As it happens, one of my streaming channels is running an ample selection of James Bond movies.
As it also happens, I haven’t yet figured out why I’m watching so much TV in the evening. There must be a richer way of spending the hours before I pick up the books I’m reading. Couldn’t I be picking up those books earlier than midnight? Couldn’t I be watching less TV?
Here you will note one result of being the oldest of three children with a mother who hated television so much, she once kicked in our huge set and saved us from being rotted by insignificant entertainment for the full week the TV was “in the repair shop.”
That is to say, I have considerable residual guilt about the Television. So it’s possible I’m here to discuss James Bond as a way of telling my mom, “See? TV has not destroyed my analytic abilities!” — even if this may just be an ex post facto excuse for wasting all that time watching TV.
Scrivo, ergo sum, more than just a chair potato staring at a TV screen. Yeah.
Let’s get to Bond.
Over the past few weeks I’ve re-seen some Connery, some Roger Moore, some Pierce Brosnan and the final Daniel Craig. Many of these films I saw in theaters long ago. Which means I must have enjoyed them enough to continue the series.
A friend just communicated to me that the films were boring. And they were. The Mother Story (Doctor No, I guess) set the storyline for all that followed. Every one of the films used that same story up to and including the weird island containing All The Evil In The World, which Bond (usually with one of the Bond Girls) blows up at the end of each movie. Ho hum. How many technologically inventive total destructions of everything can one watch with abiding interest?
Even the locations didn’t vary that much. The Caribbean, the Riviera, an occasional scene in Eastern Europe. Istanbul once — and Istanbul performed quite nicely but I don’t think it signed on for another film after From Russia With Love.
Alps. Ski slopes. Do you remember how many Bond films have chases down ski slopes? I’m not complaining. Actually, the skiing sequences are among the most exciting in the movies, even if they eventually have nothing to do with the central plot. The stunt people who did all that scary skiing deserve high praise.
For me, the chief entertainment moments in Bond concern the gadgets. And the introduction of those gadgets, by crotchety Q, is beautifully placed, more or less at the beginning of each film. Once we’ve seen how Bond’s watch is deadly and how many weapons are built into his car, we forget about them until Bond needs them.
But the sets of most of these films are sort of tacky. The premises occupied by the ultra-rich villains are not high class. They wouldn’t pass muster in any HGTV reno show. The best of them look like over-designed hotel rooms. They do not demonstrate the powers of the central evil guy. Tacky.
I don’t recall what I thought about the Bond Girls shtick back when I first saw the films, but doubt I was either (a) deeply offended or (b) turned on. The sex scenes are unerotic, and so is Bond. He and the ladies are cartoon characters, wearing too much makeup. When they fall into bed — which, you will remember, occurs the instant they set eyes on each other — well, it’s really only a pause in the action. Time to get into my kitchen and make dinner.
I got so damn tired of, “Oh, James!” said by The Girl in bed or in danger. Anywhere. Maybe I was watching too many Bond films, one after the other, but it now seems the screenwriters ran low on words for The Girls. “Oh, James!” That was it. Ooh, I’d love to be in the screenwriters’ room as they struggled with dialogue. “What should she say here? I mean, she’s so stupid she hasn’t noticed a blimp is swooping down, about to kidnap her. What does she say?” “Oh, James!” Oh, and you screenwriters: don’t think you can get away with under-creating The Girls by giving them a doctorate in astrophysics, or geology. They are that stupid; I am not.
Until Daniel Craig, the best Bond was Brosnan. Moore seemed too old, and Connery was famously annoyed about playing Bond. Indeed, the title of his last, seventh, Bond film, Never Say Never Again, referred to his previous vow about never playing Bond again, after the sixth time.
Bond is supposed to be a British agent, a spy. But he isn’t any good. He goes off on his assignment, introduces himself by name, is immediately tagged as an 00, and gets himself beaten up, or thrown off buildings. Movie after movie, Bond is pummeled so much, I question how he manages to survive. If he were playing football, he’d have to come out of the game and be shoved into the medical tent. Frequently.
Absurd. James Bond is absurd.
I’ve run out of things to say about Bond. Dear Mom, I hope this is OK with you.