Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bond Envy

As any loyal James Bond fan knows, Quantum of Solace is opening this weekend. You know where I'm going to be this Saturday night. The Bond franchise is a big one. There have been multiple big-screen film adaptations made featuring six different actors in the role; most of them playing Bond more than once. Once an actor has portrayed Bond he's forever linked to the role. So it should be no surprise that since there is a new Bond movie being released a former Bond has decided to give his opinion of the current incarnation (I call this the Jimmy Carter Syndrome).

Roger Moore, star of seven Bond movies and author of a conveniently timed (and titled) memoir called My Word is My Bond, has declared in an interview that the new Bond is "too violent." "I am happy to have done it, but I'm sad that it has turned so violent," Moore said before "Quantum of Solace," starring Daniel Craig as a darker Agent 007, opens in North America on Friday. "That's keeping up with the times, it's what cinema-goers seem to want and it's proved by the box-office figures," Moore told Reuters in an interview about his memoir, "My Word is My Bond." Moore, 81, recalled being appalled at the violence in "A View to a Kill," the 1985 movie which was the last of the seven in which he played Bond. "That wasn't Bond," he said. In his book, Moore writes of his distaste for guns, ever since he was shot in the leg by a friend with a BB gun as a teenager. While making "The Man With the Golden Gun," director Guy Hamilton wanted Bond to be tougher and had him threaten to break Maud Adams' character's arm to get information, he writes. "That sort of characterization didn't sit well with me, but Guy was keen to make my Bond a little more ruthless. "I suggested my Bond would have charmed the information out of her by bedding her first. My Bond was a lover and a giggler, but I went along with Guy," the British actor wrote.

 I can't tell you how interesting I found Moore's comments about Bond. I guess it's because I think of Bond as a kind of violent guy and I always ranked Moore as one of my least favorite Bonds (Sorry Roger. Nothing personal) and now I think I know why.

 First, let me say that I don't consider myself a Bond expert. I've watched Bond over the years and like a lot of people I've formed an impression of the character based on the men who have played him on screen. We all know he's a mixture of tough, suave and sexist, though each actor seems to bring out each characteristic to a greater extent-- obviously Moore was going for the lover-not-a-fighter type. However I think the most convincing Bonds have been the more muscular ones. I think the key to Bond's success as a character is his virility. And when I say virility I mean it at its basest level because, let's face it, women like a bad boy and men like to imagine themselves as one. It has been scientifically proven that fertile women are attracted to men who look like they'd be strong breeders--which I think is kind of the distilled essence of Bond. He's the caveman who hits a woman over the head and drags her into his cave-- and she likes it (I can hear the feminists screaming in my ear as I write this).

I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond, seeing "Moonraker" and "For Your Eyes Only" in the movie theatre as a kid. I liked them at the time but I remember that Moore never seemed to escape Sean Connery's shadow while playing Bond. I never really understood why Connery was such a big deal until I sat down at watched "Goldfinger," but then it dawned on me-- Connery gets it. Bond is not a guy that can be domesticated. Yes, there have been women that he has fallen in love with, like we saw in "Casino Royale," but a married Bond might as well be castrated (I see all you guys wincing). To be interesting Bond has to be free to..well...spread his seed; crude as that sounds. The archetype of the manly man is the old cliche-- the man that all the women want and all the men want to be-- which is what I think Ian Flemming was going for when he created the character.

Don't get me wrong, it isn't just womanizing that makes Bond. If that was the case Moore would have been the perfect Bond. No, Bond needs to be more than just suave to be convincing. And I don't write this to say that Bond is a character that all men should emulate. I wouldn't marry a guy like Bond (and I'm not sure any woman could tie him down for long). I'm merely making the point that for Bond to succeed on the big screen as a super spy, he has to have super exaggerated male characteristics. Ideally you should be able to envision the testosterone pumping through his veins. Take Pierce Brosan's Bond for example. I liked Brosnan well enough as Bond. He was the good looking, urbane Bond-- much like Moore. He could hold his own in a fight but he was just as likely to rely on one of his gadgets to get him out of a tight spot. I liked Brosnan, but he was no Sean Connery.

Like Moore, I'd watch Brosnan's portrayal of Bond and think this is good... but it's not great. It wasn't until Daniel Craig stepped into Bond's shoes that I realized that it was the muscularity of the character that I had been missing. I assume when I watch Craig playing Bond that he, like Connery, gets it. Craig has said in interviews that he bulks up to play Bond. He can put on the tux and drink the martinis with the best of them but Craig looks like he's been in a fight or two. When he does a fight scene he looks like he means it. And when he does a sex scene...well... he looks like he means it. Like I said. Virile.

 I don't know if "Quantum of Solace" will live up to the promise of "Casino Royale;" I'll be sure to let you know what I think after I see it. But one thing I think I can say for sure-- the audience will like Daniel Craig as Bond. I won't go so far and declare him the best Bond ever because I can't be that objective. Sean Connery had made almost all of his Bond movies before I was born and as a woman who is just hanging on to her fertile years I can't help but have a preference for Craig. But if I were to categorize my James Bonds I think it would be safe to put Connery and Craig in one box and Moore and Brosnan in another-- and I think I know which one most people would prefer.

8 comments:

RD Williams said...

I have to agree completely. When you focus too much on one element of the character, you loose the balance, and that's what makes Bond great, is the balance of exaggerated male characteristics.

I noticed that you kept comparing to Sean Conery...I do the same, to me, he WAS Bond. Every one of them that comes after now has to stand up to the "Conery Litmus" test in my mind. LOL

Charles Gramlich said...

In the books, Bond comes off as a fairly violent character. I mean he's "Licensed to kill" after all. For me, though, Roger Moore was "Bond." The first Bond movies I saw starred him and I liked his characterization.

SQT said...

Rd

Connery was the original so I think he set the bar. And he set it high.

Charles

That's so interesting. My husband's friend is the same way. He grew up with Moore and linked him to the role so that's the Bond he likes too. I tend to be less nolstagic than our friend so I think Connery is my original Bond wtih Craig as a close second.

Joshua Herring said...

I'm the odd man out who likes Timothy Dalton - but to be fair, I haven't seen Daniel Craig yet. I completely agree with this post, though. Bond is meant to be virile and cold, not the smiling, jokey charmer that Moore was. It isn't that there aren't enjoyable Moore movies - just that Moore's Bond isn't what Bond seems meant to be.

SQT said...

Joshua

I've heard other people say they really like Dalton too. I should probably go back and watch one of his Bond movies and reconsider my opinion of him.

Stewart Sternberg said...

You are going to love this one. I did. Now the next film, we need to bring in Q and Moneypenny, and let Bond be a bit more movie Bondish. This Bond is pure Fleming.

Fab said...

I prefer Connery, my sister Moore...

Have you been now this Saterday, SQT? Will a post follow? Sorry, I am just so so curious!

Houston said...

You are right on in you assessment. Craig does indeed get it.

Bond had gotten old and stale and Craig took him back to the down and dirty he needed to go to to be real again.