Friday, August 14, 2009

Shaken, Stirred, and Reinvented a Few Times

“It’s adventure, fantasy, beautiful women, dashing men and villains of the deepest dye—it’s got everything, really.” —Christopher Lee, Empire Magazine, 2002

When you have a movie franchise spanning nearly 50 years, it can give you an insight into the changes in society. Bond began in the carefree, counterculture sixties. Since that day, society has continually fought to eliminate guilt and say “anything goes,” and yet the franchise itself seems to continually apologize for its attitudes. For example, every actress cast in a bond movie can be counted on to point out that her character is different from all the proceeding Bond Girls by being “stronger” or “Bond’s equal.”

In film, Bond began as a fun bit of escapism. Connery’s first five outings are just a game. The plots are secondary to the travel, the excitement, and the adventure. One could attempt to derive some deeper meaning or message, but they aren’t really there. Roger Moore had a hard time taking the Bond stories seriously (as if they were supposed to be serious anyway) so he injected them with as much silliness as he could. Perhaps it was the difference between the fun-filled sixties and the seriousness of the seventies, but it seems like everyone felt guilty enjoying such mindless entertainment. Dalton’s Bond in the eighties was even less humorous (and entertaining), and Brosnan’s politically correct Bond of the nineties started out with a bit of self-conscious embarrassment.

The newest incarnation of Bond has seemed to change all that by turning its back on the history. In that sense, it sort of measures up to the early Connery films. Craig’s Bond trades in fantasy, gadgets, sex and clichés for action, emotion, and serious stakes. Here’s hoping it continues to forge ahead in its own way and doesn’t let the silliness creep back in.

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