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April 2016

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CALLING OUT HATERS: Daniel Craig as James Bond

Image Courtesy of: James Bond Wiki

What does James Bond mean to me?  Well he is pretty much the most popular piece of spy fiction nearly 60 years running, 50 of which in cinema.  He’s usually been associated as womanizing (and kind of sexist), suave and gets out of almost any situation with skill, luck and a plethora of gadgets.  Created by Ian Fleming the character started off as a literary character through various novels and short stories, then transformed into a hot movie property with Sean Connery in Dr. No in 1962 and of course has branched off into 22 more, and has had a face lift six times, looking younger and older depending on the era.  Now I haven’t seen all of Bond’s films but I have seen enough to know what sort of things James Bond is normally associated and shown with.

In following a line of Bonds who have usually conformed one way or another to a certain set of rules, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of praise for the decision to cast Daniel Craig as the latest Bond.  The Bonds in the past have usually been pretty boy-ish (Though mileage may vary on that) with dark hair, whereas Craig looks brutish with blonde hair, to some looking more like a thug than an MI6 agent.  Not helping was the plan to reboot and reinterpret the whole Bond story, not have it continue from any assortment of plots in the past, paving the way for a new continuity with a Bond not having the sort of things he’s known for this time, no reliance on gadgets and a much more brutal fighter.  It’s the sort of fuss that inspired the website Daniel Craig is Not Bond which now is pretty much a site devoted to curbing any hype for Craig’s projects or something bad they feel related to Bond (Like promoting Heineken for instance).

Well with Skyfall looming I feel I should tackle the criticism of Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond in saying I don’t share the criticism.  Considering how tired the associated tropes with Bond which hit a ridiculous apex with Pierce Brosnan’s terrible swan-song Die Another Day (Unless you count the good video game Everything or Nothing), which had Bond tropes at their worst there needed to be a fresh new face for the character one that is not so much mired in the silly crap that pretty much has been both a charm and a curse for the character in his 50 years of cinema.  Bring Bond back to basics if you will.

Adapting Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale was pretty much the right idea, pretty much was the world’s introduction to James Bond, why not have the name be the introduction to a new era of Bond?   Now I think it wasn’t originally discussed as a relaunch as there had been talks of it being another Brosnan film and Quentin Tarantino was at one point very interested in writing/directing with I think Uma Thurman playing Vesper Lynd.  I don’t think it would have worked with Brosnan but I think a Tarantino directed Bond film would have been very interesting.  But as a good thing Royale got the man who did right with launching the previous Bond, Goldeneye’s Martin Campbell.

Getting back to Craig, of course he is not the look of James Bond, but really neither has been the previous actors.  Looking at Ian Fleming’s illustration on Bond’s Wikipedia page alone suggests less pretty boy and more of a hard-boiled field agent.  Keep in mind too Bond was hardly the ideal of a character as he was pretty much sexist, and kind of a cold-blooded killer.  Thankfully the modern Bond movies have adopted a more progressive stance on the character, though I think Craig does harken to what Bond is meant to be, not so much a clean cut constantly quipping guy but rather a man who wants to get the job done.   That hardly makes him the brutish thug that some people think he is portrayed as he is shown as a man who is resourceful and follows his own instinct in spite of being dogged by MI6.  He certainly has a body count, but really has Bonds in the past kept things low?  I mean not as brutal and probably more over-the-top (Villains death in Live and Let Die anyone?) but I doubt the life of a secret agent like his would be very pretty or as clean, in fact there isn’t an action scene in either movies where he really comes out clean in the end.

Not to say he isn’t a charmer either, as he has shown he still maintains some resemblance of wit about him, whether it is quipping have a near poisoning experience (One of my favorite scenes in Royale BTW) and joking while his balls are being impounded by a rope.   Of course he bags some ladies, though the more prominent don’t really melt instantly for him, in fact both films have strong female leads that don’t do exactly that (Though unfortunately a few Disposable Women).

I think there is a vulnerability to him that also makes him good, something that was attempted in the past with some mixed results, but I think really adds to the overall portrayal here.  He is at times ruthless, but other times does have his faults, especially in Casino where it does feel like he is putting on the big britches of being a Double-O agent, making a couple of cocky mistakes.  His scenes with Vesper in Casino definitely show a more compassionate side, that he reaches out especially when he has the shower scene with her after they killed a few thugs.  It is certainly something I’m glad is a bit carried over for Quantum of Solace is how Vesper had affected him and is a partial driving force for bringing whoever she had been threatened by down.  Bond having compassion?  Definitely far from thuggish.

I don’t have a problem with Daniel Craig as Bond, and I have accepted him even if I am not a real fan of Quantum of Solace, though that has to do more with the disjointed plot, Marc Forster’s bad directing in the action scenes combined with shoddy editing, as well as a villain that is very forgettable and not really intimidating, than Craig as Bond.  In terms of Craig-outside-of-movies Goldeneye for the Wii too but may have been a little too Call of Duty inspired, whereas from what I’ve played of Blood Stone, it just feels like a very low-rent Everything or Nothing.  I don’t give a damn about 007 Legends, which kind of bastardizes Bond’s history and doesn’t even have Craig’s voice.

Now of course I would like to see some fun being brought back, but I really hope that Skyfall even with the addition of Q at still plays up strength with the character as he’s been established, not have him become a parody of the character again and Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) delivers a better visual experience than Marc Forster did.  Also not being truncated by the Writer’s Strike probably would help a lot as well.  Part of me is kind of miffed they are not following up on the whole Quantum thing when that was left wide open at the end of the last film, but I don’t think SPECTRE was followed through with every Connery into Moore era film though, so I guess that keeps with tradition.

So when Craig hangs up the Walther PPK who do I expect to take the mantle?  In terms of rumors Michael Fessbender seems like a decent choice, though I don’t quite see him needing it he’s a very good up-and-coming actor not having the Bond mantle.  Idris Elba, a black James Bond would definitely make people flip their shit, but I don’t know if I have enough experience with the actor to really make a judgment on how he’d act as a suave secret service agent.

At this point who knows how long Craig is going to keep with Bond, but at the very least I hope he does something better with his last film than Brosnan did.

End of Rant