No Time To Die: The Conflict of Bond, Not Really Bond

No Time To Die: The Conflict of Bond, Not Really Bond

Too many words have been spent on articles explaining that James Bond owes his longevity to a kind of blank-slate cross-gender appeal. He isn’t a three-dimensional human so much as a conduit. Men (and women!) want to be James Bond. Others want to watch someone look that good in a tuxedo or blue terrycloth jumper. In terms of the character’s psychological depth, we’d spent as much time ordering martinis at McDonalds as we did considering if James Bond had a Rosebud. No Time to Die, like its predecessor, provides the viewer with Ikea instructions and an Allen wrench in hopes you’ll piece together a Rosebud on your own.

Daniel Craig, No Time to Die

A grizzled Daniel Craig recalls his aborted childhood, sledding down hills and frolicking in deep focus.

So, Who is James Bond Then?

He’s quick with a pun, drinks to excess (without visible inebriation), woos women with a raised eyebrow/steely glare/Cro-Magnon sex appeal, and dutifully serves Queen and country. He’s worn many different faces and demeanors, but his superficial characteristics and the series’ consistent stylistic choices have bridged gaps between actors and filmmaking eras. And every so often, Bond experiences or lingers on personal trauma.

Bond falls in love, gets married, and his wife, Tracy Bond (née di Vinenzo), dies in under 140 minutes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Bond visits Tracy’s grave in For Your Eyes Only (1981). If you’re feeling generous, you could even count the subtle overtures made about marriage in Licence to Kill (1989) and The World is Not Enough (1999). Bond never felt the burden of connectivity – even when it might have benefitted the storyline. For worse – but mostly better. Mistakes get swept under the rug or dropped down smokestacks, like terrible villains.

Bond places flowers For Your Eyes Only

The extendtof Bond’s character development during the Moore years in one image. Moments later we’re dropping Blofeld down a smokestack before the title sequence rolls. Craig took almost six hours to do these very same things.

In most every movie, Bond received a mission, carried out that mission, and got the girl. Our interests lied not in whether he’d do all those things, but how. We went to the cinemas for pure escapism, unburdened by emotional baggage. We loved that structure. We loved how the Bond series played with routine.

Skyfall Suggested We Cared More About Subversion

During the Craig era, EON decided that we’d had enough fun and frolic and instead needed steamer trunks filled with ennui and disillusionment. No Time to Die perpetuates the same issues that plagued Spectre in 2015, which makes this whole conversation feel like a bad case of déjà vu. No Time to Die wants to be fun, but this character called “James Bond” can let go of his shiny new 21st-century past.

Bond visits Vesper's grave in No Time to Die

The epitaph reads: “Fun in Bond Movies / 1962-2012”

From the earliest scenes, a sense of mortality hangs around the picture’s neck like a noose. Bond takes Madeline on an Italian holiday as Hans Zimmer reimagines On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s “All the Time in the World” – and Bond even shoehorns Lazenby’s famous final line into their idle drive-time conversation. Madeline encourages Bond to visit Vesper Lynd’s grave (shades of Bond visiting Tracy’s grave in FYEO). She wants him to put Vesper in the past so they can move forward.

No Time to Die Takes Plenty of Time to Mourn, Though

No Time to Die grounds itself in these opening moments as a spiritual descendant of OHMSS, a movie that ended with a moment of tragedy after two hours of fun adventures like skiing, curling, bobsledding, and safecracking while reading Playboy. No Time to Die wallows in moodiness for most of its 163 minutes. And that’s a problem Cary Joji Fukunaga and his screenwriting committee (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) can’t overcome with the relief of a few clever action sequences and quippy asides. They’ve worked a bad pun or two into this script, but they’re obligatory appeasements. I laughed because I was desperate for levity.

Rami Malek's Safin, No Time to Die

Oh look — a scarred villain with a backstory conveniently tied into everyone’s business.

Around the scant humor, we’re besieged by speechifying like “James Bond. License to Kill. History of violence. I could be speaking to my own reflection. Only your skills die with your body. Mine will survive long after I’m gone.” James, Madeline, Safin, M, and even Blofeld take turns grabbing the spotlight to perform an off-Broadway performance of Death of a Salesman. Top it off with the usual Craig-era oratories from the top down about an ephemeral, amorphous, non-descript evil that can’t be hunted and killed like those olden days of espionage when you could look your adversary in the eye.

