Quantum of Solace, a Study in Mehssimism

Quantum of Solace, a Study in Mehssimism

This essay on Quantum of Solace is the 22nd essay in a 24-part series about the James Bond cinemas. I encourage everyone to comment and join in on an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction.

quantum of solace quad poster

Quantum of Solace, a Study in Mehssimism

by James David Patrick

 

“On Quantum, we were fucked.”

-Daniel Craig

 

Any conversation about Quantum of Solace must return to the WGA strike. It’s not just that the strike left production with a script found lacking – it’s that there wasn’t a script so much as a bare-bones outline. The “script” for Quantum of Solace has become such a scapegoat in the supposed failure of the film that its ribald villainy overshadows the film’s actual villain, Dominic Green (Mathieu Amalric). So what happened with that screenplay?

Let’s start with what we know.

1. At least four screenwriters had a hand in the Quantum cookie jar: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis, and Joshua Zetumer.

2. Production scrapped another outline developed by Paul Haggis when Foster signed on, causing a last-minute rush to develop a new screenplay. But I’ve also read that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli nixed the Haggis concept. If that were the case one would assume the story wouldn’t have been abandoned and rewritten at the 11th hour.

3. Zetumer arrived on the set during production to do polishes immediately following the resolution of the Writer’s Guild strike but does not own a credit on the film.

4. Their experience on Quantum caused 5-time Bond scribes Purvis and Wade to state that the film would be their last Bond film, but Purvis and Wade haven’t to my knowledge discussed publicly what happened. Craig and Forster don’t acknowledge them in the process. If you read the interviews around the release of Quantum of Solace, you’d never know they were involved, if not for the credits. They talk only about Zetumer and Haggis.

5. In more recent interviews (during Skyfall pre-release press), Craig and Forster have said that they developed the final concept on set during filming based on a second narrative outlined by Haggis and turned over hours before the strike. This is a shift from their statements in 2008 that claimed the script was “fine,” prior to the start of filming of Quantum.

6. Nobody seems to agree publicly about how the Quantum of Solace shooting script came to be. (more…)

Inside the Tortured Mind of James Bond: Die Another Day and the Fever Dream

Inside the Tortured Mind of James Bond: Die Another Day and the Fever Dream

This is the 20th essay in a 23-part series about the James Bond cinemas. I encourage everyone to comment and join in on an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction.

die another day quad poster

Of [In]human #Bond_age_ #20: Inside the Tortured Mind of James Bond: Die Another Day and the Fever Dream

by James David Patrick and Matt Finch

Bond fans will engage at great length in pleasant debate regarding their favorite Bond film. They will champion GoldenEye as their favorite feature while also conceding to a fellow conversant that From Russia With Love is also a respectable choice, despite wholehearted disagreement. There’s an unspoken respect between Bond fans. You like Bond. I like Bond. Let’s be BFFs (Bond fans forever, obviously). It’s secret rule of Bond appreciation 1.97.C-35. Fellow Bond fans can like any Bond movie with impunity.

Tongues of Bond fans become more silver-tipped when discussing their least favorite Bond film. Bad Bonds slept with your mother, rubbed lemon juice in your paper cuts, took the last radish from the crudité. The danger here isn’t crucifying a Bond that someone loves (See subsection 4 under rule 1.97.C-35: Every Bond film has something “objectively lacking”). The danger is not hating a particular Bond movie enough. Oddly, this isn’t covered by one of the unwritten laws or subsections. Pick Diamonds Are Forever as your least favorite pick, prepare for hostility.

“Octopussy! The clown suit!”

“The World Is Not Enough. Christmas f’ing Jones!”

“Misogyny AND racism! Live and Let Die!”

Still, there’s one Bond that passes almost any Bad Bond litmus test. And that movie, as you might expect, is Die Another Day. I’ve been talking Bond on Twitter for a long damn time now. There’s one assertion that’s never, ever met with much resistance (I say “much” because that bold Bond fan Michael Cavacini remains on the front line of DAD defense – he’s the frontline, the entire army and commanding officer). Let’s get one thing out of the way before we go any further. Die Another Day is subjectively and objectively the least good James Bond movie. That’s called being diplomatic. Even those that have a more favorable opinion of the film accept that the movie represents a significant transgression in the Bond canon.

