James Bond 25: Craig’s 007 so far.

Daniel Craig will return as James Bond, and the next film is set for a November 8th, release date. The film will reportedly be Daniel Craig’s last as James Bond, but one has to wonder, what direction will the series take in this new installment, and going forward?

While many of the earlier films had a self-contained nature, with little linking them apart from Bond himself, his supporting staff at MI6 (M, Moneypenny, Q, and occasionally Bill Tanner and Felix Leiter) occasionally the plans of Blofeld and SPECTRE (in the 60’s) and of course your basic Bond formula of “Martinis, girls, and guns,” the Craig films attempted to start (more or less) fresh (as Judi Dench was still M, with no explanation as to how this fit into anything), with Bond being a newly minted 00 who gradually grew into the more familiar spy, and with a somewhat more grittier, more back-to-basics approach than the space weapons, crazy stunts, and over the top villains that often appeared in the earlier films . CASINO showed him becoming somewhat more ‘sophisticated’ due to Vesper’s guidance…from this:

 

to this:

But it also hardens him, when it turns out Vesper had been blackmailed into stealing the Casino winnings.

Although by the end of Quantum of Solace,  as the title suggests, he at least partially understands what happened (hence the title).

In “Skyfall” he’s become a somewhat more familiar Bond, cracking quips and doing impossible feats, as well as a sense of class, pulling his cuffs up after a huge jump…

 

Although he’s kind of reverted to his early Casino Royale self after getting shot and lying low for a few months…

But he’s pretty much back to his prime halfway through.

Skyfall of course is notable in that it introduces Bond’s supporting cast of MI6, apart from M and Tanner, as well as a new Male M, Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Moneypenny and Q in particular are far less office-bound than their predecessors (although Desmond’s Q did occasionally equip Bond on the field, especially in “Licence to Kill” where the roles of M and Moneypenny were minimalized).

 

Of course the film most notably killed off Judi Dench’s Q, pretty much removing the only real narrative link to the previous continuity (As Judi Dench’s M was also Brosnan’s)

 

 

SPECTRE of course introduced the Bond villain organization of the 60’s back into Bond’s world, and also (retroactively) ties the villanous plots of CASINO, QUANTUM and even the seemingly self-contained SKYFALL into the machinations of one man: Hans Oberhauser, Bond’s spiteful stepbrother who faked his death, built a criminal organization and did it all in part to spite his stepbrother. Of course, he also uses a new name, Ernst Stravro Blofeld.

 

This is in part accomplished by bringing back Mr. White, one of the players in the “organization” established in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and called “Quantum” in the latter film, turning out to be SPECTRE all along.

Asked by Mr. White to protect his daughter, Madeline Swann, Bond and Swann end up falling for each other and foiling Blofeld’s plans, but also Bond, figuring he’s got something “better to do” spares Blofeld’s life and rides off with her into the streets of London in his  rebuilt Aston Martin, possibly into retirement.

 

 

But with Craig returning, retiring’s not something his Bond is really good at. He tried in Casino Royale, and we all know how that turned out.

And of course, SPECTRE leaves Blofeld alive, and the last time in the series Bond left Blofeld alive (although it’s possible he considered him dead) and tried to settle down, it ended badly, in an event often brought up in later Bonds as a bit of a continuity nod-the death of his new wife, Tracy.

Dialing back a bit, there’s something familiar about the framing of OHMSS and SPECTRE’s endings here….

Although Bond 25’s still a bit way off, I’ll continue to offer more speculation into where the general Bond series direction is going, and how this might close Craig’s Bond ‘story’, perhaps paving the way for another reboot at some point (Perhaps even kill off Bond somehow? I’m not a big fan of the ‘code name’ theory-a fan theory cooked up to explain the changes in Bond actors and ages, like how a 60ish Roger Moore suddenly became 40something Timothy Dalton-so I’d rather something like him passing the torch does not happen, or the “this never happened to the other fella” quip) but rather a mostly fresh reboot like CASINO). Could Bond beyond Craig stick with the same basic continuity, but just change the actor without any explanation as the old films did?