Except, inevitably, Bond does indeed meet the vaporous villain face to face and dispatches him. Just like the olden days. So let’s stop wasting time telling me about inescapable evil and instead work on actually establishing the evil.

So Aren’t We Still Playing the Game in No Time to Die?

Maybe. If we found time for pleasantries like golf, baccarat, idle drinking and just being James Bond. Bond was never found in action beats. The script delivers dozens of referential nods towards the past without delivering much of the stuff that defined the character in the first place.

I noted Dr. No, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service imagery (among others) in the title sequence. The portrait for a pre-Craigers M, Robert Brown, conspicuously hangs on an MI-6 gallery wall. The use of “We Have all the Time in the World” in music and dialogue. An almost obligatory, eleventh-hour Q-branch gadget. Bond kicking the car down on Billy Magnussen’s double agent echoed Moore’s famous cold-blooded kill of Locque in For Your Eyes Only. A litany of book references for the hardcore Fleming-heads. The multi-movie connections and broad, villainous arcs, meanwhile, take their cues from the sprawling “everything is connected” branding of the Marvel universe.

Action Craig in No Time to Die

Daniel Craig in Maze Runner, I mean No Time to Die.

No Time to Die dispenses with any attention to international spycraft, once again turning inward on Bond and his personal connections and misery. This makes for a competent Hollywood-crafted action serial, but a lackluster Bond film. Skyfall and No Time to Die suffer from these same afflictions. The latter’s worse off, however, because it’s saddled with the tentacles of Spectre’s facile cliffhangers.

But the Stories

At the end of No Time to Die, Madeline tells her daughter “I’m going to tell you a story about a man. His name was Bond. James Bond,” which is supposed to tug our heartstrings and put the “Bond. James Bond” introduction in the mouth of the (other) woman who loved him. This falls short of its intended emotional resonance.

This James Bond doesn’t really have stories. This James Bond retires more times than he’s reluctantly saved the world. He’s irresponsibly chased personal vendettas to the detriment of those around him and his country’s security. Courtesy of the multi-movie narrative arc – whereby QUANTUM was the little fish eaten by SPECTRE, and SPECTRE was the bigger fish eaten by some arb with a plant fetish. No Time to Die has, to recycle my old argument against SPECTRE, neutered the series’ Big Bad.

Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in No Time to Die

Your new informant awaits, Clarice.

If we are to give Spectre even an unwarranted ounce of credit for establishing SPECTRE as a nefarious international criminal organization bent on world domination or some such megalomania, No Time to Die erases it. The Bond producers forced SPECTRE and Blofeld into Spectre, assuming the audience’s nostalgia would fill in the part about the organization being James Bond’s long-time nemesis without establishment. One movie later, Safin cleans house. No more Blofeld. No more SPECTRE. These aren’t supervillains—they’re merely roadkill that Bond further flattens with his Aston Martin on his way to retire again.

Overwrought super-seriousness aside, Cary Joji Fukunaga displays a good sense of how a Bond movie should look and feel. Tonal and scriptural issues aside, No Time to Die is a glossy, competent action film. If it didn’t have to deal with Spectre’s matzoh balls, it might have even been a great Bond movie.

Cue the Bond theme and make this walk really sizzle.

Who Stopped No Time To Die Short?

No Time to Die’s shortcomings rest on the shoulders of the producers. The Bond team takes its cues from the top down. The burden lies with the creative decision makers who did not bring David Arnold back, who gave Sam Mendes two movies, who continued to employ Purvis and Wade as primary screenwriters despite the labored repetition of the rogue, retire, repeat cycle of the Craig era.

Hans Zimmer’s mediocre score, like the Newman scores for Skyfall and Spectre, once again resists (recoils against?) the use of the Bond theme in high-leverage sequences. Instead, Zimmer reserves the needle drop for Bond walking across the street into MI-6. I love idle-time swagger, but that can’t be your singular “James Bond” moment. Elsewhere, the score teases with Johnny-Marr-forward guitar, before abandoning the building momentum.

Martinis, Ana de Armas, competing MI6 and CIA operatives, remote-control eyeballs, and Zimmer doing David Arnold — the Cuba scenes in No Time to Die suggested the kind of movie we could have had.

When Zimmer embraces the Barry and Arnold traditions, the score rises from its slumber. The “Cuba Chase,” for example, which scores arguably the best individual scene in any of the Craig-era Bond films, contrasts Cuban strings and horns with heavy, brooding brass, perfectly setting the mood for the action on screen. No scene better represents the potential of a No Time to Die unburdened by the past. This was old Bond in a new era, a deliriously enjoyable blend of humor and action, propelled by new talent (Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch) and mixed with Bond being Bond. 007 stumbles into a situation for which he wasn’t fully prepared and survives with a little luck, a little moxie, and a little help from his friends.

