On my way to the advanced course ‘Pre-neolithic Cinema in 7454 Easy Steps – Chapter 4: Impact of the Cave Wall’. The usual droves of bondnotbond-protesters clogging up the streets between Salzburg and Liverpool, a considerable percentage of them merrily sloshed on Zero-Seven beverage, White Russians or the evening news. Or any combination thereof. Cabbie thinks it’s helping if he’s hooting at them like mad, so I leave him to his fun, settle back comfortably in the slashed faux leather upholstery and unfold the ironed copy of today’s CommanderBond.net. Right on the front page – above stories about book covers, knotted ties and plots, pictures of mysterious traces in the snow, a colour-enhanced Dorchester hotel and a slightly-older-than-17 Sean Connery – there’s a piece by CBn’s resident West Albion Bromwich supporter, Jacques Stewart, that catches my eye. It’s titled ‘The Reboot of the 007th Minute – DRAFT, DO NOT PUBLISH!!!’, and that’s a most curious title, even for that eccentric guy that puts up their main page stuff.
So I read on…
Time for a reboot.
Casino Royale is good, if long. It bothers to tell a story, rather than simply mine long-exhausted seams. Its 007th minute exemplifies something. Blah blah blah about the dog and overwritten whimsy. James Bond will return in the 007th minute of Quantum of Solace and Jacques Stewart will refer to himself in the third person, because that’s the sort of prat he is. Some nerve to accuse Bond of being formulaic; what a hypocrite. I prefer the ABC game anyway. It learns me spell good.
Ah ah ah, not so fast, poppet.
It’s not that radical, is it? There’s M, there’s gunbarrel (the law), there’s climactic action that goes on well past forever’s bedtime , there’s Bond theme, there are ghastly watches, lovely Aston Martins, booze, ladies of acceptable architecture, dinner jackets, carrrrddds (with the excitement that brings), there’s still an infantile grasp on political and geographical reality and there’s fighting, explosions, destruction, kissing, weak sex jokes and general daftitude.
Disappointing. Not what I was promised.
For at least a year in advance the internet told me – betrayed me, for internet is truth – that Casino Royale would be a disastrous experimental art project starring a deformed, flappy-eared, asexual, trades-faced mendicant dwarf with a head like a Belisha Beacon driving an automatic Fiat Panda, the highlight of which would be witnessing conjoined mutant step-siblings defecating glistening, maggot-riddled pusblistered-stools onto a plate of wilted broccoli. All so very Belgian. Although you might have a view of the sort of “person” what I am, you still can’t imagine how much I was looking forward to watching that. So many profound commentators who knew things stated their predictions as Total Unadulterated Fact. Everyone they knew (might be true, poor souls) agreed with them. Religions kill for such concord. The hu-mil-i-a-tion was going to be fantastic.
What a chuffin’ let-down.
Instead of the guaranteed cataclysm, what Eon put me through was an exercise in finally grasping the bindweed their complacency had let choke the creative development of the series for twenty-five years and – clever, this – not removing it all, a slash-and-burn policy being a step too far, but selecting the bits they actually needed to tell a story, rather than obliged to shoehorn them in. No Moneypenny, no Q, no rubbish that came with both, no complaints from me. Albeit not a perfect film, propelled by a compelling lead performance and evident thought about what they were doing beyond shaking our memories until more money fell out, it’s the closest to a proper film for decades. Story first, statutory Bond bits second: Die Another Day reversed. Disconcerting. Who knew that this was going to happen? Who knew that the internet was so full of expertise about how it couldn’t?
Who knew it would succeed? It remains faintly astonishing that the same paws that flicked TWINE our way could even do this. Perhaps that’s where the internet’s angry anxiety came from: the last handful suggesting that they couldn’t even make “Bond films” properly, aspirations towards more credible endeavours were bound to fail, so the infantile apoplexy at the producers’ decisions was actually kindly meant, cossetingly protecting them from overambition in a (very mysterious, very well hidden) way. I accept this is a stretch; it’s hard to extrapolate benevolent concern from ranted speculation about the pH value of Ms Broccoli’s mammary glands.
