Code number 007 is on the mind of fans as they anticipate the new Bond film which is expected to be released this year.
Commander James Bond, CMG, RN is a fictional character created by novelist and British journalist Ian Fleming in 1952. Bond is a Secret Service agent who is a composite based upon a number of commandos known by Ian Fleming during his service in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. The character’s name was appropriated by Fleming from American ornithologist James Bond. The code number 007 is from one of the key achievements of British naval intelligence, breaking the German diplomatic code in World War I.
Fleming’s fiction character appeared in a series of twelve novels, two short story collections, a number of continuation novels, and over twenty Bond films. Spanning more than half of a century, there have been several actors who played James Bond on the big screen. Each of the actors adapted their own sense of the Bond character with the plot of each of the films. The Bond character has definitely evolved since “Dr. No” first premiered in theaters. Other aspects of the Bond films like the Bond girls, the villains, and the plot have all had maintained some congruency as well as some evolution through the years.
The Bond actors are the main difference between the modern and the original films. Each of the main actors that played Bond have had their own approach to the character. It is difficult to say which actor did it best because Bond fans have their own favorites.
The original Bond in the films was Sean Connery. He portrayed a suave, classically handsome, dangerous, and perfect Bond specimen. He starred in the first five films: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and Never Say Never Again.
Fleming doubted the sexual charisma of Scottish actor Connery for the part, but was proven wrong as Connery was named one of the Sexiest Men Alive by People magazine. This was in large part due to his role as Bond. Connery described his interpretation of the Bond character as being a complete sensualist, which is a person who is awake to everything, who is amoral, and who has senses that are highly tuned. Connery’s Bond thrived on conflict and was more promiscuous and cold-blooded than Fleming’s literary version of Bond.
The Bond that Roger Moore, the next significant British actor to play the character, represented was more family friendly, humorous, and cocky. Moore starred in the films: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill.
Spending twelve years in the role, Roger Moore was the longest serving Bond actor. Beginning the role at age forty-five and ending at age fifty-eight, Moore was the oldest actor to star in the role. Moore recreated Bond as a more polished, sophisticated, and old-style debonair hero than the incarnation of Connery. This Bond was more light-hearted, with a mocking wit and innuendo. The character was made to appear tougher by changing Bond’s weapon of choice from a Walther PPK to a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, which at the time was a weapon made macho by Dirty Harry, the character played by Clint Eastwood.
Timothy Dalton played Bond in the next two films: The Living Daylights and License to Kill. His interpretation of Bond was closer to Fleming’s character in the novels, which was that of a reluctant agent. Dalton did bring a more serious and gritty approach to the series, but was criticized for removing the fun.
Pierce Brosnan was the next Bond, playing the character in four films: Golden Eye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Brosnan brought more action and also returned a bit of suave to Bond. However, due to the political correctness of the time, he was less overtly sexual and dominant over women, but displayed an air of coolness, elegance, and even grace, making him believable as an international playboy. Bond was changing with the times; conscious of social opinions, the character of Brosnan’s did not smoke, with the exception of smoking a Cuban cigar in Die Another Day.
The most recent Bond actor is Daniel Craig. His interpretation of the fictional character is more dangerous, flawed, emotionally damaged, and egotistical. Craig was a controversial choice in the beginning because he has blond hair and blue eyes, which is unlike the traditional notion of Bond as being tall, dark, and handsome. However, any fears about his the way he looked went up in flames as the film Quantum of Solace became the highest grossing Bond film to that point.
Craig’s first appearance as Bond was in Casino Royale and his latest appearance was in Skyfall. Craig’s version has been touted as the closest to the Fleming character in the book since that of Sean Connery. He is the professional killing machine, charming, cold-hearted patriot with a taste for luxury of the 007 conceived by Ian Fleming.
Craig brought a few changes to that Bond character in the Casino Royale film, including playing Texas Hold’em poker instead of two-card hand variation better known as baccarat. Fans were a bit upset by this because the favorite casino game of James Bond had always been baccarat. In the very first novel of the series, James Bond was tasked to defeat a SMERSH agent known as Monsieur Le Chiffre at baccarat. The goal was to increase the gambling debts of Le Chiffre so that SMERSH would then kill him. However, in the Craig film iteration of Casino Royale Bond plays Texas Hold’em poker against Le Chiffre in order to prevent Le Chiffre from using his winnings to fund terrorist activities.
Another change from Bond tradition occurred in Skyfall. James Bond is known for his taste for fast cars and even dangerous women, but he was also known for his preference for martinis that are shaken, not stirred. As with other changes, the Bond character adapted to the changes of the times, so too is this change a result of the trend of product placement in films. Instead of drinking the traditional martini, Bond is swigging on a mass-market Dutch lager thanks to a deal between the producers of the film franchise and Heineken beer. Even Craig lamented the change as unfortunate.
Bond girls have always come in two forms, women who were strong and independent and women who were easily charmed by Bond, with both types being bedded by him. The differences in the Bond girls through the years have been a result of the audience and not the films themselves. In the early films, Sean Connery could give a slap on the bottom to a girl, spew a bit of man talk, and then dismiss her at the point anything got serious. However, those attitudes towards women became socially unacceptable and so Bond had to change. Bond girls have become a more key element of the plot with the girls having their own stories.
In the first Bond movies, the villains did not play as great of a role as they do now. Villains like Dr. No, Colonel Rosa Klebb, and Number 3 all were introduced toward the end of each of the films they were in. Goldfinger was the first villain who actually played an important role throughout the entire movie. Regardless of the amount of time villains appear in the Bond movies, what they do have in common is the need to be intelligent matches for 007. They do not need the best plans or motives, but they do need to be able to compete at their eventual confrontation with Bond.
The plot of the Bond films is the most vital part in the success of the series. The early films have great pacing and tone, but the more recent films are a bit more convoluted or lackluster. This too has a great deal to do with the audience.
The early films have a simple plot, but one that focuses more on the characters. This is a result of not having an action sequence every few minutes. The modern film audience, however, generally expects to experience lots of action. This means the films of early days with great plots would likely not receive that same reception as they did in their time. This is not to say that those films were bad, in fact just the opposite. It just means the Bond films of today are not able to focus as much on storytelling and maintaining a great pace due to the need for action sequences.
Daniel Craig will be returning to the newest Bond film along with director Sam Mendes, hoping to build on the success of Skyfall. Bond fans are surely full of anticipation for what is to come.