Tag Archives: James Bond

50 years of Bond, James Bond: Just the same old story? | Film | This Is Entertainment

With half a century and 23 films (or so) under his belt, some might say the world’s most famous secret agent has had his day.

So if MGM were to turn their back on what is arguably the most profitable film franchise in history, which is rather unlikely what with the records being smashed by the day by latest outing Skyfall, then what would James Bond leave behind?

It all begins with creator Ian Fleming’s books, written at a very different time from the touchscreen-enabled, information rich world we live in today. To watch through the Bond flicks in sequence (as, in fact, I have been doing) is something of a lesson in social history, conveying the tone and nuances of each passing decade.

The Sean Connery years begin with Dr. No, and a very literary figure of Bond. The racial undertones of the 60s themselves show through here with the occasional comment such as when Bond says “Fetch my shoes” so local CIA contact, and African American, Quarrel (John Kitzmiller).

By From Russia With Love the themes are far more beneath the surface, but it’s interesting how suddenly aware the series becomes, only to go a completely different direction in a few films time.

Connery is quintessentially British in the role (despite being Scottish) and this sets the blueprint against which all other screen Bonds are tested.It’s unlikely the camp 70s era owned by Roger Moore would have got away with having Bond dress up as a Japanese man, complete with wig and eye prosthetics, in what could be the least convincing disguise of Bond’s career.

Bond is best when hiding in plain sight, and this is where the classic Bonds differ from his latest incarnation, played by Daniel Craig. Though the character always loves to say his signature line, by Craig’s era, the world is small and a simple background check can be done with a handy smartphone.

When the likes of Moore and Connery played the spy game they had the benefit of audience’s willingness to buy in. By the time Bond’s car became invisible in 2002’s Die Another Day, the secret agent bubble burst, and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was hastily retired.

While the re-boot in 2006 with Casino Royale may have claimed to go back to the source material, the film-makers couldn’t resist the odd one-liner or cheeky moment. Bond is undoubtedly resilient, any character would have to be to last half a century on the big screen, but his character has gained and lost more traits than he’s had vodka Martinis.

At the character’s core is a balance of ruthlessness and love.

For Connery some of his best moments come from the juxtaposition of the two, such as electrocuting a goon with a heat lamp just seconds after being distracted by a woman, finally remarking: “Shocking, positively shocking.”

It’s sometimes a struggle to take Moore seriously (hovercraft gondolas and double-take pigeons don’t help), but look again and you’ll see him almost breaking a woman’s arm for a name, kicking an unarmed man off a cliff in a car and ejecting a supervillain into space.

Timothy Dalton, often overlooked due to his short stretch (though not as much as Lazenby, who fails to make any impression), represents the first attempt at taking Bond to the gritty edge, as he sees long-term ally Felix Lighter killed by a shark. By the end of the film his love for the only friend who truly understands him, leads him to possibly the most ruthless murder of a Bond villain – lighting petrol-soaked Franz Sanchez (Robert Duval) on fire with Felix’s wedding gift, a lighter.

For Brosnan his most personal story is also his first, pitted against the sublime Sean Bean as former double ‘O’ Alec Trevalyan. This hits home as he lets him fall to his death not because it’s his job, but for revenge.

In this way, Craig has hit the mark in all three of his films so far, with a strong connection to first Vespa and then M (Judy Dench), interspersed with less casual violence, more determined eliminations than random killings.

For Bond to continue to be relevant for the next 50 years, there will – no doubt – need to be changes, but the base set up at the end of Skyfall sets the scene with the best of both worlds, the romantic past and the realistic present, all Bond needs now is an adversary who has a very real chance of taking him down.

James Michael Parry

Escapism vs Realism: What is Entertainment? | Film and Gaming | This Is Entertainment

Some people might insist that entertainment as an entity exists as a ‘way out’ from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, but why then do games and films so often strive to be ‘realistic’?

Surely if we just wanted to escape from reality (without turning to hallucinogenic substances), then the most attractive prospect would be to jump into something completely different from our everyday lives.

Take Super Mario for example. One of the quintessential platformers, there aren’t many of us who navigate pits of lava, turtles throwing hammers and flatten grumpy-looking, mushroom-shaped creatures on a daily basis.

Later Mario titles have arguably become even more unrealistic, adding talking fire extinguishers and intergalactic flight, and the titles sell in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps this argument is a foregone conclusion then?

Not quite so simple in 2012. According to vgchartz.com, role-playing epic Diablo III takes the top spot, a clear point for the escapism camp, and three different Mario titles are in the top ten. On the other hand Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 remains at sixth and eighth on the multi-format global sales chart after a massive 39 weeks on sale.

MW3 is a game which seeks to immerse you into a world of guns, shooting and slow-motion breaching (before more shooting). While this isn’t the sort of thing the average person would get up to on a day to basis (we hope), it is presented in a highly detailed and ‘realistic’ way. From here it’s easy to begin to appreciate how blurred the lines between escapism and realism are.

In the first days of console gaming there was no chance of you mistaking Pac-Man for a real person just wandering down dark alleys looking for pills and trying to avoid his dealers – the poor guy was made up of about 12 pixels and didn’t have any legs – but now with the level of detail capable my modern technology you can very nearly almost be lured into thinking there really is such a thing as dragons from the likes of Skyrim.

In film too the harsh realities of the past decade or so have bled through into Hollywood’s presentation of much-loved characters. Batman successfully shed its campish past for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005. British institution James Bond followed suit and underwent a gritty reboot the following year with Casino Royale. Spiderman too returned to his more ‘real’ comic book roots for Andrew Garfield’s turn as the webslinger only this year.

Clearly escapism for escapism’s sake still exists, exemplified by the mere existence of The Expendables 2, but the new normal seems to be geared towards giving consumers a dose of reality.

There is a flaw in this plan though – people don’t like it when things get too real.

There has been a lot of fan backlash from the reboot or Devil May Cry: DMC. Undoubtedly the ‘new look’ Dante is grounded in a much more ‘real’ universe, albeit with crazy demonic stuff going on. Many fans of the original games took objection to the re-imagining of the character of someone more grounded and supposedly relatable, while others were just averse to change in the first place.

Tomb Raider too has his the ‘realism’ button pretty hard and there has been plenty of discussion whether it is necessary or appropriate to tackle the issue of rape – even in the context of the development of the character.

Undeniably though, horrible things do happen, and for gaming and films to be taken seriously as artistic mediums, they have to tackle sensitive issues. Film has a clear head start, having delivered countless classics over the years revered as taboo-breakers and genre-definers.

With games, it’s more of an uphill struggle, since the medium already has a long way to go to be respected by fellow industries as more than just ‘something kids and teenagers do’, let alone by the public in general.

Could tackling ‘real’ issues help? Perhaps, but it’s only worth doing if that’s what gamers actually want, which brings us back to the debate in question.

Reality is huge, but imagination is limitless, so with nothing but technical stumbling blocks to hold developers and directors back, entertainment should be striving to push the boundaries and show us things we have never seen or experienced before.

Whether that is something relatable, intimate and personal or off-the-wall, crazy and just good fun is up to us. If we as the people enjoying these products don’t give things which are a bit different a chance, then there will be less chances taken by the big studios, and we’ll miss out on things like Inception on the big screen and Bulletstorm on the small.

In the end, escapism and realism aren’t as much at odds as you might assume from first glance, and there is certainly place for both in the entertainment world – it all depends on what you feel like.

James Michael Parry
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