It’s too much to call the decision to recast and reshape “brave”, since Casino Royale is undoubtedly a skittle though product-placed corporate compromises and brand committee vision, and still recognisable as part of the Bond films if not dependent upon such membership for its existence. No, not “brave”: aware. Aware that GoldenEye, whatever its ostensible reputation, hadn’t saved James Bond, but clamped around him like an iron crab, rendering attempts to push the main character elsewhere as contrived and counter-intuitive. GoldenEye was too impactful and Pierce Brosnan’s first performance too archetypal, too close to the perception of what James Bond is, to allow anything else to breathe. In trying to establish whether that James Bond was relevant in the 1990s, they had to give us all the cack that surrounded him, lest they be accused of uncertainty about any element left out. Laid themselves a trap. The massaging around the edges in the rest of the Brosnan tenure ignored (or chose to) the terminal problem in the heart, the element bluntly resistant to change when trying “undernourished postmodernism” or “exploderating” or “flatulent soap operatics” or “smug gurning”: James Bond.
Die Another Day did not kill the series. It made money and had a reasonable critical reaction, which after umpteen centuries of the same thing was a win. However, it probably killed James Bond, and about bloody time. Seriously, look at it (through the wince). James Bond “is” deathly puns and smart-bottom comments in a suit who fights foreign persons and seems unaffected by – and thereby disconnected to – events. He then does a comedy sex wee inside a nice lady. The film ends. Over the course of twenty such exercises, these things happening more often than not, this renders him groaningly tedious. Bond films weren’t identifiable by their characters but by their events, The One In Which X Occurs – the one in which he skis off a cliff! The one in which he fights Jaws on the Moon! – being the clearest distinguishing feature. Amusing once or twice but, eventually, corrosive repetition of “stuff” happening, but nothing human. Such traits as there were, set to robotic; expected items in the baggage area (trace – or Tracy – elements, at best). Surrounding Bond were exciting new ways to incinerate plywood, but the character had just evaporated into one-liners and blingsome accessories shilled by vile multinationals. All the outlandishness of DA-Day! couldn’t disguise it. An invisible car driven by an invisible man. James Bond films might still have been worth watching; James Bond himself wasn’t and those pretty explosions and distracting With Special Guest Stars wouldn’t and couldn’t hide it.
Ah, “you” say, as indeed did many at the time, have you not heard the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Yes, just like I’ve heard “The customer is always right” and “We’re all in this together” and “Please remove those from my wife” and they’re all bollocks. The first is especially odious, a charter for regressive indolence, albeit an apt epitaph for the creative vision in Bonds 11-20. Living in caves and smearing one’s excrement over the walls as the prevailing medium of expression wasn’t evidently “broken” and yet we did progress and here we are, emerged from said caves and smearing our excrement over the internet via the medium of complaining about light entertainment, and quote games. But, “you” say (not too keen on people interrupting me, to be honest: it suggests a lack of “school”), whilst I revere you generally as an enlightened visionary and World Leader (how kind), on this occasion you’re emitting hot gusts from your mouldy stinktunnel, you utter, utter… Jeremy (ouch). Fleming’s Bond wasn’t a complex character at all so it hasn’t been fibs for many of the films to describe their besuited dullard vacuum as “Ian Fleming’s James Bond” in their credits. He doesn’t need pretence/pretensions towards “depth”.
