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James Bond: Chapter One; The First Chapter

“Today we are fighting Communism. Okay. If I’d been alive fifty years ago, the brand of Conservatism we have today would have been damn near called Communism and we should have been told to go and fight that. History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts.”
― James Bond, Casino Royale

I like James Bond. And, like everything else I’m interested in, I have to like it in a obsessive compulsive way that deeply worries the people closest to me. I hate half-measures and lackluster efforts. I have to take my interests and plow them into the ground, wringing out every last bit of enjoyment until I can’t stand the subject and put it on the shelf for a year.

James Bond is one I keep coming back to. He’s a hero that has survived over sixty years, from Ian Fleming’s first novel all the way to his next movie that’s due to be released next year.

He has fought communists, insane madmen seeking to blow up Silicon Valley, North Korean terrorists with a penchant for plastic surgery and duplicitous water stealing businessmen.

James Bond is a hero who has maintained the same posture and panache for his entire run, but, throughout, has maintained a relevancy that few other characters can claim. It is remarkable that someone who was so defined by the culture of the Cold War has not only survived twenty years after the end of that war, but has thrived.

He is defined by a cultured ruthlessness, a suave viciousness. He will lecture you on the correct way to drink a martini and then callously dispatch a henchmen without reflection or doubt. He remains, in many ways, thoroughly British, though beloved around the world.

His longevity is compelling in and of itself. He has been portrayed by many different actors in many different ways through vastly different era. His novels are still being written to this day, in spite of the fact that the original author has been dead and buried for fifty years.

Because of my obsessive compulsive madness, I need, NEED, to figure out a way to go the extra mile in James Bond researches. So, with a complete lack of careful thought and a dutiful inattentiveness to how much free time I actually have, I have decided to watch every James Bond movie, in chronological order, until I lose interest or I reach the final movie.

I will start with the first on-screen appearance. Which is, obviously, the hour long TV episode of Casino Royale.

Look for it at this location next week.

-D-

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The Many Bonds Theory

The Many Bonds Theory is simple in its premise. The theory goes that James Bond is not a man, but a codename and that several men have operated under this codename. Each of the actors who portrayed Bond portrayed a different man. It should be noted here that this theory is not my own and that the arguments are also not my own, though I did introduce my own wrinkles here and there. The words are mine though. I’ll claim those.

Now, in order for this theory to work we must do two things right off the bat. We must disregard the Daniel Craig Bond. Casino Royale was a reboot of the series, meant to be taken as a prequel to the previous movies. And, not to inflict spoilers on you, but Skyfall states pretty conclusively that his true name is James Bond. Now, after Daniel Craig decides to leave the series, the theory can come into play again when the next actor takes his place.

We must also disregard the books. I’ve only read the Ian Fleming books and I have absolutely no interest in the other ones, but it makes for a confusing mess trying to fit that all into the canon of the movies.

Now that we’ve tidied up the playing field a bit, we can proceed.

In order for there to be an honest to God canon, there needs to be an explanation for how the James Bond who fought against the Soviets in the 1960’s is the same Bond who ended up fighting North Korean terrorists in Die Another Day. Just the problem of time is enough to unhinge the series, if we’re to believe that Bond is the same man. Bond is in his mid-thirties in the 1960’s, meaning he’d be in his ’70s at the time of the last Brosnan movie.

There is also the change in personalities. No one would confuse the playful and smirking Roger Moore with the more lethal and dry Sean Connery. And can anyone imagine Pierce Brosnan using the same disguise and terrible nasally voice as a cover as George Lazenby did? While basic traits remained the same, they were different men who approached their profession in different ways.

There were even little differences like Sean Connery smoking cigarettes and martinis, while Roger Moore preferred cigars and brandy, while Brosnan was a complete nonsmoker.

There are also the points in which each actor left the series. Sean Connery left after destroying SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters and killing the head of SPECTRE (or so he thinks). A good point in which to leave a career.

Next, Lazenby is Bond. (Fun Fact: At the end of the pre-credit sequence, Lazenby turns to the camera and makes a smart-ass remark about “the other guy”. See? More proof that Bond is more than one man!). At the end of that movie (Spoilers, obviously), he is married, only to have his wife brutally murdered by Blofeld, (Back from the dead, leading to my counter theory that Blofeld is also a codename for the head of SPECTRE).