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Bond in Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service part two

Still in the area, Bond stops by a local hotel and casino, where the woman’s car is also parked. Inquiring as to the owner, he learns that she’s Count Tesera De  Vicenzo. As the night closes, Bond settles down for some baccarat in a nice casino. I’m drawing another Goldeneye connection here….first a small race with a red car, now baccarat in a fancy hotel.

However, instead of the innuendo and subtle interrogation of the later game, Teresa-who wishes to be called Tracey, as “Theresa was a saint”-makes a dumb move, and what’s worse, she has no money on her at all! So Bond bails her out, rescuing her for a second time, although perhaps from jail rather than drowning. During their little table chat, he flirts with her a bit, and the chemistry of Lazenby and Rigg here is very, very good.

Going to meet Tracey for a late night rendezvous, Bond instead meets Che-Che. He’s one of the few fights in Bond films in which Bond later becomes buddies with his opponent (The other being Quarrel/Pussfellow and I suppose Pussy Galore.) After knocking him out-with a gate no less (With Bond quipping about him being a “Gatecrasher”) Bond samples some caviar (originally intended for him and Tracey), and is able to figure out exactly what fish they came from (A Royal beluga sturgeon from the caspian sea). Maybe it’s from Valentine’s stock.

Cavier Torture

 

Bond returns to his own room, where Teresa is pointing a gun at him, but he quickly disarms her and wonders what her deal is. I kind of like how Lazenby’s able to play a mix of toughness and utter confusion here at the same time. After trying to figure her out, the two just give in.

Bond awakens to find her gone, but on the way out, Cheche and a few other guys show up, and direct Bond to a car which then takes him to some facility, and we get an instrumental version Listen closely to the janitor here as they take Bond in-he’s whistling “Goldfinger”.

Bond’s able to fight them off and enter the office-and then we get this great shot of Bond about to throw his knife-which hits the calander behind….

Marc-Ange Draco.  Draco fits the sort of “Kerim Bey” or “Columbo” role here, as Bond’s ally who has a bit of a rap sheet, but one that works with Bond regardless. In this case, Draco is the fictional head of the (actually real life group) Unione Course, as well as his own construction company as a front.

However, his meeting with Bond is not really about that-he’s actually Tracy’s father…it turns out he spoiled her too much, she became rebellious and now is pretty much just depressed. The men Bond fought earlier (and probably killed at least one!) were actually just keeping an eye on her, more or less. However, he think’s Bond’s rescues are starting to make her feel better-and he actually wants Bond to get engaged and married to her-but Bond wants to live the bachelor lifestyle and doesn’t have too much faith in his own ability to help Teresa (Maybe his failures with Fiona and Helga blew his ego a bit). However, Bond knows that Draco has connections, and might know where Blofeld is hiding….and he might consider it.

Next we get a more typical Bond scene, of sorts, as Bond stops into M’s offices, with the usual Moneypenny flirting (Lois Maxwell looks a bit older here, especially next to Lazenby, who was 30 at the time. However her aging worked a bit better with Roger since they were pretty much the same age anyway). However, the meeting with M is unusual-it’s not a mission briefing, but a bit of a scolding-M wants Bond off of Operation Bedlam since he can’t seem to find Blofeld yet. Bond isn’t too happy about this, and tells Moneypenny to tell M that he wants to quit.

Along with the opening credits and the guy whistling Goldfinger, we get another reminder to the audience of the legacy of the older films,  as Bond goes through various gadgets and mementos from the previous films, complete with their associated themes (with “Underneath the mango tree” for Dr.No and Honey’s knife). Funny that the film most often associated for beginning the whole “Bond is simply a code name” thing is also the one that hits the audience on the head over and over again with the whole “This is the same guy!!!!” thing. While Bond films do of course reference the past films-most notably in the anniversary films Die Another Day and Skyfall-it’s still fairly early days here, and mainly to establish Lazenby as a legit 007. Other Bond debut films wouldn’t quite do this-“Live and Let Die” in many ways did it’s best to distance Roger Moore from Connery (Roger, for instance, smokes cigars while Connery smokes cigarettes) as did “The Living Daylights”, “Goldeneye” (Especially with Judi Dench’s M) and most of all, “Casino Royale”. But here it’s pretty much part of the sell.