Fair enough: FlemingBond isn’t perpetually prone to inner monologue, there’s a tangible subtext of suspicion of intellectuals and intellectualism (Fleming having a pop at his brother, one suspects), and excessive soul-searching would get in the way of cracking people across the face and being beastly to Koreans, women and The Hun. Yet there is more there than Eon’s pun-puking, inadequately pixelated watch salesman suggests. You might not be convinced by what it says, but (as an example) chapter 20 of Casino Royale is chewy. There’s an argument that because its introspection seems unheralded, forced in, this stuff is what Fleming was intending his tale to tell us, intending to “write”, rather than his suggestion that an avocado is pudding. That chapter tells me more of interest about James Bond than all the brand fetishism that would clag things up, however deftly described it is. I accept that Bond sitting in bed pontificating about The Nature of Evil for ten minutes wouldn’t make the most engaging fodder for the Bond-film punter, but nor does it mean that the Bond of the films must be as hollow as he had become. Some argue, with vigour, that book Bond is an animal entirely separate from film Bond, and the films are not made for those who have read the novels. That may hold water, but only to the point where one queries whether Die Another Day was made for those who have read. Anything.
Patently there was a medium to strike in the name of entertainment/scooping up cash, and by 2002, the bias just tipped too far one way; it had to be reset. Not so much rebooted as rebalanced.
Did it need a reboot? (This is a distinct question to “Did it actually get one?”) The Bond series had retreated from outlandishness before and not had to bin the Bond nor the (loose semblance of) continuity. Something in that, should you believe that the tepid precedent of For Your Eyes Only – not too silly, not too violent, not too distinctive – ultimately benefited the series. Financially, Bond seemed to be cruising along quite happily, churning. Stable. Dull. Whether the audience wanted to keep seeing the same thing had to be balanced with whether the producers wanted to keep making the same thing. I’m not asking for “Pity a Poor Billionaire”, but far too many Bonds prior to 2006 demonstrated listlessness of vision. Given what we received with Casino Royale, the challenge they set themselves seems to energise them into wanting to make a film rather than simply having to. Pierce Brosnan as Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Duty Demands It ((2004) Dir: Vic Armstrong, starring With Special Guest Stars Sandra Bullock and Barney the Dinosaur) might not have been much good.
Not a decision immediately warmly embraced.
From what can be extrapolated from the adventurously articulated abuse, the ire of the anonymous about the impact of “rebooting” appears twofold. Firstly, that Piers Bronson wasn’t going to be in it, “fired” from a contract he didn’t have. He would have had to have gone at some point, though, and DAD tends to betray colossal weariness on his part. On balance, Pierce Brosnan didn’t give a bad performance as James Bond. The problem is that it was a “performance as James Bond”, that’s all it was, imprisoned within preconceptions of the image and incapable of being credibly evaluated by any other measure. If that’s where you set the bar, fine, but hold a moment while I mash up your food/face. Even in retreat from DAD’s cynical banality, what could Brosnan V: The Final Frontier have achieved? We’d seen him do “serious Bond” in TWINE, a curiosity similar to looking down and trying to recall when exactly it was that you ate that sweetcorn. He’d done action. He’d done melodrama. He’d done stoopid. What was left? Singing? To be fair, having seen him in other things, I expect his uniquely arthritic style was well up to a “Bond’s last mission” sort of film, several aspects of the Casino Royale story chiming well with that, if tweaked. However, that would have totally undermined the next person along, the audience confused at having been told it was all over. That vibe clobbered Dalt-Ton from the off and they weren’t making that mistake again. Gather cash from four popular Brosnans, get that in the bank, then throw everyone with a quick change of plan and make the films you always wanted to. Risk? Certainly, but only because the Bond series was a byword for total risk aversion. A decision that may have surprised, might have revolted, but even if one didn’t like it, it was bloody interesting at last. Point to Eon.
The second target: Daniel Craig. A limestone-faced, amusingly-eared Ac-Tor from a terrible Angelina Jolie film and Our Friends in the North, known for intensity and the whiff of prickly truculence, was a surprising choice to take on the relaunch of a British cultural icon. Considerable concern about the wisdom of the venture was eventually muted by a huge popular reaction to it. Shame that he only lasted one series and then it disappeared back up its Eye of Harmony with that Tennant chap. Or something. “But… but… this Daniel Cregg… I’ve never heard of him!” Daresay he’s never heard of you, either. Still.
