In the first episode of About Bond, I outlined the themes the defined the eras of Bond films. That’s very big-picture, though. In this episode, let’s look at little closer at the key elements of a Bond film.
First, and absolutely foremost, is Bond himself. Bond is suave and debonair. Fit and mature. It wouldn’t do for Bond to be too young, although there could be some interesting story potential for that. The Bonds we see vary between passion and indifference, often in the same day. Bond is smart and clever, without being cerebral. He certainly enjoys the finer things in life – cigars, drinks, a great car, and a well-tailored suit or tuxedo. 007 also has a particular affinity for women.
Speaking of women, and yes, I’ll get to the famous Bond girls, but what about James Bond being Jane Bond? It could be an interesting play. There are many fans opposed, and many in favor. Personally, I have conflicting thoughts on it. The definitive Bond is a man. That’s a well-established character. When a franchise has such as well-established character – and I would certainly call going into our 25th official film ‘well-established’ – a studio would be well advised to not tinker with that. Yet, I see incredible potential for a female to take the role. I was hugely impressed with Atomic Blond, which is perhaps the closest Hollywood has come to a female Bond, yet with so much more. Another future discussion…
Gadgets have a strong supporting role in any 007 film. Not only did Bond have them, but other characters did as well. Regardless, there was no finer supplier of gadgets than Q. It seems absolutely essential that the first act of every Bond film includes a visit with Q. While Desmond Llewelyn is my favorite, racking up a whopping 17 Bond films, I’m intrigued by the potential of Ben Whishaw, who made his first appearance as a higher-tech Q in Skyfall. Q provided us with tracking devices concealed in shoes, toothpaste explosives, and watches with lasers; along with Bond’s go-to sidearm, the Walther PPK.
What is James Bond without a good foil? Bond villains often provide an interesting twist to the film. Some, like Bond’s first villain Dr. No, seek world domination. Others, like Goldfinger, seek riches and financial gain. And then there is SPECTRE, an underground organization bent on subversive control over everything. The villains each have their own personalities, amoral goals, and ways of trying to destroy Bond. Far too often do we see villains capture Bond and take far too long to kill him, resulting in Bond’s eventual escape. It’s an eye-rolling essential ingredient of the James Bond recipe. Many Bond villains also have henchmen or henchwomen. Odd Job and Pussy Galore both aided Goldfinger in his attempt to destroy the gold in Fort Knox, while Jaws was a terrifying henchman appearing in two Bond films.
OK, OK… Bond girls! The formula for where and how Bond girls would fit into each film differs based on the story. Some of Bond’s girls are simply trysts, never intended to become major characters. Other Bond girls enter as enemies and are sometimes seduced by 007’s charms, while others prove to be more than eye candy as they ally with Bond against the villain. Often the names are ridiculous and overtly inappropriate, like Pussy Galore and Octopussy. While so many of the Bond girls, the roles they play, and the names they are given are shamelessly chauvinistic, many display an incredible strength and take a strong role in fighting for or against Bond. Bond rarely fell in love, and it never worked out well. Ursula Andress was the first Bond girl, seen in Dr. No rising from the sea in her white bikini. This became so iconic, the scene was recreated by Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Many of the actresses who played Bond girls are headliners in their own right, such as Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die), Teri Hatcher (Tomorrow Never Dies), Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies), Kim Basinger (Never Say Never Again), Halle Barry (Die Another Day), and, my favorite, Eva Green (Casino Royale and flashbacks in subsequent films).
The opening music of a Bond film is sometimes the unsung hero (get it???). The opening theme plays with the opening credits, which, for most Bond films, occurs after the cold open. Most, but not all, Bond films have a cold open, which often gives a wonderful, yet sometimes tangential, lead-in to the film itself. The opening credits themselves tend to use a common style of imagery and silhouettes. Many openers were done by notable musicians, such as Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Lois Armstrong, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Sheena Easton, Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, and Adele. When you listen to any Bond opener, listen for the hallmark Bond notes. Most of these were established in the opener for the first Bond film, Dr. No, created by John Barry. Some of the themes became hits in their own right, such as Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney), Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon), A View to a Kill (Duran Duran), and the wonderfully haunting Skyfall by Adele. <Note: for a great version of Skyfall check out Paul F. Tompkins’ cover>
In further episodes of About Bond, I look forward to dissecting each of these elements, and more, in some detail. Until then, what are your favorite Bond film elements? Leave a comment here or hit me up on Twitter @quigontimm.