Monday, August 20, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Goldfinger" (1964)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

This is the one that really got the ball rolling. The first two films were successes, but “Goldfinger” was a phenomenon. From here on out the tone had been set. We were not dealing with a spy or a serious attempt at storytelling. Bond would be a superhero in a science fictional (albeit barely) universe. A great many of the memorable details and quotes associated with Bond come from this film. It is a classic in many minds. That being said, you can’t think about things too much. These films are meant to be enjoyed like a roller coaster. It is supposed to be about thrills. If you begin to analyze things too much (as we have set out to do here) they fall apart.

Bond has become a passive character. He does very little in this film. He just happens to be in the right place at the right time, and even then he is not active in changing anything. This fact is pretty clear throughout the film once you look for it, but it is perhaps most evident at the film’s climax in Fort Knox. As the bomb ticks its way down toward zero and the obliteration of the economic foundations of the world, Bond studies it in desperation. He has no idea what he should do. Finally he decides to trust his luck and prepares to rip some wires apart, but he is saved just in the nick of time as someone who knows what they are doing turns the thing off.

In fact, in the entire film there is only one thing that Bond actively does that has a direct impact on events and helps to save the day. His one act of “heroism” is that he employs his sexual magic to thaw the bad woman and turn her into an ally. Up until this moment the film has made it clear that she has no interest in sex. (Apparently the book makes her out to be a lesbian.) However, Bond forcibly comes on to her (today we would call what happens on screen rape) and she magically becomes a nice woman who wants to help the good guys.

This is not the last time we will see this Bond-Rape-Magic. It is a bit of a mystery when one thinks that this film solidified Bond’s status as everyone’s favorite spy. It must be a case of all the other elements—the villain, the gadgets, the adventure, etc—generating the popularity; combined with different social attitudes (primary being that we didn’t talk or think too much about sex) that made this series so acceptable. It’ll take many years but we will see that cultural attitudes will change for the better and the series will try to address these issues, but will they ever really succeed?

This approach to the Bond series is starting to ruin it for me.

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