But a transgression from what exactly? Bond movies have always performed a tenuous tightrope act – the balance between the real and the surreal. Consider the titles that most often come up in the battles of the worst Bonds: Moonraker. Octopussy. A View to a Kill. Die Another Day. What do they all have in common? The movies most often deemed “the worst” overstep the bounds of acceptable suspension of disbelief. They lose the grounded reality of a British intelligence officer investigating threats to Western interests. (more…)

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Casino Royale by Gregory Sahadachny

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Casino Royale by Gregory Sahadachny

An amazing FRWL-inspired retro poster for Casino Royale by Jeff Chapman.

The Sex Panther Prowls Again: Dalton, Craig and the Promise of a Serious Bond in Casino Royale

by Gregory Sahadachny (@MisterGreggles)

Sitting in a theater, there was a great sense of excitement in me. A new Bond. I had heard that this outing would be a “serious” take on the suave secret agent/action hero we all grew up on; that this installment would set the series apart from the silly, over-the-top, pun-heavy detours of the previous keeper of the flame. Bond has become a work of folklore, of socially disseminated tales and shared cross-culture memory the world over, especially in the West. And, for me, he is a hero just like Batman or Superman. Was I ready for this “serious” take though? Was I going to get the necessities? The shaken-not-stirred martini? The “Bond. James Bond.”? The gadgets? Or was this going to break from formula? What about the one-liners? Was I going to even recognize the Bond I grew up with? That was at least a part of my excitement, sitting there in the theater that night. Then, the lights went down. The opening was memorable. Parachuting in to Felix Leiter’s wedding? The awesome cherry-on-top to a noticeably Hollywood-influenced action scene. (It was like a damn episode of Miami Vice.) But this dark-haired, heavy-browed thug with piercing eyes? I wasn’t so sure about him. This was the summer of 1989. And my Bond was Timothy Dalton.

I never saw The Living Daylights before my dad took me to Licence to Kill, so this was the first new Bond for me that I hadn’t already seen on VHS. James Bond was a character he and I bonded over, like many fathers and sons. I had gone to the school of Connery; my dad’s favorite. I had graduated first in my class from Moore; even taken a semester of Lazenby, which, at the time, I didn’t think much of, little more than a mandatory requirement. Now, in my adult life, I appreciate Lazenby and Dalton for the great interpretations of Bond they brought to the screen, as well as the excellence of their entries. But, yeah, Dalton was a new “serious” Bond. And having mainly accepted Moore in all of his tongue-in-cheek charm, I wasn’t too sure about him. 133 minutes later, I had changed my mind. Licence to Kill was harsh, sweaty, violent, and lacking a lot of the sophistication of Roger Moore’s read on Bond. By all accounts, Dalton was tapping into how Ian Fleming’s writing painted the MI6 operative; a more conflicted, timeless representation of male gravitas. The best analogy is to think, how would you react if you grew up on Adam West’s Batman, then Hollywood plopped a deep, brooding Michael Keaton in your lap? (I joke, but the parallels between Batman and Bond on screen are many. *editors note: see #Bond_age_ essay on Octopussy*) Anyway, I was ready for the Dalton series. A series that never came.

Bear with me. I would not spend two paragraphs talking about my hesitant, then full-on love affair with Timothy Dalton if I did not have a point. Who would have guessed that, in 2006, we would be in the same boat?

The history of Bond, Dalton & Pierce Brosnan is a fascinating game of musical chairs. But, Brosnan is not to blame for what the series had become by 2002’s Die Another Day. It was a joke. Not the Old Man joke of A View to a Kill, but one of “what has this series become?” It was a sex pun, wrapped up in hacky plotting. Brosnan did his best with what he had. Arguably, the last of his two entries undid all the greatness of the first two. Serious? Brooding? None of them were really, but at least the first two were made by competent action directors. Goldeneye’s director, Martin Campbell, especially, knew how to make a Bond movie exciting again. Vying to keep the series a competitive spectacle, Bond’s writers and producers, however, lost their way. And, Bond fans were underwhelmed too.

It was advantageous, then, that Campbell could be wooed over to save the series again in 2006. Injecting new life into Casino Royale was a blond, blue-eyed, young Brit, somewhere between magazine cover model and serious stage actor. Daniel Craig was not the wrapper the public expected for Bond. He did not exude “dark” or “brooding” or even an exquisite level of charm. The one film the masses might have known him from, 2004’s Layer Cake, had Craig playing a smooth, but naïve drug dealer in the London Guy Ritchie reinvented and Matthew Vaughn vacationed in. Based on all evidence, what the hell were we getting?

