Which brings us to the tired Bond media juggernaut. Eon and MGM share a unique honor along with Lucasfilm and a few other similar offenders. They flogged this franchise into profitable ubiquity and saturate our psycho-cultural ether. In so doing, Bond became largely an irrelevant abstraction. No one really watches Bond anymore because we have been imprinted indelibly with the imagery. Those such as Simon Winder who pretend that the franchise product has a grander sociological meaning just embarrass themselves. Bond simply IS.
We all know the general pattern of Bond and the Cold War. Initially set in a fairly concrete fictional universe featuring Soviet adversaries and SMERSH, the franchise evolved along with detente into the Roger Moore years of self aware camp and farce. Those Moore efforts also meshed perfectly with a post-Vietnam mood of sensation and diversion, disco and cocaine, etc. Late 70s Soviet adventurism kick started the Cold War again at the end of the Carter Administration. Moore's Bond followed, featuring the then-unique return to “Flemming-esque realism” in “For Your Eyes Only” and “Octopussy”. (Let's forget about “Moonraker's” attempt to cash in on Star Wars).
The Soviet Union's demise has been unkind to Bond. Each new product flailed around grasping for trendy geo-political relevance. Misfires included flirtations with the War on Drugs, arms merchants, a Rupert Murdoch-like figure, Oil Politics and finally North Koreans with father issues. Pierce Brosnan did deliver galactic bucks back to Eon. But the product became anchorless and generic. The last installments blur together in an unfortunate tableau of Denise Richards, Teri Hatcher, invisible cars and sputniks gone beserk. Matt Damion's outtings as Bourne were far superior even as merchandized franchise.
Not Your Great Grandfather's Bond
Our new Bond, Daniel Craig, allegedly returns the franchise back to its roots. His is a violent, nihilistic Bond. When asked if he prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred, Bond replies “Do I look like a give a damn?” Oh SUH-NAP. Such a self-aware diss of the product line is marketing genius. “Casino Royale” has been filmed twice before. The 1950s CBS TV portrayal starred Barry Nelson as James Bond in a live broadcast for an American audience. Bond is a CIA agent, Leiter is from MI6 and Peter Lorre plays villainous Le Chiffre. In the 60s, it returned as an intermittantly funny spoof with Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles (DVD of which has the B&W CBS show too).
Is the third time the charm? Anthony Lane's “Of Human Bondage” has the details on the lastest version. We agree that a departure from the video game mind set of the last outing is welcome. But we wonder if this Bond is really in sync with the times — or pehaps more in tune with the America of pre-Fallujah.
One concedes that the New Bond matches the 2001-2006 Age of Bush in one respect. Blondes now dominate our consciousness of Superior Political Phenotypes. We see it everyday from the botoxed lips of the blondinka Fox News fluffers (and their imitators) to the Natalie Holloway crisis du jour. Slate's Jack Shafer documents it all. It is only natural that Hollywood's exemplar of Man of Action molt as well.
Will this Bond's nihilism match the post 2006 epoch in American socio-political consciousness? We tend to think not. Certainly, after a few bottles of bourdeaux, Perle might feel simpatico with the violence. Clumsy imitators down-market in the pundit chain such as Peters and VDH are always on board for senseless violence. And the idea of an empty Bond being essentially an efficient “Hitter” bureaucratically at least fits the Administration's belief that kinetic wet work and snatch n' grabs will solve its problems. If Boykin et al. had their way, their Bond would find redemption in the second act through evangelical Bible study and emerge a vengeful servant of their Hulk Hogan-like God. But that's a quibble.
Curiosity will draw in crowds. We predict a solid open. A straight actioner will be easier to sell around a world still prone to reject American soft power cultural exports in the Age of Bush. Bond is out of sync with the prevailing American mood. We think it is one of cautious hope, not emptiness. We haven't looked at cross tabs on our friends' recent poll data; so more a surmise or SWAG. But Americans can see the reality of empty violence for free every night from Iraq. We suspect Craig's next Bond outing will have to catch up with the times.
Tags: James Bond, Bond, Casino Royale, Perle, EON, Simon Winder, Daniel Craig, New Yorker, Anthony Lane