The Craig abuse had a thrillingly camp sub-bracket regarding his hair. Who knew that there were so many trainee hairdressers? Perhaps there was a government scheme at the time and the “feedback” was encouraged by the prevailing administration to demonstrate its public worth. For the next film, a lot of the same folks became professional film editors. Such untapped resources out there: this lot would solve the skills shortage in one go, or at least in the competitive field of “hairdressing and film editing”. Given the amount of them about, and the learned expertise people were determined to show, one can only assume that it’s hugely popular at degree level (unlike “spelling” ). Has more employment potential than Media Studies, anyway.
Trouble was, this delicious shashay of an argument about (… just take a moment… ) hair was often (if not, granted, universally) advanced by those who insisted that book Bond and film Bond were distinct. Not too sure about the logic of falling back onto fidelity for Fleming otherwise never before relied upon, to insist that he had written about a dark-haired man. Apparently, Eon should have pursued some sort of unwavering faithfulness to the source, the abandonment of which for about forty years or so oddly didn’t seem to worry people as much as this one. Ian Fleming’s James Bond wasn’t blond. True. Ian Fleming’s James Bond wasn’t Australian / Welsh / Irish-American either, and he only claimed his Scottish birthright once Fleming understood that referencing the films could make him money with which to drink himself into oblivion. Ian Fleming’s Tracy Bond wasn’t a ginger, although his Hugo Drax was. Ian Fleming’s Blofeld wasn’t a hostile dwarf / a nasal gangster / Widow Twankey. Leiter a straw-haired Texan? Hedisonnotfelix.com. Ian Fleming’s Mary Goodnight wasn’t an IKEA flatpack and his Max Zorin never got himself written. The Connery early-years Dark Matter/Bald. The Connery Diamonds are Forever Roadkill Badger. The Dalton Spavined Vampire. The GoldenEye Permanent Wave. Yes, the film Bonds were all dark-haired, if by “all” one means “not all”. I’m not sure what colour Uncle Roger’s hair is meant to be in any of his films, but by the final pair it was definitely skinned from vixens caught sniffing around the Pinewood bins.
Richer in (generally unpleasant) subtext than the novels’ terse prose tends to suggest, it’s still a bit of a stretch to assert that a key Fleming theme, alongside “women cannot be trusted, nor foreigners, people who use big words are homsexualists and Britain’s all gone crap”, is “only a dark-haired man is capable of doing these things”. He really didn’t write that, y’know. Yet it persisted, this insidious attempt to disguise what was essentially dispensing unaccountable knee-jerk abuse – because you could, here was broadband – by asserting nonsense about what Ian Fleming had allegedly created. This may have been a desperate attempt to convince people that they could read; the spelling usually suggested otherwise. “Ian Flemming would of been spinning in his grave” was a popular refrain; presumably this would be the Ian Fleming who, reflecting on his sacrosanct description of Bond, sat back and thought “I know: David Niven”.
What this unexpected devotion to mis-/un-read texts tended to show was that the film Bond had just become an image; it was time for something to “act” rather than “be”. Daniel Craig’s face would not have been the first one to spring to mind, I would admit, but then that shows the potent corrosion of the shallow, hollow symbolism that James Bond was by then. We had come to believe that what he looked like was important to what he was. Casting Mr Craig in some giddily foolish hope that people would be sensible and look beyond the surface attributes and see the work being done to establish a character was bold, and probably assumed too much of certain parts of the audience. Another tall, dark-haired knitting pattern type might have thwarted that idea. We may have got no further than his hair, after all.
