In 2006, with the release of Casino Royale, James Bond shed his stale skin.
He moved forward not just from the Pierce Brosnan era but finally from the Cold War – an evolution probably intended with 1995’s GoldenEye, when Brosnan took over the role in the series’ first film since 1989, when the Berlin Wall was still standing.
Every film from Dr. No till then had existed in that weird, extended post-World War II to Perestroika period, when the world was split between the First World (America and the West, England and 007 included) and the Second World (the Soviets, China, Cuba, and such) and a forgotten Third World, which was actually probably much larger than either of the others, India and Brazil and on.
Bond began fighting eccentric villains who were capitalizing (pun intended) off that split, and those villains eventually grew and molded and merged, getting crazier and goofier by the decade. From legitimate, blond-haired assassins in From Russia With Love and eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo in Thunderball, Bond then began fighting the evil organization SPECTRE and its chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
You know him as the bald guy in the body suit stroking the cat. He inspired this. That should have been as far as Bond’s producers went.
But they kept waxing on the wackiness, with giant Jaws in Moonraker and Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun and some guy named Kamal Khan in Octopussy. Yes, they named a movie Octopussy. Eventually, the awfulness and the tackiness tainted the whole thing together – so the stupid henchman that came with Roger Moore’s films reached back and ruined your perception of guys like Oddjob in Goldfinger or the sharks in Thunderball, and Sean Connery’s chest hair just seemed… well, I supposed that should have always been an issue.
Brosnan’s films changed the theme but kept the stupidity. Everything after GoldenEye was a cash grab, ending with Die Another Day which, I must admit, I couldn’t convince myself to see, even though I’m well aware of this. Sure, the Cold War was gone. But its 80’s irrelevance was still there.
Brosnan’s Bond films had the thickness of Ronald Regan’s hair but the coolness of his haircut. That is to say, none at all, unless you were into a big budget and a B-movie career.
So when Daniel Craig took over as Bond in 2006, it wasn’t just about going from the boring, gadget-wielding 007 to a new, jacked, blonde one. It was about resetting the legacy of one of cinema’s greatest characters, about taking things seriously for once.
Casino Royale was epic, so much so that its successors – Quantum of Solace (2008) and Skyfall (2012) – took some flack from critics and viewers, even though they were exceptional films on their own. And they were exceptional Bond films, for sure. This new golden era looks like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and the others now look like Joel Schumacher’s colourful farces from the 90’s. You may have enjoyed Batman Forever and Batman and Robin when you saw them, if you were eight years old, but they’re laughable now. They look like parodies of something you’re expecting more from.
And the Bond series hit that rut, too. The Austin Powers movies made a whole franchise off Bond’s idiocy. Those comedies forced Craig into the role, which the actor has admitted himself.
“We had to destroy the myth because (the Austin Powers movies) fu*ked us,” Craig said in a now-rediscovered interview from 2012 (AV Club). “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong, but he kind of fu*ked us, made it impossible to do the gags.”
Craig’s right, except about one thing – the Powers movies didn’t ruin Bond, they saved it. They gave the MGM the mirror and showed it what it really looked like – bags under the eyes, too much makeup, and plugs keeping the crown alive.
Enter Daniel Craig and events like today’s, and we now know what Bond’s 24th film will be called – SPECTRE.
Craig returns as Bond, joined by Ben Whishaw as Q, Ralph Fiennes as M, and Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny. Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux have been added, no doubt as the film’s Bond girls, and former wrestler David Batista will lend his muscles and his improving portfolio to SPECTRE, as well.
And two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz dances into the film as well, rumoured to be playing Blofeld.
So now that Bond knows what he’s doing, it seems he’s ready to do it all over.
Good. The only way to wash down an awful taste is with a refreshing drink, and Craig and Co. have certainly proven they can brew something sweet and cold.
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