Episode 1: The Eras of James Bond
Listeners of the Random Chatter show over the past few months know that I’m a big fan of James Bond films. There are so many facets to Bond and it’s the most prolific film series ever created. As rumors are spinning up for Bond25, I figured I’d get some of my thoughts out there on where the franchise has been and talk about some of my favorite aspects. When inspiration strikes me (and it often does to talk Bond!), I’ll continue posting some of my thoughts right here on Random Chatter!
The Bond franchise can be dissected in dozens, if not hundreds of ways. There are some story choices that have influenced Bond through the years which seem to be largely defined by the actors who portrayed 007. Let’s take a look…
- Bond’s early years were heavily defined by the Cold War. While plot lines introduced antagonists which may have had little or nothing to do with the Soviets, the spy versus spy feel of the films was palpable. While there was some tongue-in-cheek, Connery’s films in this early era of 007 were fairly series, albeit deliciously dramatic.
- Roger Moore (Ian Fleming’s original choice for James Bond) had a very different feel from Connery’s portrayal of 007. While there were still Cold War undertones, the movies brought about a lighter side; certainly not comedic, but the films didn’t take themselves so seriously. While I was indeed a fan of the late great Roger Moore and his 007 films, many of which are classics in the lexicon, I preferred the more serious Sean Connery era of films.
- The Pierce Brosnan era of Bond saw a huge tonal shift. While the Brosnan films weren’t necessarily a re-boot of the story, they did represent a new and very different Bond. The Cold War was over, and the producers saw a need to reform Bond for more contemporary times. With it, I think they analyzed what made films successful and decided there needed to be more action. Unfortunately, the action was very heavy handed in these films, and while there was a generally serious tone, some of the characters appeared as caricatures to me. These films were fine for action hero fans, but not for me. To me, they didn’t represent Bond.
- The Daniel Craig era brought about, thankfully, another tonal shift in 007 films. Tweaks and adjustments were made which brought us a contemporary Bond, serious and with a tortured soul. While the Cold War has been long gone, the spy versus spy feeling returned with an increase of intrigue and drama. While there are incredible action scenes, they are scripted as a destination rather than a journey. The highlight of the Brosnan era, Dame Judy Dench’s role of M, was extended into the Craig films; making the perfect centerpiece to what is, I think, the perfect James Bond. The Craig films take themselves quite seriously, but subtle points of humor and homages to the Connery and Moore films keep our nostalgia rightfully intact.
- Yes, I skipped the portrayals of Bond by Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby. Regardless of my opinions of their interpretation of 007, neither had the longevity in the role to truly establish their own tone of the films. Perhaps I’m not giving them enough consideration, but that leaves room for future commentary.
The greatest influence on the character of James Bond certainly stems from the actors who portrayed him. While writers interjected global influences, these were nothing more than context for our favorite spy. It creates a feeling of 007 to be timeless, enabling us to watch Dr, No (the first Bond film) back to back with Spectre, and still feel like we are in the same world (albeit with some very different dress and effects).
In closing of this first post of About Bond, I want to steer you to some resources I enjoy. First of all, a handy little guide that I keep on my DVD shelf right next to my Bond collection. The Rough Guide to James Bond. While the book was published in the early 2000s and thus concludes with The World is Not Enough, the book is a great review of the first 37 years of the franchise. The book has summaries of the films, actors, gadgets, Bond girls, and more. It also has summaries of Fleming’s novels, which admittedly I’ve not read. I’ll probably seek out a new book once Bond25 releases.
Second, check out the James Bonding podcast (don’t criticize… RCN doesn’t have a James Bond podcast… yet). The two main hosts are Matt Gourley and Matt Mira (well known from The Nerdist). Their episodes are VERY long form but filled with some excellent discussion.
That’s all for now. Feedback is always appreciated, even if you are wrong. ‘Till next time…