Any fears audiences had might have been informed also by the landscape of action cinema in 2006. There was no way a straightforward, Cold War spy thriller was going to work in the 21st century, around 15 years after the break up of the U.S.S.R. Goldeneye was lucky enough to benefit from the residual unrest in Eastern Europe, but what would Bond’s world look like now? Who would be the bad guy? We couldn’t just have some maniacal bad guy trying to rule the world, blow it up, or hold it ransom. Bond’s antagonists were getting more comic with each passing entry anyway; I’m surprised Two-Face wasn’t in there. No, the point is, it had to be real. It had to mix Bourne’s grit with Bond’s strategic sophistication. It had to get down and dirty.

I didn’t know prior to seeing Casino Royale how much of a reboot it was going to be for the franchise. In retrospect, it makes sense; if you want to re-imagine the character, go back to the source. Considering that the only adaptation of Fleming’s original book was a flippant, almost proto-Austin Powers outing, the time had come to make CR respectable, to install it in the canonical universe, and not let it stay in the land of parody or slight influence in name only. What is noticeable to any fan of Timothy Dalton’s interpretation is that Craig is doing the same thing. From the writers’ perspective, to make a prequel of Bond is to return him to thuggishness; an unpolished diamond, an unsophisticated murder tool. Dalton was in the wrong place at the wrong time (ahead of it even). The yuppies and decadence of the 1980s didn’t need this Bond, they didn’t deserve this Bond. But, in a post-9/11 world, influenced by the globetrotting political intrigue of the Bourne series, Craig had free reign to make his 007 a violent, spontaneous anti-hero. Craig plays him less like “the man with a plan” and more like “the man affected by the plan.”

If viewers had any doubt about him, Daniel Craig solidified himself in that first black-and-white sequence of CR. The creation of the gun barrel sequence being incorporated into the narrative, and not just a signifying check off the Bond checklist, proved exhilarating. Fans want to let their imaginations run wild with their favorite characters’ pasts. What prequels almost always get wrong is how they devolve into gap-filling and forget about the excitement of surprise. I don’t want something I know already to be destroyed in my imagination by committing it to the screen, or worse, having two characters talk about it. I want to be surprised by Craig, and I was, in the moment he gets his double-O status and creates one of the most indelible, graphical visuals in all of cinema. At that point, I knew I was in safe hands.

Casino Royale is not a perfect movie. It’s overlong; it’s got one or two endings too many. For all of its grounding in reality, it still can’t help some of the series’ extraordinary flourishes. For one, its big bad, Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, cries blood. Ridiculous but satisfactorily explained. It holds the viewer’s hand during the card games; I actually laughed out loud in the theater when they cut to Giancarlo Giannini explaining to Eva Green (and the audience) the stakes, who had a better hand, and what Bond needed to win. And, the organization’s conspiracy is murky, especially in the last third of the film. A jump in logic about Giannini’s loyalty is confusing, even throwaway.

But, CR nails the beginning and the ending. Craig nails the attractive, pure sex of a dangerous agent. His comic bickering with Vesper, which transitions into psychoanalysis of each other’s hangups is actually a great example of how to do exposition effectively. The action scenes are well shot with Campbell’s direction. The dialogue is snappy, and several line deliveries are memorable (“Skewered”). The music is excellent, including an open title song from Chris Cornell (Best Male Vocalist, Greg Sahadachny’s Childhood 1994-2000). It also delivers on conventions: a new (old) drink & a new Bond girl, while giving Craig his own world to put a stamp on.

Casino Royale boils down to a showcase for a new Bond. Yes, we’re getting a return to Fleming’s novel, the origin point for a whole franchise. But, the story takes a backseat to Daniel Craig. It’s almost allowing us to view him in a cage before setting him free in the wild. We can see how he relates to M (holdover from Brosnan’s years and a major highlight, Judi Dench), see how he handles the action, see how he looks in a tux, see how he moves (like a goddamn panther on the prowl), see how he unveils the real bad guys, etc. There’s emotional complexity behind Craig’s eyes that we haven’t seen in the series in a long, long time. His journey from thug, to Vesper’s ball of clay to mold, to the hardened, focused, emotionally numb agent is a fertile landscape for virtuoso acting. And, boy oh boy, does Craig deliver.

Greg Sahadachny is a filmmaker and podcaster from Maryland. He works for an undisclosed international media company, so, in many ways, he’s just like James Bond…minus the guns, gadgets, charm and good-looking tailored clothes. He hosts The Debatable Podcast, available on iTunes and tumblr: http://debatablepodcast.tumblr.com.

