James Bond Vs. James Bond
I previously posted about the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.
It gnawed at me because I’d never read the Ian Fleming books and so my only exposure to the character of James Bond was via the movies.
Since that post, I’ve read two Ian Fleming books: Casino Royale and Dr. No.
I’ve also seen the newest Casino Royale and just finished watching Dr. No.
I’m still at a disadvantage because I’m sure the screenwriters of Dr. No — and the other Bond movies — read all the Ian Fleming books to compile the filmed mythos.
Still, I think I have enough information to point out a few things.
In the book Casino Royale, Bond is described by Vesper Lynd thusly:
He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his …
Let’s do some photo comparisons. This is Hoagy Carmichael:
Then the classic Bond and the rebooted Bond:
Well, Connery wins the face contest.
But based on the “something cold and ruthless” bit, reboot Bond wins:
— his expression after beating, strangling, and drowning a man! Now that is cold and ruthless!
Compared to the book, I couldn’t help thinking what an absolutely stupid movie Dr. No was. An island mined for bird shit was turned into one mined for uranium and featured a nuclear-powered(!) telemetry beacon to override NASA signals for a moon shot!
I hadn’t seen Dr. No in decades. Now I know where the Austin Powers joke came from.
No wonder so many things in Austin Powers were so funny. Even though I couldn’t place the exact references, the basic framework had been drilled into my head for decades, not just by the Bond movies, but spoofs such as In Like Flint.
I’m not going to re-watch all the Bond movies. I don’t know which one started the gadgetry kick. But that quickly got out hand! And I also don’t know which one started the wisecracks to release tension in the audience after a violent scene. That quickly got out of hand too.
The libertine appetite of Bond must have been daring for its time. These days, seeing it dramatized in Dr. No, it all looks rather ridiculous. In the two books, there’s no underlying explanation for Bond’s appetite. We’re left to think the guy is simply horny all the time. There’s no clear psychological exposition tying his need for sex to the violence he’s paid to commit.
One final thing. In the movie Casino Royale, I was really shocked by the line, “The bitch is dead.” That was just cold. I was looking to pin that line on Paul Haggis. As it turns out, it was in the book itself:
The bitch is dead now.
Which, in the book, is even colder — because it’s the final line. In the movie, M tries to explain Lynd’s actions as protective of Bond, which actually undercuts the line, making M seem like a Mommy to a childish, misunderstanding Bond.
Surprisingly, I have to say the two reboot Bond movies are closer in spirit to the Ian Fleming books than what I recall of the Connery series. (Roger Moore? Let’s not go there!) I do think they’ve made the violence in the reboot movies absolutely brutal and graphic. But I understand why. That is what real-life violence is like.
Compare these two images:
The first is James Bond after a beating in Dr. No. The second is Bond after a beating in Casino Royale. The reboot Bond often winds up washing blood off his face!
So, in summary, yes, the 20th-century movie James Bond is dead. Make way for the James Bond of the new century.
— thanks to filmmaker Philip R. Cable and Judie Lipsett who each provided reasons for me to read the Fleming books.