Bumpy enough circumstances anyway, and the first new James Bond of the mass internet age gave unaccountable troglodytes their opportunity to go for Mr Craig, not just within their own caves but a worldwide dirty protest. Being a heterosexual, physically able white male, he could be abused without an –ism attaching, so it was open season for the internet to spew its finest acrid bile in that noble way it has. From the moment Daniel Craig splashed along the Thames with his armbands on – look at him, just look at him, my eyes, they burn, the Crappy-Albino-Weils-Disease-Dodging-Not Wanting-To Drown-In-A-Tidal-Sewer-Weed – every day, new pleasures would be announced, setting my disaster anticipation level to “getting leaky”. He can’t drive! He has nine teeths! He has to wear a Morrison’s bag on his head when doing a wizzle! He buys own brand! Here’s a picture of him next to Piltdown Man! I LITRELLY CA’NT TELL THE DIFFRANCE AND SO CANT ALL MY FREINDS. He cannot sleep without smearing himself in tartare sauce and getting weasels to lick it off! Pearce Bronson would of drunk that river water! I’ve seen his birth certificate and his middle name is Spasmoloid which sounds Muslim to me and he was born in Kenya so he can’t be James Bond! Or something! With Daniel Craig at the helm, this reboot about a man changing into Bond won’t be Pretty Woman but Ugly Man; it’s Pig-Male-Eon! Do you see what I did there?! Here’s another picture of the Ephalunt (sp?) Man! I had it from an Eon insider THAT I HAVE NOT MADE UP that their firing him next week because he licks chisels, the chisel-licking, bad-headed muto-freaktard prick.
What’s happened to those websites that preached such vision? I suppose they’re still out there. The internet’s quite big after all, big enough to permit them access to an audience in the same way as (I’m assuming ) there are sites for persons who rape voles or obtain erotic gratification from the Vauxhall Chevette. Big enough to permit me not to read their stuff. I wonder what they can possibly be talking about now, given the Craig tenure’s critical and financial success? At a guess I suppose they hold a candle (probably at the wrong end) for still retaining the freedom to write such things; a clear demonstration of either a ) the enabling democracy of the internet or b ) a tyranny of unaccountable cowards. You decide. If you like b ), you’ll just lurve Twitter.
Up to the 007th minute, much to engage and indicate a new(-ish) direction. The black-and-white scenes are novel and, in both the brutality of the fight and fleeting glimpses of the family life of this Dryden blokey, at least pretending that mowing people down won’t just be slaughter off a duck’s back any more. Making us feel it, are they? We gather our first bit of “Bond” with the gunbarrel and there are more – if not all – of the “attributes” / “BondClag” to collect as the film progresses through its month-long running time. That appears to be the point. At least the gunbarrel makes sense exactly where it is, which tends to suggest that proper nutritional thinking has gone into the shopping list this time around, rather than DAD’s lunatic trolley dash of overfacing bloat.
The song’s grown on me and now seems familiar; at the time, a dabble in tweak that did give me a bit of a moment, along with the card game being poker, with its whiff of beers and deep-fried finger food. Mr Cornell doesn’t seem so bad now, but I still have qualms about the game choice. I always understood the appeal to Bond of baccarat to be the total leaving it to chance, the danger one card can bring, the fluke, rather than (at least how it’s presented here) poker’s pseudo-mathematical struggle but I suppose it’s a backhanded way of potentially showing this emergent Bond as smart and not just a bemuscled walbursting lummox, in a very bad shirt.
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 Casino Royale
It’s been produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli – and not the ghost of the patriarch – and one senses the shackles of the past dropping away, respectfully but not before time. It’s not a total break for freedom – this and the next film plough a reasonably steady course to building James Bond up to “where he was” but the decision to show the development of his character does give more to explore/exploit on a dramatic basis as he gets there (and once done, gives credible character background for actions/decisions thereafter). If you start with Mr Perfect, there’s nothing for you. It’s not a wholesale reboot, though, is it? After all, Mr Craig isn’t that young and we haven’t gone right back to the start of Bond’s career in the secret service. The suggestion is he has been there some time, at least time enough to develop something of a reputation, experience and some (roughish) skill. Therefore, although one can understand the observation that Mr Craig’s too old for some of Bond’s behaviour in the first half of the film, too young and I fear the second, much more significant half, would have collapsed. I know Connery was younger when he started but he wasn’t acting young; depresses me that he could be so good in Dr No and only be 32 at the time. I digress into my own mortality.