First Bond Movie: Dr. No
Favorite Bond: Daniel Craig (could be what’s recent is the wavelength I’m on, but damn if they haven’t gotten Bond right in my eyes now)
Favorite Bond Girl: Xenia Onatopp (danger orgasms!)
How I discovered #Bond_age_: From the grand twitter web of overlap and retweets

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Octopussy by Adam Slusar

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Octopussy by Adam Slusar

Octopussy: A Sweet Distraction for an Hour or Two

by Adam Slusar (@TapwaterAlice)

Frequently lambasted for its cartoonish excesses, perplexing storyline and – of course – being the only James Bond film to see Roger Moore disguise himself as a clown, Octopussy is generally considered to be one of the weakest entries in the 007 franchise. Like Moonraker, the humor falls flat at times; look no further than one scene in which a Tarzan cry accompanies Bond as he swings across treetop vines. Ten years after his initial turn in Live and Let Die, Moore was ostensibly “too old” to play Bond any longer. And with the revered Sean Connery set to return as 007 in Never Say Never Again that same year, Octopussy was thrown into a “Battle of the Bonds.” The odds seemed stacked against it; film critics already knew which James Bond they preferred, and needless to say, it wasn’t Roger Moore.

But while Octopussy may falter due to its occasional missteps and oddities, it’s actually pretty great. A charming, elegant, and inventive action thriller, Octopussy is superior to Never Say Never Again in almost every way, and is by far the most unfairly maligned of the James Bond films.

While the previous effort, For Your Eyes Only, was a departure from the campier Bonds of the 1970’s, Octopussy retains a comfortable balance between fanciful escapism and Fleming-esque adventure. Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, in collaboration with George MacDonald Fraser, wrote a film that fits Roger Moore like a glove; combining his penchant for casual wit with his occasional ruthlessness (as evidenced by his car-kicking performance in For Your Eyes Only). We get to see Moore deal a few bullets in addition to his fair share of one-liners.

Even with age, Moore still proves perfectly capable of selling his unique brand of 007 in Octopussy, lending a sense of credibility without betraying the overall tone of the film. His performance acts as a nice counterpoint to his passive-aggressive portrayal in Moonraker. Although the vehemently detested “clown scene” is remembered for all the wrong reasons, it demonstrates Moore in an authentic, all-too-rare occurrence of Bond losing his cool as a doomsday machine counts down to its final seconds; much like The Spy Who Loved Me or For Your Eyes Only, this showcases Moore at his absolute finest.

In terms of progressive feminism and gender equality, Octopussy is a considerable milestone in a franchise made popular by its womanizing secret agent protagonist. Leading the charge – and an army of jumpsuit-wearing female acrobats – is Octopussy herself, a neutral entity working alongside the nefarious Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) in a grand-scale jewel smuggling plot. Previously seen as Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, Maud Adams lends an air of mystery, assertiveness, and professionalism to role of Octopussy. Odd though it may be for a suggestively-named Bond girl to live on an island inhabited only by women while also running a travelling circus, these sort of extravagancies are part-and-parcel with the 007 franchise, and Octopussy exemplifies the standard of proactive female characters in the Bond films.

Octopussy marks the first (but not the last) Bond film to divide its screen-time between two main villains. In addition to Kamal Khan, we have General Orlov (Steven Berkhoff), the true mastermind behind the theft of a Fabergé egg and an evil plot to overtake Western Europe with a Russian artillery brigade. This is a brilliant plot perpetrated by two sub-standard villains, but Jourdan and Berkhoff do admirably with their otherwise thinly-written roles; Khan is given juicy dialogue to complement his incredibly suave demeanour, while Orlov chews up every scene with intense proclamations.

Filling in for Oddjob and Jaws this time around is the blunderbuss-wielding Gobinda, who gets to take on Bond in some of the most inspired stunt sequences in the film. In a nutshell, the villains of Octopussy leave something to be desired, but are still more colorful and entertaining than your average Blofeld regurgitation.

Clearly inspired by the high-adventure of Raiders of the Lost Ark two years prior, Octopussy contains no shortage of tremendous action scenes. This time around, we get to see Bond pilot a mini-jet while pursued by heat seeking missiles, taking on a thug with a razorblade yo-yo, leaping across train cars while evading dangerous obstacles, and even clinging for his life from the top of an airborne plane. Here, director John Glen demonstrates his strengths as an action director. He would continue to up the ante in his three subsequent efforts. Octopussy, nonetheless, contains some of the finest stunt choreography in the Bond series.

Following the post-disco instrumentals of Bill Conti in For Your Eyes Only (of which I’m admittedly a fan), John Barry returns to the Bond franchise with Octopussy, lending gravitas to the film with a sweeping, romantic score occasionally punctuated by frenetic action cues and exotic flair. His work in Octopussy would pave the way for his return in A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights, and Barry would provide those films with perhaps his greatest work.

