MovieBob - Intermission
An Open Letter to the Producers of James Bond

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 9 Jul 2010 16:00
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James Bond Is Fun

File this also under the "not everyone is Batman" tab. One understands that the world of today is terribly concerned with what is "serious" and what isn't, to the degree that even videogames apparently need a line of designation between play that is "casual" and play that is "hardcore".

As such, it's become almost verboten to suggest that a movie hero might do some of what he does because he wants to, or because it's fun to do. Everyone either has to be reluctant to do good or pressed into service by grim tragedy. Jason Bourne hates having his nigh-supernatural reflexes and super ass-kicking powers. He'd never use them, if only those evil agents would just leave him alone to be normal. We know this because he keeps telling us. He has to keep telling us, otherwise we might remember that a real person who could stage impromptu one-man stunt shows through narrow Eastern-European streets and was slick enough to kill a guy with a book would probably smile about it once in awhile.

Remember how in his first movie, Austin Powers (a James Bond parody, let's keep in mind) was the butt of all the humor? He was lame, his unironic action-readiness was corny and his 007-style super-heroism-as-swinger-party lifestyle was political incorrectness in need of a fix? Funny thing about that - audiences wound up just plain enjoying Austin's antics even more than they enjoyed laughing at him, and in the sequels Dr. Evil becomes the main comedy punching bag while "silly" Austin is the audience-indentification character, almost as though we were so hungry for a hero like this, we'd even take a satire.

James Bond movies used to get this. Yeah, the stakes were always high. Yeah, the world was always on the line. But, on the other hand, getting to travel to the most exotic places on Earth on MI6's dime? Breakfast with opulent oil sheiks, dinner with kings and emperors? Sneaking into your enemy's fortress, beating up a hundred or so of his goons, blowing the place to hell, taking off with his girlfriend, doing basically whatever the hell you want to whoever the hell you want and then getting away with all of it in the name of world peace? I dunno about you, but if that was my life, I probably wouldn't mope around about it.

Y'know who gets this now? Iron Man. Save the world? Sure. Demons? He's got a few. But he also knows how to party. Remember the reveal of his transforming private plane in the first movie? Here was the first superhero in almost two decades who was already the coolest guy on the planet before he got his armor and alternate-identity - no wonder people responded so strongly!

James Bond Does Not Live in the Real World

Here's a good rule of thumb for fiction: A story is only as realistic as its first most-prominent unreal element. For example, Superman starts from the point of a godlike space alien living on Earth, and then makes said space alien its main character, so pretty much anything can happen from that point on. In all versions of James Bond, the first most-prominent unreal element is, well, James Bond himself.
Despite any fanciful stirrings caused by the discovery of the smokin' hot Russian spy chick last week, in reality, spies are almost never slick, attractive, magnetic, only-person-in-the-room figures - after all, being noticeable is kind of counterintuitive to the whole inconspicuous intelligence-gathering concept. Forget metal teeth, solar-powered lasers and volcano bases, 007 jumps the reality shark the second it asks us to accept that a reckless, skirt-chasing, high-functioning sociopath who's so worldly as to have a preferred method of drink-mixology is a reliable intelligence operative.

In other words - sweating over how relevant or believable this stuff is, usually, is a lost cause. Something you don't need to worry about. Because anyone who's still bothered over believability once "Bond, James Bond" is uttered is probably in the wrong movie.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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