Saturday, November 1, 2008

That's Enough, Mr. Bond

I don't understand all the love for James Bond movies. Apart from a few in the middle, I've seen most of the Bond franchise. Each of the movies have their scenes. The New Orleans funeral ceremony that opens Live and Let Die is worth buying the DVD. Some of the movies have their memorable characters. Oddjob's my personal favorite. From Connery to Craig, the lead role has successfully been passed numerous times over the past fourty-six years. There's gadgets, beautiful women, action scenes, cool cars, espionage, and tons of other stuff that's supposedly been tailor-made for people like me.

A middle-class white male, age 17-25, is supposed to love these movies.

But I don't. The Goldeneye 007 game did steal many, many hours from my high school years. Goldfinger was a fun movie when I was twelve. Every time a new Bond theme gets released, I listen to it. But honestly, most of them are as boring as the movies they're made for.

I understand the love for the idea of Bond. He's a spy that travels all around the world saving humanity from the super evil bad guys with increasingly outlandish plots from world domination. He meets women named Dr. Holly Goodhead and Pussy Galore (I wish I was making those up) and wears jet packs and Rolex watches equipped with lasers. It makes sense that a lot of people would want to watch this guy's movies. It makes sense that a lot of people would want to star in this guy's movies.

I understand the love of the idea of Bond but it's the execution that refuses to entertain me.

James Bond is about as captivating as Superman, in my opinion. An unbeatable hero, completely able to handle every situation thrown at him, with weaknesses coming in at slim-to-none. What makes a hero interesting are his weaknesses and how he deals with those shortcomings. Luke has daddy issues. Indy was afraid of snakes. Hell, even Jesus had food allergies. What? You think he just ate bread and fish for fun?

Movie after movie, decade after decade, audiences have packed theatre screenings to watch how Mr. Bond beat the odds. I guess the excitement can be found in the how. Happy endings are nothing new but is it too much to ask for an inkling of doubt? Strapping our hero to a table with a slow-moving laser creeping up his thigh hardly calls for face covering and nail-biting. That being said,
Casino Royale made a lot of needed changes to the Bond series.

A darker, more serious installment, Royale attempted to update the James Bond image. The film's opening action scene followed our hero scaling walls, climbing high structures, and jumping around like it was District B13 day on the set. The violence is more graphic, the action definitely holds its own against the other Ian Flemming adaptations, and the card table scenes are...just as boring as ever.

Who decided that these action films need live coverage of the World Championship of Poker tournaments? Remember Goldfinger? Oh, remember that one hand-shocking video game Bond had to play? Every inkling of pace and flow are pushed aside for these scenes. Why? Maybe it's just a weak attempt to keep Bond classy.

Other action series such as the Bourne films grab a hold on my interest and the next thing I know, the end credits are rolling. Like I said, the idea of a Super Spy taking out two thousand henchmen
with a bunch of awesome gadgets sounds great to me. But between the invincibility of the Bond character and the repeated slowing down of the narratives, I'm continually left with a bad taste in my mouth. After twenty-plus movies, this stuff gets a little old.

Am I the only one who doesn't really understand why the Bond movies get so much love?
Am I completely wrong for not loving them myself?
Let me know what you think.


Dave Enkosky said...

Great post. I thought I was the only one. As deep and varied as movie geekiness is, I have never been able to get excited about Bond. Granted, Connery is one cool cat, but the Bond movies in general leave me wanting. Whenever I've mentioned this to my movie geek friends, I've always been met with the same kind of shocked gasps that one reserves for people who think that Uwe Boll is a genius.

elgringo said...

I'm so glad to see that I'm not alone. What if this post gets thousands of replies just like yours and it turns out that no one likes James Bond? Probably won't happen but it'd be fun to ask why everyone was just pretending!

Thanks for the reply, Dave.

Daniel Getahun said...

Great post. I thought I was the only one...who LOVED JAMES BOND!

Somehow, I've been completely oblivious in recent years to the Bond backlash that appears to be so prevalent these days. Are people only speaking up now?

For me, I think it's part entertainment, part cultural history, and major part nostalgia. I watched all of the Bonds with my best friend when we were younger. That's all it took - I'll watch them until they stop making them.

Granted, my enthusiasm was at its lowest point right before I saw Casino Royale. Prior to that, it had been 2-3 awful ones in a row. CR reignited the fire, though.

elgringo said...

See Dave, I knew it was too good to be true. Haha.

Daniel, up until you typed the words "Bond backlash," I was also oblivious that a backlash even existed. I wonder if a big part of my difficulty with the Bond films is that I didn't really get into the films (besides Goldfinger and Live and Let Die) until the later Brosnan movies.

Fox said...


I am with you on not liking Bond, but I admit it's not based on anything concrete b/c I've seen maybe one or two Bond movies in my life. It's more about the here-we-go-again-with-another-media-surge-for-another-installment-of-a-series thing that annoys me... ie Harry Potter, LOTS, Star Wars, etc.

Daniel Getahun said...

You guys are crazy - crazy enough to make me write my own post about this before next Friday...maybe.

I think one of the things that separates Bond from other franchises is teh sheer number of films - nothing even comes close.

elgringo said...

Fox, anytime a "here-we-go-again-with-another-media-surge-for-another-installment-of-a-series" thing starts I always wonder just how many times I'll be hit across the face by "GO SEE THIS MOVIE! YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE!" ads.

What I can't stand is when smaller, awful movies get those pushes too. I will NEVER see Journey to the Center of the Earth, no matter how many ads they put out.

Daniel, I'd love to read that post. Good point about the number of films they've made. No one can deny their longevity.

Jonny said...

You're certainly not alone, Scott. Everyone around me loves Bond and I've never understood why. To me he's a one-dimensional caricature and I totally agree that it's WAY more interesting to have heroes with some element vulnerability. That makes them, you know, human.

Great post. Here I was thinking I was the only one who thought Bond was terribly overrated, but along came He Shot Cyrus.

You complete me.

Dean Treadway said...

I am completely with you on disliking most Bond movies. And I get very tired, too, of superheroes that have no weaknesses. Of course, I get tired of the ones that DO have weaknesses, too. If the words "super" and "hero" apply to the main character, I'm pretty much always turned off, cause I know there's not a chance in hell of the main character dying off, ever. As long as the franchise they belong to is CALLED a franchise (or even HOPES to be a franchise), no one--and I repeat, NO ONE--is ever going to make a movie where the superhero in question suffers the ultimate loss: their life. Therefore, there isn't any excitement. I mean, I at least wanna see a limb cut off or something. Wanna be super? Try being super with no arms, mister!

That said, most of the entries in the Bond canon are lame, particularly in the last 30 years). I did enjoy the campy "Diamonds are Forever" last time I saw it on the big screen. I've always liked "Goldfinger" (actually, all the Connery's are pretty good, especially on the big screen) and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (the one Bond movie, until the most recent "Casino Royale," where he loses). "The Spy Who Loved Me" is okay (though I despise Roger Moore, particularly as James Bond). All the Pierce Brosnan bonds suck. The Timothy Dalton ones are good in theory but not so great in practice. However, "Casino Royale" delivered on the promise of a brand new sort of Bond, so I'm looking forward to "Quantum of Solace" (and, no, I have no problem with that title; it's no worse than "Octopussy"). But the character is ripe for a retirement. That would be the ultimate Bond movie: the one where he dies. They gotta do it one day.

Daniel Getahun said...

Well I ended up doing that Defense of Bond post - and I mentioned you!