If you aren’t a fan of the Roger Moore films leading up to it, then Octopussy may not be your cup of tea. Still, it isn’t the train-wreck that most people would have you believe. I first watched Octopussy late in the game, expecting something utterly terrible but coming away pleasantly surprised but also a little disturbed that so many people failed to see the pure joy of Bond escapism contained within. All the negativity surrounding Octopussy chalks up to needless comparisons to the Connery era and an unusual emphasis on the sillier aspects of the film. And truth be told, it is silly, but there’s just so much more to it.

First Bond Movie: Tomorrow Never Dies

Favorite Bond Actor: Roger Moore

Favorite Bond Girl: Solitaire

How I Discovered #Bond_age_: Nic Suszczyk of The GoldenEye Dossier, who invited me to participate in the Moonraker Live Tweet Session.

My Favorite #Bond_age_: For Your Eyes Only by Krissy Myers

My Favorite #Bond_age_: For Your Eyes Only by Krissy Myers

For Your Eyes Only: Senescence in FYEO

By Krissy Myers (@krissy_myers)

After the extravagant and financially successful but critically panned release of 1979’s Moonraker, the creative team at EON Productions decided to take James Bond back to basics. With John Glen, a new director at the helm, 007 boldly entered the 1980’s with the straightforward spy thriller For Your Eyes Only. No more Jaws, Bondulas, outer space laser tag, implied space orgies or explicit attempts at re-entry by our lecherous but loveable Bond, Roger Moore.

Roger Moore and Richard Kiel

“How could I bite off such a lovely face?”

Aside from a few throwaway moments, For Your Eyes Only succeeded in doing exactly what it set out to do. It was well received by critics at the time and is generally viewed as proof by Bond fans that Moore could be a serious spy when the opportunity was presented. This is how most reviews and essays praise this particular Bond film, and I’m in agreement. I’m not certain, however, that my particular reasoning behind this belief has ever been addressed in a demonstrably positive light. On the contrary, my feelings are rooted in the most ubiquitous criticism about the latter Roger Moore era.

First, a look at the opening scene.

After the gun barrel sequence, a graveyard becomes the very first shot of For Your Eyes Only. A man walks in the distance. He approaches a grave with a bouquet of red roses.

James-Bond-at-grave-of-Tracy-Bond-in-For-Your-Eyes-Only

Teresa Bond, beloved wife of James Bond? She who died in 1969? James Bond’s face hasn’t yet been revealed and already we have the first overt reference to the events concluding On Her Majesty’s Secret Service presented in the Bond series to date. FYEO: not messing around! Let’s have a look at the Bond reveal, shall we?

Bond looks more distinguished. Mature even. If you were a REAL detractor, you would probably say something along the lines of “Roger Moore is too old to play James Bond now.” To my beloved Moore detractors, I ask you but one question:

How old is James Bond, anyway?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question in the novels let alone the films. Without going into too much detail, the Literary Bond was born on or around the 11th of November in either 1920, 1921 or 1924. Others have suggested that the birth of Movie Bond remained November 11th, but later, in 1930, to match Connery’s year of birth. Without making too forceful an assertion, 1930 seems to be an appropriate choice. Not to mention, if you were to add each Bond’s respective years of birth (Lazenby being born in 1939 and Moore in 1927) and derive the average, you would get 1932. It’s safe assume then that in Dr. No James Bond was in his early to mid thirties.

With the first reference to Tracy Bond since her death, her tombstone heavily implies that the James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the very same Bond in For Your Eyes Only. On top of that, it’s suggested in OHMSS that this Bond was the same Bond in Dr. No and beyond when Bond was seen going through his desk. The hard date on Tracy’s tombstone along with the desk scene, indicates that James Bond was the same man in every film and series continuity up until this point occurs in real time. If we can suspend our disbelief just slightly in regards to George Lazenby’s portrayal of Bond in OHMSS and consider Sean Connery’s return to the role in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and if James Bond was 30-35 years old in 1962 and the Bond films happen in real time, then in 1981 James Bond would have been between the ages of 49 and 54 years of age. As I mentioned before, Roger Moore was born in 1927, which would have put him at the age of 53 at the time of FYEO’s release.

Okay, so you’re technically the right age to play Bond. Why do you have to be so smug about it?

