Hats off to mi6-hq.com for their epic takedown of a recent Mirror story which claimed that Bond 25 would: be called Shatterhand; be based on the Raymond Benson Bond continuation novel Never Dream of Dying; be filmed in Croatia; and feature a blind villain. None of it was legit, a mishmash of details culled from rumor, fan theories, old tabloid stories, and thin air. It’s exhausting reporting on these bullshit tabloid pieces, but it sucks to hang back and watch other sites get the clicks for them, so I’ll often use them as a launchpad for discussion even while dismissing them. It was gratifying to see a fan site call out the nonsense for once. Mi6-hq’s thrashing of the Mirror even got some notice from legit news sites, and it was well-deserved.
The James Bonding podcast is back! I’ve grown very fond of Matt & Matt’s irreverent affection for the franchise, and if you haven’t listened before, you should subscribe asap. (EDIT: And as my pal Jof notes in the comments, now's the time to download older episodes before they go behind Earwolf's paywall.) The fact that I am their guest on next week’s episode in no way affects this endorsement.
It’s curious to me that the initial resistance to Daniel Craig’s 007 has been kind of mirrored by the post-Spectre backlash. Back in 2005, the craignotbond.com crowd thought that the craggy Craig was an ill fit for the “gentleman spy” of the films and the novels. Craig, they argued, didn’t seem the sort of sophisticated Englishman who never broke a sweat or lost his cool.
And, well, he wasn’t.
Now, four films and 11 years later, with a roughly 50% rate of return, people are antsy for change, and most of that change has been vocalized as wanting a more ”fun,” “carefree” Bond. And for whatever reason, the people being fancast into that less serious space have all been - all repsect to Tom Hiddleston - kind of upper-crust dandys. Maybe it’s just the push-pull nature of recasting, but you’ll find even hardcore Bond fans arguing that Fleming’s 007 was more of a refined gent along the lines of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.
And, well, he wasn’t.
Bond fans know the term “blunt instrument” well. It’s how Fleming imagined Bond saw himself. Inside Bond’s thoughts, he often framed himself as this brutish necessity required to keep civilized society from falling into chaos. Bond thought of himself as a nasty bullet, loaded into its chamber and fired across the world to quickly and violently resolve some international unpleasantness. We joke about how the cinematic 007 is the world’s worst secret agent, introducing himself willy nilly to everyone, spotted coming a mile away. But in Fleming’s Moonraker, Bond ponders his too-tanned, scarred face and reflects on how “there was something alien and un-English about himself. He knew that he was a difficult man to cover up. Particularly in England.” Bond sticks out. He’s not part of polite society. He’s an unpleasant, blunt instrument.
Who does that sound like?
I was thinking this week of the way Craig’s four-film run had these moments of physicality that sort of defined the character as Fleming’s “blunt instrument,” and how those moments became trademarks of this period of the franchise. I’m not talking whole sequences, but rather standalone moments that made you sit up in your chair and brought you to the edge of incredulousness. And taken together, those moments kind of tell a story. So we’re gonna get a little Buzzfeed-y for a minute and celebrate those moments.
This is the moment that will define Daniel Craig's run in the role. This instance from Casino Royale, occurring when it does in the film, galvanized Craig’s 007 into an icon separate from his predecessors.
No less worth celebrating was the Blunt Instrument Grace Note (BIGN for short) that preceded it:
They leaned into this vibe a little in Quantum Of Solace, but only a little:
The above gif is actually taken from the trailer, and in 2008, ahead of the film’s release, this moment made us gasp. Sadly, and perhaps emblematic of the final product, this moment is not presented quite as cleanly in the movie itself.
And Quantum had a BIGN of its own:
Skyfall really seemed to embrace the aesthetic of Bond as a bull in a china shop, and like its predecessor, burned off a really good moment in the trailer:
But in the film proper there were a couple of these moments that came out of nowhere. First was this goofy/suicidal motorcycle trick in Istanbul:
The second was this zany moment in the middle of a quiet, stealthy pursuit scene:
That was weird! Then he did it again!
But it’s important that Bond films have these heightened little moments. It’s not quite the Tarzan yell from Octopussy, or the “inventing snowboarding” scene from View To A Kill, but short of regressing to the era of pigeon double-takes, we need to periodically leave reality behind a little.
Spectre’s a weirder one - it doesn’t really have a moment on par with the above stuff, or even a BIGN of its own. The “Holy Shit” factor has calmed down considerably. And there’s a kind of narrative logic to that!
This moment said quite a bit. It's telling us that Craig’s 007 is still a wrecking ball, but the punchline indicates we might be in for a more, well, Moore take on events.
Later, the car chase in Rome is bookended by moments that recall two different eras:
I loved this smash cut to Bond crashing through the window. It recalls the Casino Royale drywall moment, and presents 007 as that blunt instrument one last time, before gifting us with this little bit of Bond Sparkle right out of Moore's playbook:
And the smooth grooves of this moment played gentle on my mind, friends. Once again, a more casual vibe for an aging 007. Bond 25 needs like 60% more of this kind of vibe. There’s an interesting arc at play here - you can only fire yourself like a bullet so many times before a toll is taken. By Skyfall, the wear and tear is part of the plot - and even tied to the theme of the film. Then by Spectre, the real-life toll on Craig starts to inform the action, slowing 007's banged-up bones to the more leisurely pace of the Moore era. When Bond 25 premieres, Craig will have been the longest-running canonical Bond in the series. Mellowing the roughneck of Casino Royale into the easygoing 50-something model seen in the later Moore films is a meta narrative I can get behind.
Speaking of, people still want a Nolan Bond film, after at least six years of saying Bond is too dour and serious? How does one reconcile that?
I was looking for Fleming quotes for the above section, and found these along the way. Presented without comment.
“Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.”
“Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex. All their lives they would strive to be big - bigger than the others who had teased them as a child. Napoleon had been short, and Hitler. It was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world.”