Lazenby drops out of the surface and Connery returns. His desire to revenge himself upon Blofeld is not because Blofeld killed HIS wife, but because Blofeld attacked the family of a fellow agent. Once again, he kills Blofeld and that’s it for Connery (except for a terrible remake of Thunderball in the early 80’s called Never Say Never Again, which is not canon. Thank God. There’s a scene of Bond defeating a henchman with his own urine sample).

Next Roger Moore takes up the mantle of Bond. Rather than tragedy ending his career, he retires due to old age. Moore is 57 at the time of that filming.

Dalton is up and in his second movie, has his double-O status remanded because he’s taking the law into his own hands. His actions result in the botching of an undercover operation, the death of agents from Hong Kong and unsanctioned murders of multiple people. And then he’s never seen again. Obviously Dalton is taken out by his own government.

Brosnan ends his career after being captured and tortured at the hands of terrorists. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t come back after that final mission?

Lastly, there are the secondary characters. At the start of the series, Felix Leiter is introduced as near Bond’s own age, . In the last movie he’s seen in before the Daniel Craig Bond movies, Leiter looks considerably older than Dalton. Other characters, like Moneypenny, M and Q also get older while Bond stays around the same age, because the same actors play them well into the ’80s. The Leiter age difference is more striking since a different actor is playing him. They deliberately went with someone considerably older that Bond.

In conclusion, every Bond except for Daniel Craig and maybe Sean Connery (after all, there’s no guarantee that there wasn’t another Bond before him) was the real Bond. Everyone else was a man acting under a codename.

Like The Batman.

-D-

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One Dry, Vodka Martini

 

We expect, in our heroes, the ability to last. They last from generation to generation, fighting the good fight, no matter if that good fight completely changes from now to then. As the times progress, so must our heroes. Their methods grow more modern. Their attitudes fit our own. Their morals reflect what we expect in a good person.

James Bond has been around, in one form or another, since the early 1950’s. The world is an extremely different place since he first stepped onto the stage. The Soviets are no longer around. Communism is not perceived as a threat. And we worry less about nukes and more about religious zealots with some simple explosive and the will to use it.

He has, however, managed to stay relevant for over six decades. His creator has died. The actors who played him at first are beyond the age where they could play him now. Six men have played him (not including the movies made by other studios), numerous authors have written him and who he is as a person has changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic ways.

But, at heart, he remains the same. He is a lover, who will not let any harm come to his woman, but he will also not stay with them very long. He is a killer, but only kills when it is necessary to survive or necessary for the greater good, not for pleasure or sport. He is tough, intelligent and charismatic.

He has money, but not enough too much money. He likes nice things and appreciates good drinks and fine foods. He has a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips and is always interested and invested in learning more. He is curious, brave and determined to see matters through.

If one wanted to see a perfect, masculine ideal, a facet of the ideal, you would do no better than to see the evolution of James Bond. Or, perhaps, you would do no better than to see how James Bond has influenced a perfect masculine ideal.

The movies continually and routinely do well at the box office, even at their low points, it was never enough to kill the series. They keep making the movies and writing the novels, which means he appeals to the popular culture, which means he means something to the popular culture. He is, for a large number of people, an ideal.

This is how our culture defines a hero. He is British in a lot of ways, but also American (independent, takes law into own hands, almost a vigilante, in spite of his government agent status, see the number of times he is at odds with law enforcement and his own agency to see the vigilante aspects of his character).

A society’s heroes (and their villains) define them.

What does James Bond say about us?

What does his appeal say about us?

He has lasted 60 years as a relevant, pop culture icon, while remaining much the same in a majority of ways (assassin, drinker, womanizer, violent, sensitive, charmer, vicious), what does that say about our culture that promotes such a creature as our hero?

If you cast the light in a different way, you could make him a monster; a sociopath who destroys lives, a government robot so heartless that he will have sex and murder within the same hour. He is so controlling that his drink must be the same and made the same way every time.

You look to a culture’s heroes and you learn so much about them.

What does James Bond say about us?

-D-

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