Honestly, I have absolutely no idea whether or not that this was on purpose, but if a creative team chooses to start a film with a widowed, visibly older James Bond in a graveyard, laying flowers on the grave of his wife who passed away 12 years ago, it’s not too farfetched to assume that a motif was fermenting there: James Bond, the character and the franchise, was starting to get old. In FYEO, senescence, beyond the pre-credit sequence, isn’t something that’s explicitly explored or touched upon through the film in a superficial, “I’m getting to old for this business,” manor. That would be too jarring for an audience keen on a more youthful, exuberant portrayal of the character. Bond still scuba dives, drives cars with reckless abandon and scales steep cliffs. The notion of an aging Bond is explored in the three distinct relationships that he has with women throughout the film.

Bibi Dahl

Bibi Dahl For Your Eyes Only

“I said get off of me. Not get off on me.”

The one character that comes the closest to a Bond-is-getting-old joke is the precocious teenage figure skater Bibi Dahl. She seems less focused on winning Olympic Gold and more interested in seducing a much older 007. Although slightly older than her character, actress Lynn-Holly Johnson bares a resemblance to Lolita‘s Sue Lyon in physical appearance and demeanor. In an act, beyond attraction to Bond, but perhaps as self evidence of her own perceived maturity, Bibi sneaks into his room and slips under the overs of his bed, nude, upon him entering his suite. Bond made the obvious wise choice in not allowing himself to be seduced, but didn’t ignore her advances either. With the suggestion of buying an ice cream, Bond the Lothario became Bond the chaperone.

As irritating Bibi becomes, it displays Bond’s maturity as well as Moore’s penchant for chivalry (as mentioned in my previous My Favorite #Bond_age_ essay for The Spy Who Loved Me), considering the young lady’s needs and desires. Despite Bond, well, being Bond, he understood that Bibi probably was just looking for attention from someone older. That’s something many teens, my teenage self included, do for a variety of reasons. Rather than take advantage or ignore her totally, Bond indulges her in a non-threatening way, if only somewhat begrudgingly. It was a very paternal gesture on Bond’s part, which would have probably played out differently had Bond been younger.

Countess Lisl von Schlaf

Cassandra Harris Countess Lisl von Schlaf For Your Eyes Only

“Side boob? I’ll give you more than side boob.”

The scenes between Bond and Countess Lisl von Schalf serve as the most typical 007 relationship in FYEO. The perceived villain sent his mistress, Lisl, to seduce and extract information from James. It wasn’t a great deviation from previous Bond films aside from Lisl being a more mature woman. The “nightie” exchange conveys a tinge of nostalgia and a common origin shared between her and Bond.

“Oh, my nightie almost slipped!”

“So did your accent. Let me guess, Manchester?”

“Almost. Liverpool.”

Both were older, from the same country and took an instant liking to each other: each a respective beacon of familiarity among the exotic locals and pretty young things in the movie. The Countess is a breath of fresh air for Bond and the pacing and tone of the film, at least initially. An easy going, assured, mature lady who stays up at night and has champagne and oysters sitting in her fridge, making it all too easy for Moore’s Bond to do what he does best: be a magnificently smooth bastard. Not to mention, Bond has always been fond of falling into an obvious trap. No wonder he seemed so despondent when he found Lisl dead on the beach. His scenes with Lisl were really the only part in the film up that point where he got to have any fun.

Roger Moore For Your Eyes Only

“Goodbye, Countess.” Aww, Sad Bond is sad.

One character in particular probably wasn’t entirely sad when the poor Countess met her untimely end.

The above is a shot of Melina at the casino, watching Bond leave with Countless Lisl. She wasn’t too thrilled about it.

Melina seems to be a sort of middle ground between Bibi and The Countess in age and in terms of how she interacts with Bond. Their relationship begins as mostly platonic and remains that way for the majority of FYEO, but by the end, they engage in one of the more beloved Bond tropes: making whoopee on a boat. Something about this particular Bond film, which presses on my mind, is this: why did Melina and James suddenly end up getting romantically involved at the end of FYEO? Was it merely because it was a prerequisite for a Bond’s Belle Du Jour to have sex with 007 at some point during the film or was there a deeper reason for it?

The other and much more prevalent motif in FYEO is revenge; avenging Tracy’s death in the pre-credit sequence against not-Blofeld and the driving force behind Melina’s character in getting revenge for the death of her mother and father. Melina and Bond initially cross paths because Melina’s father was contracted by MI6 to retrieve the ATAC machine (the movie’s McGuffin) before the Russians. After a few close calls and an unglamorous car chase with the Citroen 2CV, Bond and Havelock… wax poetic on the nature of revenge?

“The Chinese have a saying: Before setting off on revenge, you first dig two graves.”

“I don’t expect you to understand, you’re English, but I’m half Greek and Greek women like Electra always avenge their loved ones.”