It’s not so much of a reboot that it’s at the level of another awful teenage fool getting bitten by a spider, or Bruce Wayne’s parents eating bullets yet again (one would think they would have learned by now, the useless clowns); more a rebootscraping, still recognisable as the original comfy footwear but just scrubbed clean of the stuff the series had been stepping in. Ready to rewalk the path, once cleansed, and doubtless about to tread in the same dung now and again, but possibly not going quite as off-map and beyond rescue as before.
There seem to be a lot of ten pound notes flying around. Despite science facts to the contrary, that the film was going to be cut-price, the thing looks glorious and luxurious, even if it does suggest that Montenegro is littered with Bentleys and not, say, land mines. A lot does happen in this film – arguably a bit too much in the over-extended first hour – but they did give us a solid show here. Compensating perhaps for much of the second hour taking place inside and (not sure why) underground, when it does break out into the fresh air, it looks absolutely splendid. Other Bonds may have had more bizarre locations, but I’m not sure any have shown what they had, to such effect.
Ah, Mr Craig, in colour this time and… hang on, wasn’t he meant to be hideous? Anyway, here comes loveliness, melting out of the indestructible 2D silhouette of the (splendidly amusing) titles to present himself as flesh and blood. I suspect they’re trying to tell us something, here. Can’t quite see the hair, slightly distracted by the blue eyes – at least they got that right. But I was promised an albino homunculus! It’s not fair and it’s a disgrace and the moment I have sat through it all several times I shall go onto the internet and tell them off, in swearing and then they’ll be sorry and then they’ll continue to ignore me and then I’ll do something really vicious in a quote game and that’ll show them! Somehow.
Martin Campbell done the directing of it. Rather splendidly, although he could have done with being more insistent with his editor to zip it along a touch. Whilst it’s wise to spend time on the Bond/Vesper relationship to render it credible and worthy of its ultimate impact, the first hour does feel like just too much build-up. Once we’re on that night train through the Balkans, though, it’s all very entertaining, and it can’t have been easy to make lengthy “carrrdddds” scenes engaging. Is it a better job than GoldenEye? Seeking to achieve different things. It looks better, certainly, and this project may have offered a reasonable amount of carte blanche (not of Carte Blanche, of which “absolutely none at all” is the most reasonable of amounts; of the two reboots, it’s the more unnecessary). There’s some great stuff in here: the pacing of the shower scene, as an example, just strikes me as one of the best judged pieces of any Bond.
The huge amount of material in this film – even when you think it’s nearly over, along comes a day’s worth of sinking house to cope with – may betray uncertainty about whether the quieter moments would carry the audience. They do; unusually for a Bond, I’m not waiting for the chasing to start as a blessed relief. It’s the other way around, good though action such as the stairwell fight is. It’s not that the script is particularly erudite or convincing – there’s far too much about Bond’s “ego” (or, as Ms Green says, “egor” which suggests she saw that picture comparing Mr Craig to Marty Feldman) and God alone knows what plot holes M’s chat with Bond at the end is trying to paper over, but at least they’re attempting full, coherent sentences this time. Wow, now there’s a mouthful. Because there was something to write and therefore something to direct other than exploding traffic, it is the best Bond for many years, albeit that’s not much of a compliment.
Fun way to end the titles, focusing on Mr Craig’s eyes, which are an arresting feature and not uncoincidentally the same colour as his bathers. Perhaps some will have been perplexed, given the promise of a squat day-glo scrotter, about how much emphasis there has already been on Mr Craig’s appearance given that it seemed to be the view of many that he should wander about with a binbag over his head. They can’t have enjoyed the imminent beachside scene, SexGollum emerging from the waves – as Clive James once memorably said of Herr Schwarzenegger – like a condom filled with walnuts. Seems the next two films (literally) toned him down a smidge; possibly for the best – he’s not remotely inconspicuous looking like that. The daft horsey woman spots him immediately, although she may be wondering how a pink bottlenose has found its way this far south. Also, how it got into those very tight looking shorts. And how she can help it out of them.