However, Bond doesn’t have to quit, as Moneypenny reworks his request into simply asking for leave. Which also is sort of James Bond movie doublespeak for “You can still do your mission, but just be discreet about it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Bond in Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Part One

In 1967, Sean Connery left the series, due to being typecast and also the strain of too much publicity and paparazzi. In an unexpected move, the producers then cast George Lazenby, an Australian model and commercial actor, in a controversial choice, which only became more controversial with rumors of trouble on the set and then Lazenby bowing out of the role as the film premiered (While the film didn’t do as well as the Connery films, Lazenby still had a chance to do six more films-but declined. He wasn’t fired).

 

OHMSS starts with an interesting gunbarrel, which, like the Dr.No Gunbarrel, pauses to briefly bring up the producers. The theme has changed a bit-it’s certainly a bit less grand, and the spanish guitar is pretty much gone (although it would show up again in the next film).

 

We open on Q and M, oddly enough, with Q showing off some new magnetic lint that can be used as a tracking device…. (Q by the way, doesn’t do too much in this film, as it’s fairly light on the gadgets) but M wishes he could put a tracker on 007, who seems to not be up to much. Turns out, since the events of You Only Live Twice, MI6 has put into effect “Operation Bedlam”-an attempt to track down and capture the SPECTRE leader before he strikes again. But the trail’s gone cold.

We cut to Bond on some beachfront somewhere, driving a new Aston Martin DBS (Which bears some cosmetic resemblance to the later Valante used in The Living Daylights). He’s wearing Bond’s trademark hat, what appear to be sunglasses and smoking a cigar, but he’s mainly obscured in semi-darkness (Dalton and Brosnan would have similar slow reveals)

A woman in a red car cuts him off. Wouldn’t be the last time, as “Goldeneye” proved…(although Xenia Onatopp was far, far more nefarious than Tracy here)

 

Although instead of a race, she just wants to get to the ocean. Bond, intrigued, uses his scope to check her out-until he realizes’s she is in fact trying to drown herself. The gallant Bond saves her, although it’s a reluctant rescue for her-and Bond does his trademark name catchphrase-revealing Lazenby for the first time in full.

 

…and of course, this being a Bond pre-credits sequence, there’s got to be action…and in this case, Bond and the woman are quickly surrounded by armed men, who seem to want to take her away. Bond quickly gets free though, and we’re given a fairly chaotic fight on the beach and in the waves, a bit hampered by the dark early morning setting (You can’t really make out too much going on). There’s a lot of fast cuts and sped-up shots-Peter Hunt, the director, after all edited a lot of the other films and seems to have pretty much been given more free reign here, although if I’m not sure the edits are to show Lazenby’s weaknesses as a fighter or what (He’s certainly better than Moore at it though). This Bond seems to use a lot of judo as well.

In all the chaos, the woman slips away, using Bond’s car to drive up to her own and then escape, but leaving her slippers behind. Picking them up, he remarks “This never happened to the other fellow!”

 

 

It’s sort of a meta-joke about Sean Connery, although in the context of the movie, it’s probably intended as a reference to Prince Charming from Cinderella (hence the slippers). Although it’s certainly spawned about a gazillion “Bond is really just a code name!” theories to explain the change in actors throughout the series.

We then come to the title sequence, which is really brilliant. A martini glass also functions as a bit of an hourglass, and Bond hanging from a clock arm also deals with the concept of time. One of the themes of the movie is “We have all the time in the world”-but it’s kind of clear that time may not be on Bond’s side with the draining of the hourglass/martini.

The opening credits also use various stock footage from the first five films, in part perhaps to sell that this is the same Bond we’ve known for the past decade-there’s villains, girls, actions and some other elements. Of course there’s also shots of the union jack, the crown (Given the movie’s title after all!), and of course the silhouetted  girls.

 

…..and then there’s the theme, which has no lyrics and is pretty much the best non-Bond theme instrumental theme in the series. It’s influence can certainly be felt in the score for the (Far inferior IMO) View To A Kill, and one of the trailers for SPECTRE likewise used a version of the tune. It was also memorably used in the 2003 teaser trailer for the Disney/Pixar film the Incredibles: