Fools Gold and Pools of Blue: Color Symbolism in Quantum of Solace
by Array Jackson (@ArrayJackson)
Beyond the surface is my unknown
I could fall
But could I reach the elusive destination?
If I stepped inside would I ever know I was there?
Is it possible to transcend
to crack the surface
to submerge the impenetrable barrier
Into your vibrant pools of blue…
My love letter to Daniel Craig ~ Array Jackson
I can’t get the image out of my head. Larger than life. Vast. Deep. Breathtaking… The most amazing shade of blue. Can it be only a coincidence? I don’t think so. I’m flooded with theories about Quantum of Solace.
I honestly can’t remember if I saw Quantum of Solace in the theater; it’s more likely I first picked up bits and pieces on cable. So when I sat down to watch it in preparation for this essay, I knew I’d already seen something of it, and unfortunately I’d heard a lot—a whole lot of negative. But I went into this project positive, determined I was going to find something in the film of immense richness, digging below the surface if necessary. If you will, I was questing for gold. And I found it. As a matter of fact about a quarter of the way into the film I was overwhelmed with gold. And then black. And suddenly that vibrant, poetic blue. I asked myself: what the heck does all this bold color have to do with the plot? My ultimate answer: everything. (more…)
The Sex Panther Prowls Again: Dalton, Craig and the Promise of a Serious Bond in Casino Royale
by Gregory Sahadachny (@MisterGreggles)
An amazing FRWL-inspired retro poster for Casino Royale by Jeff Chapman.
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. (more…)
Sex for Dinner and Death for Breakfast: Why Die Another Day Deserves Another Look
by Michael Cavacini (@MCavacini)
In 2002, I saw my first James Bond movie in a theater, Die Another Day, which was the 20th in the series and marked the 40th anniversary of the 007 film franchise. Despite the negative reviews, Die Another Day is still one of my favorite James Bond films. Before you change the channel, give me a chance to explain.
Die Another Day was Pierce Brosnan’s fourth foray as 007, and in this film he seemed extremely comfortable in the role. He oozed charisma, delivered humorous one-liners with aplomb and panache and stole the show during a spectacular sword fight with the film’s villain, Gustav Graves. (more…)
Chest Hair Never Dies: Brosnan Borrows the Best of Bonds
by Keith Bodayla (@theactualkeith)
I may be biased since Tomorrow Never Dies was my first Bond film in the theaters, but Pierce Brosnan is the “Perfect Bond” in Tomorrow Never Dies. For the purposes of this writing, “perfect” does not mean “without flaws.” It means: “the right combination of his previous incarnations.” Through #Bond_age_, I have learned that everyone has a favorite Bond and everyone has reasons for disliking – even hating – the rest. Tomorrow Never Dies is the best combination of all the previous Bonds. It’s the Perfect Bond movie because there is something for every fan.
Action from the opening moments in the arms bazaar. The scene was originally meant for Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights, but was scrubbed from that movie. Dalton was a younger Bond that enhanced the action with bigger and better stunts. It was mostly a byproduct of 1980’s moviemaking, but that’s what differentiated Dalton’s Bond from what had come before. Up until him, the most noteworthy stunt was the javelin jump in The Man With The Golden Gun. With Brosnan they maintained that Dalton-level action, and Tomorrow Never Dies is the perfect balance of improbability and realism without being too outlandish (see Die Another Day).
The only part of Tomorrow Never Dies that borders on the outlandish is the villain. Jonathan Pryce is a bit over the top in his performance as Elliot Carver, but for most of the movie it works. Carver continues the tradition of eccentric Bond villains/profiteers – a staple of the Roger Moore films (see Kananga in Live and Let Die, Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun, Max Zorin in A View to a Kill etc.). Thankfully, they don’t give Carver a specific, defining quirk like the fact that he just really likes gold. He is simply a greedy man with a Blofeld-ian level of control (via the worldwide media) over world leaders and events. Carver is seen talking to members of his inner-circle via video phone, a scene reminiscent of the SPECTRE meetings only with far fewer spontaneous executions. Carver’s most over-the-top scene takes place when he mocks Wai Lin’s martial arts techniques, but somehow the talented actor Pryce manages to preserve the moment with his following line: “Pathetic.”
The villain proves not to be the only thing here for the Moore fan (and I hear there are many of you among us). Brosnan pulls off, quite spectacularly, the humor that was missing in the Dalton films. Sure the one-liners had always remained, but with Moore it was different. He was funny. He knew he was part comedian and not just a grim wiseacre. The defining moment of Moore’s brand of Bond comedy has to be when he drives the car out of the water, rolls down the window of the Lotus submarine and drops a fish out onto the beach. Brosnan is the only other guy I could see making that work. Moore and Brosnan’s Bonds are the only ones that seem to be having fun on the job. Sure it’s a mission and a paycheck, but they enjoy the day-to-day grind, too. If you doubt this, just watch Brosnan’s face as he drives the remote-controlled BMW through the parking garage. Despite the gunfire and danger, he’s having a blast.
Brosnan even borrows from Connery’s Bond. Connery played 007 as a real man’s man who objectified women on an hourly basis – certainly the “misogynist dinosaur” referenced by M in GoldenEye. In Tomorrow Never Dies though, we do get a bit of Connery’s swagger from Brosnan when he doesn’t hesitate to use Paris Carver to get to her husband. Brosnan, like Connery, also undermines the abilities of the women he runs into on his mission. He spends a good portion of the movie doubting Wai Lin’s utility only eventually acquiescing when he witnesses her physical prowess and acuity under pressure. You know this is still the 1990’s, however, because Brosnan does eventually catch on, whereas Connery would belittle her (probably on a seafaring vessel) well into the credits.
Also, on the topic of Connery, shortly after a glimpse of the Aston Martin DB5, Tomorrow Never Dies gives us a view of the only other chest hair in the series that could hold a candle to Connery’s. Sure, no one’s a Connery fan because of the chest hair, but someone’s got to tackle that hard-hitting journalism.
Tomorrow Never Dies also offers us something we haven’t seen in a while: a Bond with emotion. After his one-nighter with Paris Carver, she winds up dead. When Bond finds the body, he appears genuinely heartbroken. He doesn’t quite show some Lazenbies from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but, if only for a brief moment, Bond has a heart. He might not care about every notch on his bedpost, but occasionally he admits, through a look or a glance, that this one meant something. Paris Carver was that woman at some point in his past. Her death affected him. That emotion quickly gives way to anger and a need for revenge, a driving force for many other Bonds, especially Dalton.
There’s one Bond that hasn’t been mentioned yet, and he is the Bond that proves the theory. Daniel Craig’s Bond is very different from all the Bonds before him. Whether you consider Casino Royale an actual reboot of the franchise, it stands out as a change in direction and tone for the films. Realism and grittiness took over, largely inspired from the success of the Bourne franchise. We don’t see these trademarks in Tomorrow Never Dies, because it was still part of the old school, when women were easier, things were a little more outrageous, villains a little more over-the-top, and Bond was a little more lighthearted. Tomorrow Never Dies encapsulates everything we loved and still love about Bond, before the world made it necessary for Bond to get a little more intense and a little more real. And, of course, before Bond jumped the shark (probably while windsurfing) in Die Another Day.
My Recent Date with Cary Grant: Was it all a Charade?
by Array Jackson (@ArrayJackson)
First dates are their own creature, each one a unique experience. You bravely take the hand of another person and step up to spin the wheel. Will this encounter you’re embarking on together entail adventure? Suspense? Comedy? Action? Romance? What you ultimately want on this date is often a reflection of your own individual character, and if you’re lucky, you and your partner’s two personalities will align in harmony, crafting a date that is a smashing success. But if you don’t really know that other person, the unveiling of their persona could be a ruse, and you might find yourself caught up in a Charade.
I recently had the good fortune to spend an evening with Mr. Cary Grant. I don’t know if this is every girl’s dream, but it’s definitely mine. He took me on a hell of a ride. For me, all the elements that make up a fabulous date were present: suspense, comedy, action and romance. Lots of romance. In fact, our date ended with a marriage proposal. And there’s only one reason I didn’t fall into his arms and cry, “yes, yes, yes!” You see, there’s another man that occupies my heart. His name is Bond, James Bond. And by James Bond, I mean Sean Connery. (more…)
Licence to Kill is one of the most daring, interesting and revolutionary Bond films ever made. Even the modern films of Daniel Craig, praised for their ‘edge’, ‘grit’ and ‘darkness’, owe a debt to this ‘unpopular’ predecessor. If this seems like an outlandish suggestion, then read on, and let a British child of the 80s show you why…
Reboot Revoked: The Postmodern Deconstruction of Bond
by Paul Harrison (@Doc_Harrison)
Artwork by Bob Peak
This article does not seek to be the definitive one-stop for all things Licence to Kill. You have your double DVD special edition, or remastered Blu-ray for that. I’m not going to focus on the trivia, such as that they altered the name from Licence Revoked. You know that story. I’m not even going to venture too deeply into the suitability of Dalton. He was, and remains, an excellent actor, and sound choice. I’m especially not going to tackle what seemed to be some reeeaaally awkward sexual tension between Dalton’s Bond and Felix Leiter’s ill-fated bride-to-be. No.
This article will focus on two key things: the context that created (or reinvented) a ‘darker’ Bond, who would endanger the life of dozens of bystanders that may deserve a bullet in order to get the one guy that did; and the notion that what makes this Bond movie stand out (and unpopular) is the fact that it isn’t a spy movie, let alone a ‘Bond’ movie as audiences knew him. Despite this, it is a thematic precursor to all three of Daniel Craig’s more recent blockbuster iterations in many ways. (more…)