If the rest of No Time To Die had been half as concerned with creating this kind of energy and forward momentum, I’d have been more forgiving about its individual shortcomings. Instead, we’re left to wrestle with the internal conflict created by an overlong, semi-entertaining film that chose to conclude the Craig-era by nuking it all from orbit.

And after Spectre and No Time to Die, I’d be lying if I didn’t wholehearted support it. Ironically, it might be the only way to be sure that the real James Bond will actually return.

 

James Bond Will Return.

Episode 21: No Time to Die (& Stuff)

Episode 21: No Time to Die (& Stuff)

Krissy (@krissy_myers) and James (@007hertzrumble) discuss Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die,” how to calm the &#$@ down about the “next Bond,” and No Time to Die’s new poster art.

Music included within:

Billie Eilish, “No Time to Die”
Guitars-a-Go-Go, “007 Rides Again”
Mister Bond’s A Jazzy Cocktail – “A View to a Kill”

Direct download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thejamesbondsocialmediaproject/Bond_age_Pod_NoTimeToDieStuff_-_2-25-20_12.04_PM.mp3

Talking Heads:

James David Patrick (@007hertzrumble)
Krissy Myers (@krissy_myers)

#Bond_age_ Podcast on iTunes

Listen to Stitcher

 

 

 

Originally recorded February 2019. Copyrights are owned by the artists and their labels. Negative dollars are made from this podcast. Not that that matters.

#Bond_age_ Tee: Goldfinger – Auric Stud

#Bond_age_ Tee: Goldfinger – Auric Stud

#3. This way to AURIC STUD.

This way to Auric Stud. Inspired by the sign on Goldfinger’s stud farm in Goldfinger, this Auric Stud tee makes you the STUD on Auric Goldfinger’s Kentucky stud farm.

Goldfinger Auric Stud t-shirt design

I’ve tried to remain as true to the sign on Goldfinger’s farm as possible. And you might be saying, “Sure, whatever — that’s just finding the right font.” But let me tell you something. Finding that font wasn’t easy and I did manipulate the sign design because the original wasn’t particularly interesting either. And yet I persisted.

Pay close attention and you’ll noticed the arrow reveals a choice phrase surely spoken by the big man himself. “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to ride.” You must have misheard him when you thought he said, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” He was, after all, just a horse breeder.

This is the third in a series of 25 designs inspired by the Bond movies. I’ll go in order from Dr. No through (if it ever comes out) #Bond25. (I’m skeptical.) I’ll put all of the designs up in the #Bond_age_ Threadless and Redbubble pages for you to purchase on your favorite clothing and paraphernalia. Mouse pads, backpacks, bedding, phone cases. So much stuff you don’t need! T-shirts, however… t-shirts are essential to being. They’re essential to representing the inner, eccentric YOU.

Order AURIC STUD at Threadless in your favorite studly colors of the rainbow. Note: I can no long sell shirts at Redbubble because their sensitive dispositions object to the name JAMES BOND in my website URL. Seriously.

Until next tee—-

JDP

Past James Bond t-shirt designs:

Kronsteen

From Russia With Love: Kronsteen

Dr. No: Quarrel & Son Charter Co.

Blofeld: The Villain About Nothing

Blofeld Did It

#Brosrunning

 

No Time To Die Trailer Quick Hits

No Time To Die Trailer Quick Hits

With the release of the first No Time to Die trailer, we finally have something to talk beyond the usual uninformed conjecture. Naturally, I had some thoughts. So let’s chat Bond, James Bond again, shall we?

James Bond No Time to Die trailer

Initial Impressions

This is the first moment I’ve been on the plus side of expectations for Bond 25. The No Time to Die trailer has a real momentum and focuses on gonzo stunts. The great use of music helps — as it does in any trailer, obviously, but Bond relies so heavily on sonic familiarity. The Bond score tickles innards we forget existed.