Oh, it’s raining. Lazenby aside, has it rained on any other Bond – actual rain, not just abuse? Little lad running about, camera following him (even in a short extract such as this, it’s evident that there’s greater originality about where the camera goes than many Bonds, which can be terribly static). Apparently we’re in Mbale, Uganda – which I shame myself in admitting I had to be told, albeit I could have lived without the earlier revelation that Prague was in the Czech Republic (where else is it likely to be?).
Look everyone, the Lord’s Resistance Army must be really sinister, because here’s Mr Kony playing pinball and being rude to his guest. Exploiting child soldiers, yesyesyes, all that front page of the Observer tosh, but it’s the lack of hosting grace and the creepy way he opens his bottle of carefully not clearly identified nor warlord-endorsed sweetened vegetable extract drink that really emphasise what a naughty sort he is. This Mr White – I’m not sure the name’s subtle, in context – looks distinctly unimpressed. He hasn’t been allowed a go on the machine, let alone a chair. It’s tipping down outside and he’s turned up to this mudhole in the most impractical garb, could at least have offered him a macaroon. Still, he can look at his watch, even if a decision was taken during production that his original opening line “Hello everyone and look at my OMEGA, bitch” was so great, it had to go to Bond.
The way that lad’s running about, those two bottles of fizzy pop are going to go off like grenades. Perhaps he’s used to that. Mr Kony or whatever he’s called is quite avuncular to the sprog, although one suspects that only lasts until the boy objects being strapped to an AK-47 and told to kill his mum. The sinister influence stretches to the child taking up pinball, one of UNESCO’s noted Evil Games, along with cribbage and American football. There’s a bit of blue/orange shining off Mr White’s head as he carefully studies the boy. I’m not even going to contemplate what’s going through his head at this point.
It does seem a curious question, this one about trusting an unmet man with money. That’s how banks work, isn’t it, my little chutney? Come now, it’s 2006, nothing’s going to go wrong and it’s not as if corrupt bankers (cockney rhyming slang) are about to gamble it all away on completely crackpot ventures, is it? Not sure this little exchange of unpleasantries was intended to have quite such bitter prescience although with its concluding housing collapse it’s possible to regard Casino Royale as Predictive Metaphor, in the same way as Quantum of Solace tells me much about the methods of my utilities providers and Skyfall explores Incoherent Old Age.
All Mr White’s organisation provides is an introduction. Well, that and opera tickets. And something fine by Jaguar-Land Rover. Acceptable suits, access to top people and splendid houses. Please let me join. Absolutely my kind of chaps. Much better than SPECTRE: you don’t have to pretend to like cats, for a start. Even if the only thing on offer is something that has “wiping” in the job description, please. I can adopt individual irresponsibility and still work well as part of a project, be it depriving folks of water or cackling or making erstwhile blabbermouthed chums drink motor oil. I’m really motivated to join the team here at “…” Oh go on; I’ll bring my own left leg trauma and rich sense of gated community spirit.
Right, here comes baddy; you can tell that, he has a black car. Lots of African kids wandering about with machine guns and heavily tooled up. As I’m left wondering why we don’t have another caption telling us that this is Florida, located in “According to Fox News”, we hit
For the next hour, the plot gets wobblier than a blancmange contemplating its fate, text messaging and Bond being an uncouth, poorly-dressed simpleton both assuming critical importance. There is application of Tom Chadbon, so it’s not as if the first hour’s dreadful: just seems a bit overplayed, and I’d liken that to holding a particular poker hand if I knew one (or cared). Along comes The Money – I wouldn’t object to making a deposit – and the film elevates itself to a dignity well beyond that sort of crass joke. The “little finger” stuff does stand out, and not well. You would hardly have noticed it in the previous ten.
