Friday, April 22, 2011


I found a ticket for a Las Vegas monorail in a jacket pocket the other day. On the back of it, somebody has written this little sentence in biro:

“This is a fact: James Bond is always cool.”

I don’t think it’s my handwriting, but I really can’t be sure. It certainly sounds like me, because I could agree more. James Bond IS always cool.


We get the Bond we deserve – there was a brute and arrogant Connery for a sharp and harsh sixties who was a bit cooler than all his successors, but sometimes it got a little bit too cold. So it all kicked off again with a surprisingly timeless Lazenby interlude and a pointless return for Connery, before a more laid-back and slick Moore came on board for a groovy seventies.

Moore is a little uncool right now, but his kind of ironic wryness will come back into fashion again. The only problem with this approach to Bond is that it cannot help falling into silliness, so the series went back to exquisite hardness from Dalton in the eighties in two movies that were too serious for their own good, but funny in a straight-faced way. Brosnan brought it into the 21st century with some post ironic charm and steely determination, but also degenerated into boring silliness.

But just like Doctor Who, the current Bond is always my favourite, because it’s always new and interesting and fresh. I saw Casino Royale on the morning of the day I got married, and I was still buzzing from it while waiting for the ceremony to start. Quantum of Solace was another occasional step into murky confusion that the series has always made, but Daniel Craig is a powerful presence.

He had me at the bit in Casino Royale where he leaps from one tall crane to another over a perilous drop, a solid and brutal unstoppable force. And then there was the remarkable moment where he emerged from the surf and everybody in the cinema – men and women – went “Phwoar!” But it was the crash to credits at the very end of the film that meant Craig was the best Bond ever (until the next one, of course).

It’s in that split-second gap between Craig uttering the most iconic of iconic movies lines and the moment that the Bond theme, arguably the best in the business, finally kicks in.

There had been a conspicuous absence of the music during the film, but by the end Craig’s Bond has been put through the wringer, been betrayed, tortured and fucked over, and he still comes back in a fine-looking suit and a giant fuck-off gun, with a cool smirk and hard eyes..

By the end of the movie, he is James Bond, and the music and that line signify he deserves it.

And doesn't he just know it.


I don’t trust any man who didn’t go through a James Bond phase at some point.

I was completely addicted to the Bond novels and films when I was 13, and what 13-year-old wouldn’t be? It was easy enough to read all the books - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was always my particular favourite – but it took a few years to get my grubby little hands on all of the films.

But man, I bought into the whole Bond thing hook, line and sinker. When you’re that age, and you’re desperately trying to figure out how the world works and what your place in it is, Bond can be like the Bad Uncle of Dispensing Advice.

He can teach you that any problem can be solved by slapping around the right person, that a prodigious alcohol intake is necessary for a sharpened focus, and that women are to be used and discarded.

But he also shows you how to walk into any room and instantly own it, how to maintain a decorum of honour in a world of shadowy betrayals, and how to look good in a suit. While he frequently goes rogue for plot machinations, he is also a fiercely loyal Briton, with a hyper-ego that shines so brightly it barely exists.

I’m still trying to walk like James Bond. Show me a man who doesn’t.


The thing I always like most about Bond, more than anything else, is the fact that he never ever gives up. He can be brutal, and can be a common bully to get what he wants, but he won’t ever give up.

It’s always there, in all the books and all the movies. It’s there even in the most unflattering portrayals, including Moore and O’Neill’s version in the League of Extraordinary Genetlemen, where Bond is a brutish lout whose gadgets blow up in his face, but he keeps on coming. Or in Kim Newman’s excellent Judgment of Tears (aka Dracula Cha-cha-cha), where a certain Hamish Bond is another loathsome braggart who doesn’t stop, and also accomplishes the admirable feat of physically transforming from a Connery bond into a Moore bond.

Bond never gives up, never gives in. His willpower is unbreakable, and he will do whatever it takes to fufill his mission. That’s why every time a new Bond film comes out, I get the chill. There is a very good chance it is going to be awful, but there will always be a spectacular piece of ridiculousness, and that’s always worth a look.


James Bond is always cool.


Colin Smith said...

I do love seeing characters through other folk's eyes. Sometimes it transforms my opinions entirely, and it always modifies my opinion. I enjoyed seeing Bond through your perspective, and I feel more fond of him just for doing so.

I've always struggled with Bond myself, though the Connery and Craig takes are undeniably charismatic. To me he feels like profoundly damaged goods, which is of course part of the appeal, but was it Moorcock who said that the problem with Bond was that he had no values, that he'd kill for anyone who happened to be in power? And it's true, I think. I worry that I could imagine without any effort at all his carrying out hits for a Junta wrapped in the Union Jack.

Of course, I'm not saying that that makes the character indecent. It makes him interesting, of course. It's just that I worry so about my own moral compass slipping that I have to be careful about who and who I don't end up adoring where my fiction is concerned. In fact, most of my fictional heroes are absolute losers, and I find their doubt easier to associate with.

I have no style, I fear, and I don't trust the romance of the indomitable hero. But I did enjoy reading about how JB looks through your eyes :)

Nik said...

I think too your first Bond MOVIE might be your favorite even if it isn't the best. The first one I remember seeing was A View To A Kill back in theatres, and while I recognize now it's hardly Bond at his peak, the combination of Grace Jones, bleached Christopher Walken and a still viable if aged looking Roger Moore make it work for me. And gosh darn it as far as pop Bond tunes go that Duran Duran one soars...

Now let's hope they stop dicking around and make that next Craig one before he gets too old for it!

Bob Temuka said...

I can totally understand why people have a problem with Bond, Colin. The whole series is ideologically dubious, but I overlook its faults when it offers up sheer, nasty thrills.

So I don't mind when smart people like Moorcock point out the flaws, just like I don't mind it when people say they can't stand Frank Miller's comics. I like Frank the Tank's work so much I can live with the huge and glaring flaws, and it's usually the same with Bond.

But I AM a complete snob when people moan about Grant Morrison's comics being too hard to follow. Grow a fucking brain, man.

And A View To A Kill was the one Bond that came out when I was going through that teenage addiction, so I obviously think it's AWESOME, even though Moore looked more like my Grandad than ever before.