It seems we’re again dwelling on 007 nostalgia, and that’s okay as long as it also doesn’t become creative shorthand. The trailer seems to suggest that Malek’s villain has ties to Blofeld (ugh), but also shows Blofeld acting as some kind of Hannibal Lecter. Familiarity is different that “everything is connected.” Everything is connected is contrivance. Using Blofeld as a consultant merely feels lazy. Bond did this in Skyfall with Silva. Based on the trailer, this feels like a shortcut for giving Blofeld continued relevance even as he’s (hopefully) forced to the background. I’d rather have this than all the other options, honestly.

blofeld no time to die

All of these familiar elements, the elements that have been passed on from the regrettable SPECTRE, can be used to support Craig’s final, standalone adventure. Dispense with the connectivity and try less hard to give James Bond greater meaning. Just entertain me and dispense with the rest.

Rami Malek's masked villain No Time To Die

Rami Malek’s masked villain in No Time To Die (2020).

Deeper Thoughts After Multiple, Obsessive Viewings of the No Time to Die Trailer

Car chase. Car chase. Motorcycle chase. Helicopters. “Bungee” jumps. Car chase, There’s a concerted effort to foreground the film’s action elements. I’d expect nothing less, but this trailer went out of its way to emphasize that the old man can still do the job. And Craig looks far more youthful here than he did in Spectre.

daniel craig no time to die

A sprightly Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die (2020).

Speaking of old man. We’d already prematurely labeled Craig’s Bond an old man in Skyfall. This time, we’re also falling back on some old Brosnan tricks by forcing the pseudo-retired agent back into action alongside a young 00 played by Lashana Lynch. Instead of Judi Dench’s quip about misogynist dinosaurs, Lynch tosses out some serious “OK, Boomer” vibes when she says, “The world’s moved on, Commander Bond. If you get in my way, I will put a bullet in your knee.” Let us hope that we’re not forced to deal with any more instances of internal double-crossing.

Lashana Lynch as 00-agent Romi in No Time to Die

Lashana Lynch as 00-agent Romi “OK, boomered” James Bond in No Time to Die (2020).

The line that most reflects how I feel about the No Time to Die trailer comes from Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann. “You don’t know what this is,” she says. No. We really don’t. Unlike the Spectre trailer which gave away almost the entire film, we’re kept wonderfully off-balance. Glimpses of stunts, flourishes of the Bond theme and flickers of old frosty relationships (“So you’re not dead.” “Hello, Q. I missed you.”) give us the backbone of necessary familiarity. The rest of the trailer treats us to interesting imagery like the mask worn by Rami Malek’s villain, glimpses of Jamaican beaches, sun-drenched mediterranean locales, and more snow (!) and ice (!!).

james bond jamaica no time to die

Bond, semi-retired, at his home in Jamaica.

It’s a perfect tease. I can’t wait to see more.

No Time to Die Trailer Quick Hits

Jeffrey Wright No Time to Die

Wright-Leiter returns in No Time To Die. Huzzah!

Positives: More 00 agents (a badass black woman!). Wright-Leiter returns for “a favor, brother.” Did I mention the snow? Malek’s villain does not appear to be Dr. No unless they’ve gone totally off the reservation. Ana de Armas fully armed.

Meh: Blofeld as Hannibal Lecter.

Negatives: The nagging suspicion that somebody is still going to double-cross Bond from within his circle (Madeline? Lashana’s Nomi?). Just let the man worry about the real, proper villains and henchmen and henchwomen, please? That used to be enough.

 

 

(Dr.) No Time To Die Another Day With a View to a Licence to Kill

(Dr.) No Time To Die Another Day With a View to a Licence to Kill

The James Bond Twitter account officially (and finally) threw us a bone(r). The title for the next James Bond movie will be…. [drum roll] …NO TIME TO DIE.

Oh, I’m sorry. I noticed you nodded off during my title recitation. I’ll try that one more time.

NO TIME–

You did it again. You fell asleep. One more time. Real quick.

NOTIMETODIE.

Indeed. The Bond producers summoned the powers of the Bond name generator and came up with a title so prosaic that nobody could possibly argue. I’ve come to the conclusion that the #Bond25 codename “Shatterhand” announcement was just an informal crowdsourcing. Based on the Internet’s violent reaction, they popped their heads back in their hole like Punxsutawny Phil and regrouped until the end of Winter. I’ll say it again — “Shatterhand” is no more bizarre than Goldfinger — but because the hive mind doesn’t recognize it as something with origins in an actual Fleming text they went to grab their pitchforks at first sight.

My first reaction to NO TIME TO DIE was complacency. There’s no real room to argue because it’s just not worth the effort. It’s a name designed to sound exactly like six other James Bond movies and instill confidence through familiarity. So familiar in fact that I felt I’d been there before. It wasn’t until author Mark O’Connell Tweeted this nugget that I understood why.

