel. Considering all of the talent that has been pushed into the world of 007, will Elba be able to transcend the inevitable backlash and deliver? I (and probably most others regardless of their race) think yes. But isn’t Bond of Scottish and other white European decent? Didn’t Ian Fleming base Bond’s physical attributes off of himself and other Anglo-Saxon males? Even if Elba nails the performance will the continuity and Feng-shui of the series be forever tainted? My playing devil’s advocate does not nearly scratch the surface of the controversy that this could possible cause. Danielcraigisnotbond.com and other sites would evolve into a hub for truthful and racist remarks. For some could honestly feel that Elba is not right for the role.
I recently unsubscribed from two Facebook pages because of uninspired comments about Idris Elba. What I define uninspired as focusing solely on the color of his skin rather than his physical presence on screen and acting ability. Take for instance the Facebook page: We Want Idris Elba for James Bond. I did not leave the page due to racist internet trolls. On the contrary I left because people of my race criticized Daniel Craig’s ethnicity just because they wanted to see a black James Bond. I am all for Idris Elba, but not at the expense of reverse racism, which included comments about Craig being a good actor but a time for over throwing “the man”. The second Facebook page I left was of the more traditional racist genome. I unsubscribed from Bond 24 &25 because of the comments that said that blacks couldn’t do this, that and so on. Come on give the brother a chance…pun intended. The right British accented actor should be able to adjust his expensive Tom Ford tie on screen after dispensing of a bad guy with his Walther PPK. Of course I am being subjective and I could bring up many more sociological evidence of why this would or would not be beneficial to cinema and society but that is reserved for my graduate studies at The University of Oklahoma. But I will say that it is time for minorities to build and institute their own crafty drama, spy, crime (or anything that does not involve the words Tyler Perry’s) film for the sake of cinema.
Elba has received some unreasonable scrutiny for portraying a Norse god in the film Thor. Of course most fans loved his short but rather pointless role due to his acting. However change is never truly accepted by the populace. Mr. Elba has proved his acting range in the HBO series The Wire, Prometheus, American Gangster. The upcoming Pacific Rim does not look too shabby either.
John Logan and the future of 007.
John Logan is taking over as lead writer of the Bond series. For over a decade Robert Wade and Neal Purvis were the duo (Paul Haggis was the third partner in crime for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) that placed Bond into three act structure. Now the Skyfall alum and RKO 281, The Aviator Gladiator and Hugo writer will script Bond 24 and Bond 25. Initially the Hollywood reporter stated that the next films would be a two part entry, but Daniel Craig has said that he is doubtful of the authenticity of this news. Nonetheless Sam Mendes as assisted in developing the story for Bond 24. It is uncertain if Mr. Mendes is returning to direct but Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are certainly not about to take a step back in finding the right director. 007 and general movie fans would certainly like to see Mr. Christopher Nolan take a shot at the 50 year series, but even if this great director does not sign on, the possibilities are exciting.