“The names Bond, James Bond”, the quintessential British hero, that has transpired every form of mainstream media, the books that started it all through to the Games that have added a whole new fresh appeal to the Bond Franchise. The Bond heritage looks to be back on track after the woefully inept “Die Another Day”, but quite what makes Bond so appealing…?
Well the Americans have their super hero’s a plenty, America seems to love nothing more than a Hero a penny, the recent spurt of comic based movies showing this almost as much as the Action movie heyday, or the Western boom. John Wayne, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, tough hard action hero, Vin Diesel and The Rock are trying to be the replacements for this generation, and only time will tell. But in Britain we tend not to have that same lust for the world saving super star, the tough macho man role of recent times has been left Jason Statham, who lets admit it, has all the world saving traits or a typical bald headed thug.
We however do have the great spy of all time, James Bond, the man that has spawned spoofs (Austin Powers in recent times did it with notable success) and American attempts (XXX, the Bourne Trilogy). To us Bond is as British, as apple pie is to the Americans, yet Bonds appeal, is aimed as both genders, men dream to be him, women dream of being the Bond girl, with the dashing, powerful guy.
So what is it about the faux loving, action man that appeals to people so universally? Well it’s a whole host of things, starts back with Ian Fleming’s novels Bond has a little mystery about him, this is enticing, and leaves us to read on wondering why Bond is in the position he’s in and about his childhood (which to my knowledge is never fully explained). The mystique of the books is then coupled with a lavish fashion sense, the luxury cars and the fabulous women, from a guys point of view, that’s the idea sold already. For those who are yet to be won over, the explosions, the gun fights and the high speed chases should win you over, in the American action hero mould, but yet even here the Bond identity expands, to being one of a quick witted and somewhat dark humoured Brit. Something that Americans have yet to fully grasp, is the British sense of self mockery, meaning a lot of the witty Bond gags that have us in stitches, are missed by our chums over there. The infamous Connery line “I think he got the point” after the guard is shot with a Harpoon (from the movie “Thunderball” I think) is classic Bond wit.
So with action, humour, fast cars, women, what more could a guy want? Well something that appeals to the other half is always helpful and the movie does have several features that should attract something of a female audience. Mainly the lead role, played by a suave, good looking guy, be it Pierce Brosnan, or George Lazenby the good looks, and the almost charming personalities are often enough to keep the female viewer watching. Whilst the dark brooding Timothy Dalton, would appeal to those of you who like the bad boy attitude. Something there for everyone.
So what actually makes Bond so great?
Well the cheesy story lines don’t always do justice to what are usually amazing movies, the earlier films based around the time of the Cold war dealt heavily with that theme often with lots of success. Whilst others dealt with varying forms of terrorism or personal greed and revenge, such as Dr No and the brilliantly tense License To Kill.
With the end of the cold war the Bond idea almost fell to pieces, the excellent Goldeneye exempted many of the movies post the collapse of the Iron curtain were hugely unspectacular. With the diabolical Die Another Day almost turning fans like myself away, the movie had ignored the often under-appreciated nuances of what makes Bond Bond and had turned it into what was effectively a CGI fest.
The earlier Bonds that relied on true stunt men (the infamous skiing incident from “The Spy Who Loved Me” where a stunt man was almost killed was the epitome of this), were replaced by computer crafted fire and lasers. The producer had seemingly wanted to turn the movie into a farce, with lasers and explosions, a nonsensical plot with the sole saving grace of showing off a very special actress (Rosamund Pike).
Post Die Another Day, the franchise was effectively “re-booted” with Daniel Craig stepping into the immortal role, and again the movies became watchable, the franchise was saved from the near doom, it had cast for it’s self. Casino Royale had been the heart transplant that the series needed, now there was no cold war.
Away from the movies, the theme tunes, a staple of the Bond ideals has been an ever present, the Bond Theme, an almost infamous track in cinema, has been coupled with outstanding songs by major recording artists. Artists such as Shirley Bassey, Maddonna, Carly Simon, Gladys Knight, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney and Chris Cornell have all done tracks, to varying success. The tracks often taking a step above many other movie themes and in some cases doing relatively well in the charts.
To people of my age though, one of the major things about “Bond”, was the N64 game “Goldeneye” one of very few games, based on a movie that was actually a good game. The game effectively took one huge step to making gaming an activity that was no longer the sole occupation of nerds, it became a success and was part of the snowball that caused gamings popularity to explode. The console shoot ’em up was to never be the same, multiplayer gaming was finally something special on a console, and for the first time you could replicate a Bond movie (ok “License to Kill” and “James Bond” were both made as games, but I was too young for either of them).
This caused a trend of “Bond themed” games, regularly new coming out every year or two, with varying quality, though none have reached the heights set by Goldeneye, most are fairly playable and fun games in their own right.
With Books, Movies, Music, Games and books about the franchise, Bond has become a staple in every movie going, video gaming person I know. Whether your a fan or not, any series that can go on for over 20 movies, must be doing something right.