David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

It’s Time for James Bond to Retire

Yahoo News in its infinite wisdom decided that its top story yesterday was an online petition to fire actor Daniel Craig as James Bond. Let us set aside the editorial nincompoopery that causes Yahoo to deem Hollywood casting as more important than, say, a threatened presidential veto, and skip to the real question:

When will this idiotic franchise finally die?

I am gobsmacked and thunderstruck that a character with so little depth as James Bond can attract such an avid following. Here is a character with no backstory, no real distinguishing characteristics, no hint of a psyche. There’s a reason why fans so eagerly anticipate each new Bond’s performance in the famous title sequence (man in tuxedo walks onscreen, man draws gun and swivels to face camera). The reason is: that’s all there is to the character. Here’s a suave guy carrying a gun. That’s it. No, really.

(Note that I’m making a distinct separation here between the film James Bond and the literary James Bond. As anyone who has dipped into the original Ian Fleming novels can tell you — and I read about eight or nine of them many years ago — they’re two entirely different animals altogether. Fleming’s 007 was a grim and sober character with little interest in philandering or gadgets or hobnobbing at cocktail parties. See an interesting rant about film-JB-versus-book-JB posted on Ain’t It Cool News.)

After 21 films featuring the intrepid agent 007 (or 23 films, if you include the so-called “non-canonical” features like the 1967 Casino Royale), here is essentially all we know about Mr. Bond:

* He’s a white British male.
* He works for Her Majesty’s Secret Service as agent 007.
* He likes his martinis shaken but not stirred.
* He employs a lot of high-tech gadgets.
* He is a heterosexual.
* He’s cool under fire and wears lots of snappy tuxedos.

Here is just a small sampling of what we don’t know about James Bond:

* Where does he live?
* Does he have any friends or family?
* What are his hobbies, besides fighting international crime?
* What was his childhood like?
* Does he have any political or religious affiliation?
* Where did he go to school?
* What motivates him?
* Has he ever really loved anyone?
* Has anyone ever really loved him?
* Why did he join HMSS in the first place?
* Has he ever considered retirement?
* Has he ever read an entire book to completion that didn’t include pop-ups?
* Does all the killing ever get to him?
* What are his feelings towards the country he strives so hard to protect?
* Does he have any opinions whatsoever?

I’m sure James Bond fans can point me to lots of minor details that the films have revealed over the years, possibly including some of the above. But these details are written into a particular script by the screenwriter for the purposes of that particular film; they are not integral parts of the character. It’s no wonder that second-rate actors like Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan have had such an easy time filling the role, considering that there are no subtleties to convey.

Of course, one can argue that James Bond is a creation of pop culture — a cartoon character, in essence — and that we don’t need an entire Myers-Briggs workup on a pop culture film character to make him compelling.

But this response doesn’t wash with me. I’m having trouble even thinking of a cartoon character as two-dimensional as James Bond. A single viewing of even the kitschiest of the modern Batman and Superman films gives you much more information about their title characters than the entire Bond canon. We know more about Austin Powers after three films than we know about James Bond after twenty-one. Hell, we know more about Yogi Bear.

So enjoy the stunts and the big-budget effects and the offhanded quips and retorts of a James Bond film. Far be it from me to deny the pleasures of popcorn cinema. But please remember that the protagonist is as thinly sliced a caricature as they come, and don’t fucking waste headline space debating him.

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  1. Lou Anders on February 23, 2006 at 11:11 pm  Chain link

    I wish that HBO, and that’s the only place you could do it, could get the rights to do a series called Ian Fleming’s James Bond – the author’s name in the title to distinguish it from, and therefore not threaten, the film franchise. Shoot the books as written, in order, in the correct time period. Sans gadjets. The only book that has actually been filmed to date is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is translated almost completely accurately to the screen, and is, therefore, the only Bond film where 007 has an actual character. Falls in love. Retires. Questions his government. Hell, addresses all your questions. It’s my personal favorite and is the film I show Bond-haters, to show them what might have been.

  2. David Louis Edelman on February 24, 2006 at 8:28 am  Chain link

    Ah, that’s one of the ones I haven’t seen. I’ll have to check it out. Because they certainly didn’t answer any of those questions in, say, “Octopussy.”

  3. Lou Anders on February 27, 2006 at 12:54 pm  Chain link

    Well, shame on you.
    OHMSS is entirely without gadgets, follows the book 100% (THUNDERBALL does too, but because the book was written by Fleming afterwards based on his co-authored screenplay), and Bond shows real emotion (I won’t say WHICH emotion so as to catch you unawares. Watch it. Watch it now.
    Oh, and the film was also the inspiration for the character of Ras Al Ghul in Batman.

  4. George Pedrosa on July 1, 2007 at 3:31 pm  Chain link

    It’s funny reading this now, because Casino Royale is a movie that answers all your questions. It will certainly change your opinion about James Bond, which it certainly did for me. Daniel Craig’s performance is brilliant. Watch it now.

  5. David Louis Edelman on July 1, 2007 at 4:01 pm  Chain link

    Yes, George I did rent Casino Royale recently. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and Daniel Craig’s take on the character was so much more interesting than the usual spoiled-playboy-with-gadgets thing. I’m not sure I’d consider it a great film, but now I’m actually interested in the franchise again. That’s saying something.

  6. Chris on November 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm  Chain link

    I’d just like to point out that half of your questions about bond (for example, has he ever really loved anybody) are actually answered throughout the series. The other half (such as a political affiliation) are totally irrelevant to the character. Maybe do some research before posting pointless dribble.

  7. David Louis Edelman on December 1, 2009 at 9:46 am  Chain link

    Chris: And perhaps you should look up the word “drivel” in the dictionary before posting such a pointless comment.

  8. Chris on December 1, 2009 at 10:53 am  Chain link

    Hey man, if you’re going to focus a typo on “drivel” and ignore the rest of the comment. You should probably re-consider why you even typed such an ignorant post in the first place.

  9. David Louis Edelman on December 1, 2009 at 11:12 am  Chain link

    Ease up, pardner. No need to get so snappy, I’m just having a little fun. But I think my point is valid, that the character is essentially a blank cipher of “debonair British spy” who starts out as a blank slate at the beginning of each film. What’s driving him? What are his motivations? We really have no idea…

    …or at least we didn’t, until they rebooted the franchise with Casino Royale a coupla years ago. They were very successful at answering just about all of the criticisms I had about the franchise in that film, making this 3 1/2-year-old article pretty much moot at this point.

  10. Fifa 2016 crack on January 14, 2016 at 10:38 am  Chain link

    3. Frames and foundation: the frames are wooden and hold sheets of foundation that’s imprinted with cells. These are hexagonal in shape. Bees build combs on the cells.

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