Certainly Bond was very knowledgeable about revenge. He was more than willing to share such knowledge with Melina, but not anything, which may be concealed in his pants. They meet several times throughout the film and rather than Moore taking Havelock back to his room for some sexy time, he advices Melina to essentially, stay out of harm’s way. Moore’s chivalrous, paternal instincts rear their head once more.

Melina’s mention of Electra was interesting as well. Sure, she was of Greek origin and it was an apt comparison, but in my observations, any mention of Electra in this sort of context tends to be shorthand for Daddy Issues in modern popular culture.

A capable, mature-for-her-age woman becomes fixated on an older, even more capable, sophisticated man due to deep-rooted issues, usually involved with death or abandonment, with their Father. It’s an old trope that fits neatly in FYEO. Melina was a capable, mature-for-her-age woman avenging the death of her Father; and Bond was an older, capable and sophisticated man. Moore’s Bond especially fits that description. It was a deep and radical prospect for Melina (and I suppose to an extent Bibi as well), to be sexually attracted to James for reasons beyond him being a sexy, vigorous man’s man. I think that the creatives on this film realized that this was a little more difficult to pull off with an aging Roger Moore. With Bibi it was played for laughs, but with Melina it was a little subtler – just dim enough for audiences not to notice right away.

The screen shot I used to show Melina’s disapproval of Bond leaving with Countless Lisl makes a bit more sense now, doesn’t it? Bond played adviser to her throughout the film and for reasons I cited previously, it was not too much of a stretch for her to become attached to him. To have had someone like Bond so readily fill that gap at a point where she was psychologically compromised with avenging her parent’s death, it wasn’t especially unusual for them to finally hook up at the end once Kristatos was finally killed by Colombo. There was even a nifty deleted scene where James returns to Melina’s boat and she brings up his rendezvous with the Countess (which can be viewed here at the 2:15 mark if you don’t own the BluRay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1c-Q0-w76Y)

“I called your hotel. You weren’t there.”

“Didn’t get back there last night.”

“I’m not interested in your sex life, Mr. Bond.”

“My sex life is not what I came here to discuss.”

Oh yeah, she went there. Bond wasn’t pursuing Melina. Melina was pursuing Bond. While she succeeds, it’s still extremely interesting that Bond went for only the most mature, sophisticated lady right away. That was a definite hallmark of his age.

Ultimately what I’ve been trying to express is this:

Not only did Roger Moore’s Bond work because he was older, but his age lends gravitas and complexity to the role.

Happy Roger Moore For Your Eyes Only

“Thank you, Krissy.” You’re welcome, Roger.

He was too busy, too focused and too old to lightly fool around with pretty young things. Bond simply wanted to get the job done. This cooler, but still sympathetic, witty and chivalrous portrayal served as the one moment in his tenure where Moore managed to strike a balance between Ian Fleming’s pensive and melancholy Bond of the novels and his own personal interpretation. Roger may have found himself in the role in The Spy Who Loved Me, but it was in For Your Eyes Only where he truly mastered the character and successfully took Bond to a place where he’d never been before: over the hill. I understand why that might make some Bond fans feel a bit uncomfortable, but maybe the reason contemporary Moore detractors cite his advancing age as a flaw is routed in personal tastes and beliefs. I feel that this criticism is a bit shallow and does a disservice to Bond’s credibility as a character. It’s the only reason I can think of that Bond fans have the audacity to dictate that Bond cannot be a convincing and compelling sexy super spy because of his age. James Bond is more than a serial womanizer, cheap thrill and license to kill. Roger Moore and For Your Eyes Only went above and beyond in proving that.

First Bond Movie: Thunderball.
Favorite Bond Actor: HAH!
Favorite Bond Girl: Teresa Di’Vicenzo from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Guilty pleasure goes to Pam Bouvier from Licence To Kill.
How I Discovered #Bond_age_: Through the James Bond tag on Tumblr.
First #Bond_age_ Live Tweet: Strangely enough, The Spy Who Loved Me. How appropriate!

My Favorite #Bond_age_: GoldenEye by Becca Andrews

My Favorite #Bond_age_: GoldenEye by Becca Andrews

GoldenEye: Propelling Bond into the Future Since 1995

by Becca Andrews (@R_ViewMovies)

goldeneye

 

From 1989 to 1995, the world went six years without a Bond movie. Timothy Dalton hung up the Walther PPK after just two films. Pierce Brosnan was cast as his successor, with Martin Campell directing. GoldenEye proved to be a sure fire hit, rebooting the long running spy franchise and cementing James Bond 007 as the man for the moment (or last three decades) once again.

