If I had to define my relationship with the character of James Bond, I would probably have to say “It’s Complicated’. As I’ve covered elsewhere, I grew up with him, through all his incarnations, and I have regularly (but not always) been excited by the prospect of seeing the latest one, be it in book or movie form.
I saw SPECTRE on Monday evening, at the same time as the London premiere. That gave me the unusual luxury of seeing it before a general consensus about it seeped into my awareness.
Seeing it caused me to ask myself, what is a James Bond movie now? What is it seeking to be?
Primarily, it’s seeking to make money. Let’s not be naive. But one feels the current team are trying to make money with a large quota of integrity and care thrown in. For that reason, it’s not overly silly to probe a little deeper into the motivation.
I think James Bond is now a fairy tale. Perhaps it always has been. It is a prince slaying a dragon, winning a comely maiden and claiming the spoils. I think the people who make James Bond are trying to continue to sell me this fairy tale, as an adult, without making me feel unduly childish or dim.
The Bond people have a number of tools which they employ to try to engage me in their fairy tale. These include, spectacle, a level of edginess, a dash of humour, an involvement in the actual making of the fairytale a sprinkling of human truth and, perhaps most powerful of all, nostalgia. If these things are administered correctly, the result can be a Bond film that, literally, plays fast and loose with everything but which also takes me along with it, diverted, entertained, and not made to feel like a fool.
Here, then, we have SPECTRE.
For me, the film succeeded very well. By employing all those devices I mentioned, as well as a few more, it succeeded in carrying me along with the fairy tale one more time. Casino Royale is still the best of these modern fairy tales, and I don’t think it can be bettered, but I would go so far as to say that SPECTRE did it better than Skyfall did. I enjoyed Skyfall at the time I saw it but the effect dissipated somewhat the further away from the cinema I got. Grown men eaten by casino lizards, Loads of posturing on buildings and boats, and the worst Scottish plan ever devised all rather served to blow the fairy tale away.
Perhaps that will happen with SPECTRE too. Strike that, of course it will. I’m a grown man and, as a little times progresses, the silliness will rise to lessen the effect of the fairy tale through inevitable DVD, Netflix and TV viewings. What will be the first thing to dispel the fairy tale? Will it be that unlikely costume change on the train. Or perhaps it will be the 48 hours of mission leeway that must have been mostly wasted by driving a posh car to Italy? Who knows?
But, hey, on the night, in the crowded cinema, far too close to the screen, there where times when I was a little bit like a boy again except this time I was enjoying the technicalities and the huge dollops of nostalgia, as much as the action.
A word for Craig, who has worked his way into becoming James Bond in a way nobody else ever has. Connery had all the advantages of being the first and thus the ‘real’ Bond. But Craig has struggled to make it fit him and by gosh he’s done it in spades.
I’ll finish with a prediction, like they do at the end of all the James Bond titles.
Daniel Craig will return, just one more time.
And the next movie title will, like the previous two, have seven letters…
… and it will start with a ‘B’.