From turbo-thug to efficient, cool killer via means of mashed-up nadgers, the most phyrric of victories and increasing awareness of his purpose as he both affects and effects events, Bond grows and the Bond “stuff” has room to grow around him, carefully nurtured rather than grafted on hideously. If it’s not a Bond film if it doesn’t have Q in it, then it’s better off not being a Bond film.
Not easy to extrapolate a paradigm from the 007th minute of Casino Royale – perhaps it’s not playing the game quite as we had come to expect/dread. The “revolutionary” aspects of the whole film less than were expected/dreaded, what the film as a whole represents is simply another Age of Bond (if I write Bondage, you’ll get an early morning call from the rozzers. “Bondage”, then). We’ve had six already.
Casino Royale to From Russia with Love – high-living English gangster contrasting austerity post-War Britain with enticing morsels of sleaze and obscene amounts of food.
Dr No to Thunderball – ultra-spy, all flashy and exciting and indestructible, world traveller and slightly ludicrous.
The Spy who Loved Me to Octopussy – deathdripped, deconstructed.
Saltzman & Broccoli – cheery, immense, dominating.
Broccoli A (1977-1989) – comfort-food, bit stodgy, bit Rodgy.
Broccoli B (1995-2002) – only certain in its uncertainty; significant legacy issues.
The seventh? One spy in his time plays many parts, as the other Jacques may have said (but didn’t). The internet showed its childishness and promised mere oblivion, as if it was going to be possible that we should like a Bond sans teeth, sans height, sans taste, sans everything. However, this second childhood now promised rebirth, regeneration. Reboot.
I receive a goodly dollop of private correspondence in my “role” as moderator of this message board. Some accuse me of whimsical decision-making, which I’ll take as a compliment. There’s no point in having “power” if you can’t abuse it. A fair amount runs “Your a a**hole” (airhole?), to which I don’t reply because I cannot disagree. I am an airhole. On occasion, one receives the likes of “Please let me back in; I have devised another contrived post for my blog: They Contain Words: The Startling Connections Between The Man From Barbarossa And The Argos Catalogue” . Now and again, amidst the embittered, nanosignificant drossblisters of souls in self-inflicted torment, I receive something worth taking seriously. One sympathetic correspondent asked why I continued to bother with the Bond films when the second ten only seem to have encouraged exaggerated contempt. It’s a fair question. I have a one-word answer.
Not the whole city, although it is divinely charming and well worth a visit, with its pristine parks and views towards Alpine meadows, the clear waters of the Salzach burbling beside its fabulous coffee shops, although they do go a bit overboard on all the Mozart stuff. No, I’m thinking of the association football franchise, with its (at the date of writing) amusing cannibal and that other player who [deleted] with his [deleted, but definitely true: I read it on the internet so it must be] and then [ooh, he didn’t, did he? Christ] into a cup of tepid coleslaw. Admittedly the pending metaphor could stretch to supporting any footballist team, as indeed could moderating this site be likened to finding one’s self in a borderline Tourette’s crowd given the opportunity to scream abuse and not get caught, but Liverpool seems the most apt.
For some time, coasting along, not really achieving very much and banging on about history and legacy and “this time it might work” but ultimately doomed, chugging along and barely keeping up. Then, rather unexpectedly and totally against the odds, halfway through the first decade of the twenty-first century, they only went and won the Champions League. That’s why I’ll still watch Bond. That’s why the Liverpool fans still watch (even when being stuffed twice by West Bromwich Albion last season, har de har har). We now have hope, having seen what can be done.
All you need is hope.
And a fair bit of money, a very talented leading man, a credible script and tangible artistic vision.
And the capacity to ignore the internet completely.
Just as well, really. What came next appeared to melt it. You’d think – history of the Bond films dictating this, so it’s not an unjustifiable thought – that the next step would be to replicate for Bond 22 and wait for the cash to roll in. You’d be slightly wrong, but it doesn’t matter; you can call yourself what you like and post it without retribution.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of Quantum of Solace. When the storm arrives, Jacques Stewart won’t be seen with you. He’ll be hiding in the cellar.