GoldenEye added a new ingredient to that famous 007 recipe for success. If you feel that things have grown stale, simply wait 4-6 years for the global cultural/political stage to shift slightly, cast a new face in the role of Bond and get Martin Campbell to direct. Your Bond film will be a success!

The biggest question facing the first post-cold-war Bond film was – Is 007 still relevant? The fact that Skyfall became the highest grossing film of 2012 and overtook Thunderball to become most profitable Bond film of the series so far has perhaps proved that yes, Bond is still relevant… perhaps more relevant than ever, thank you very much.

GoldenEye is my favourite Bond film for precisely this reason. Martin Campbell takes all the well-worn elements of the Bond formula and puts a fresh spin of them, resulting in an exciting and memorable chapter in the series. Brosnan’s subsequent films tried but arguably failed to live up to the same standard. If it wasn’t for GoldenEye’s success, the future of the franchise may have been called into question. If it wasn’t for GoldenEye, would we still have Bond?

Every so often, like Doctor Who, 007 gets a new face. Arguably, the only constant is the famous “Bond formula.” To paraphrase three-time 007 director Lewis Gilbert, there’s a “law of Bond,” and fans expect the films to abide. The formula suggests that a successful Bond film must contain certain ingredients. Beautiful women/sex, exotic locales, evil villains and gadgets. And to a great extent, Gilbert speaks the truth. So it might be useful to explain why GoldenEye is my favourite Bond by looking more closely at these crucial elements.

Girls:  Bond has a hat-trick of ladies in GoldenEye, namely Caroline (Serena Gordon),  Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), and Natalya  Simonova (Izabella Scorupco). The immortal Dame Judi Dench famously joins the franchise to portray the new M, reflecting the fact that Stella Rimmington had recently taken over the role in real life.

M famously calls Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war” and to a certain extent, I would be inclined to agree. There are many remnants of the Connery-era Bond left in GoldenEye – but there has been a changing of the guard. And although we see woman in positions of power, a true femme fatale stereotype still rises to the forefront. It’s Xenia who uses sex to kill, further threatening the hierarchy and therefore must be put down, allowing Bond to bed Natalya, the film’s ideal woman.

Exotic locales:  Bond does a fair bit of globe-hopping in GoldenEye, taking us to St. Petersburg (Russia), Monte Carlo (Monaco) and Cuba, although of course many of the interior shots of the Russian scenes were filmed in and around London. Fleming himself was well travelled and during the 1960’s when both package holidays and the Bond films were taking off many cinema-goers were treated to a virtual world tour for the price of their cinema ticket.

Villains: GoldenEye has an interesting villain in Alec Trevelyan (006) played by Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean. Trevelyan is later revealed as Janus, the film’s main villain with plans to steal the GoldenEye, a satellite-based EMP. As with Janus’ two faced nature, the film has many nods to the past whilst bringing the franchise into the modern era. More memorably, the film’s aforementioned female baddie – the thigh crushing, brilliantly named Xenia Onatopp.  She’s obviously oversexed and harvests pleasure from giving people “a good squeeze.” As with the world of Bond, the more bizarre the better. Skyfall’s Silva has nothing on her!

Cars/gadgets: The Bond films have often been at the forefront of technology but also absurdity (Octopussy’s alligator boat, anyone?). GoldenEye sees 007 driving a weapons-laden BMW Z3 roadster and the iconic Aston Martin DB5. Gadgets include a piton gun, a leather belt with a rappelling cord in the buckle, a pen that’s also a class-4 grenade, and a laser-emitting watch that is also an arming device.

GoldenEye is very much of its time – a 90’s Bond for 90’s sensibilities. Although we’d like to think Bond has progressed since then, the films that followed suggest it may just be a pipe dream – although Skyfall may be the exception. GoldenEye has resounded so strongly with me as a Bond fan because it retains all the classic elements of the Bond films while updating them for a modern audience. It stands the test of time by recalling the past, but also propels Bond into the future.

First Bond Movie: In the cinema: Tomorrow Never Dies. On TV: A View To A Kill.
Favorite Bond Actor: Moore. Daniel Craig comes a very close second.
Favorite Bond Girl: Octopussy, embodying women’s lib despite being a criminal mastermind (plus Maud Adams is the most prolific Bond girl, appearing in 3 – yes, 3 – different films as 3 different characters!)
How I Discovered #Bond_age_: the wonderful world of Twitter.
First #Bond_age_ Live Tweet: I’ve yet to participate due to the pesky time difference.

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