While Mark lauds the Bond-extended source of the title, I’m not convinced that it makes it sound any more compelling. NO TIME TO DIE hangs there limply, referential or not.

I’ve already read a dozen thinkpieces about what the title might mean. All I can say about that is stop. There’s nothing here to analyze. There’s no overt connections to Spectre. Take a breath and count to ten. Shatterhand had all the connotations. If you want to analyze something start there. Unless you’re feeling like the “NO” in NO TIME TO DIE has to do with a certain Dr. and then I’d say you might probably be on to something… it is set in Jamaica after all. That places us in the realm of titles featuring puns and, well… I don’t feel like commenting on that potentiality.

james bond in no time to die

I’m not passing judgment on the film based on a title. I’m not delusional. As we dissect the trickle of information coming out of the EON camp as we await the 2020 release of the 25th Bond film, however, every small piece of news contributes to a bigger picture. It’s still hazy, but I’m not overly optimistic that EON has committed to creating rather merely responding to what they think the broadest marketplace wants. That doesn’t guarantee box office dollars. It almost certainly guarantees a lack of creativity.

Every long-tenured Bond (Dalton and Lazenby excluded) has started by daring to reinvigorate the formula before devolving into paint-by-numbers and/or self-parody. Looking at the Craig era from the inside out, I’m getting the sense that we’re re-living the end of the Brosnan years in all the worst ways. After a strong sequence of films, each faced a final film to define the generation.

Consider how differently we’d feel about Brosnan’s Bond if Die Another Day had been a successful film. After we learned about the creative upheavals and cavalcade of writers on Bond 25, how confident were you? Now that we’ve got the title — NO TIME TO DIE — a phlegmatic title that emanates with the banal stink of Die Another Day, how are you feeling?

no time to die cary fukunaga

Daniel Craig and Cary Fukunaga on the set of NO TIME TO DIE.

It all depends on how much faith you put in Cary Fukunaga. That’s the one concrete plus. But then again — Lee Tamahori once carried that same type of outsider cache. No one could have anticipated that the filmmaker responsible for Once Were Warriors (1994) would produce the fever dream that is Die Another Day.

#Bond_age_ Tee: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE – Kronsteen

#Bond_age_ Tee: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE – Kronsteen

kronsteen

#2. Kronsteen Has Anticipated Every Possible Variation and Countermove

Don’t be a MacAdams. Like a Russian Boy Scout, Tov Kronsteen has studied his opponent and consequently may now anticipate every possible variation and countermove. There is no win or draw against Tov Kronsteen — there is only CHECKMATE.

This is the second in a series of 25 designs inspired by the Bond movies. I’ll go in order from Dr. No through (if it ever comes out) #Bond25. (I’m skeptical.) I’ll put all of the designs up in the #Bond_age_ Threadless and Redbubble pages for you to purchase on your favorite clothing and paraphernalia. Mouse pads, backpacks, bedding, phone cases. So much stuff you don’t need! T-shirts, however… t-shirts are essential to being. They’re essential to representing the inner, eccentric YOU.

Played by Polish actor Vladek Sheybal, Kronsteen was the brilliant chessmaster and secondary villain in From Russia with Love. It is Kronsteen that orchestrates the trap in which Spectre is to defame and kill James Bond, the British agent responsible for the death of SPECTRE agent Dr. Julius No.

kronsteen

Inspired by Kronsteen’s chess game against Canadian Douglas MacAdams in From Russia With Love and his declaration that he could game 007 in a similar fashion, I wanted to design something that reflected his egomania and his skills at chess… but with a lighter heart. That was hard because Kronsteen’s pretty darn serious. I decided to refashion his bow tie in a bold, checkerboard pattern that’s both at odds against the seriousness of the bitmap design and the character’s personality. I also considered a Siamese Fighting Fish shirt and I obsessed over possible permutations featuring Daniela Bianchi, but those were probably too hot for TV.

Enjoy, Tov. In the next week or so I’ll have a Goldfinger-inspired t-shirt coming your way. I hope I can do justice to the Goldfinger idea since that’s the one that started this ridiculous campaign of t-shirt designs. Order KRONSTEEN at Threadless or Redbubble in black or communist red. They’re like Ferraris. You can’t have any color you want. You can only have the colors I say.

Until next week—-

JDP

Past designs:

Dr. No – Quarrel & Son Charter Co.

Blofeld: The Villain About Nothing

Blofeld Did It

#Brosrunning

 

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