Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three Bonds Make A Post: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) & Skyfall (2012)

For all my love of Eurospy movies, I have avoided the James Bond movies these films were merrily ripping off for two decades and a half. I only have that much patience for a series of films about a smug jerk without discernible character traits fucking and killing while travelling around the world, particularly when the films clearly have no idea how deeply loathsome their hero is.

The Daniel Craig reboot movies actually seem made with people like me in mind. Suddenly, Bond actually has a character and not just an attitude. Even better, particularly Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are out to criticize Bond's misogynist streak, explain it, and then proceed to actually do something about it. Sure, in the end (or Skyfall), Bond's emotional morals are still dubious, and he's still much too fast solving problems by killing people, but the films add enough actual character development (and even a bit of meta-plot and thematic coherence between the movies) to make clear he's at least improving; and it's always easier to sympathize with a guy who is at least trying than one whose movies comment every murder and betrayal he commits and every death that is his fault with a loud "fuck yeah!".

Plus, the films are really much better than they ought to be at keeping the balance between deconstructing elements of the Bond movie mythology and just enjoying being part of it. And, you know, Judi Dench, or rather, Judi Dench and the films' generally successful efforts to turn the female characters here into something different from Bond fuck dolls. In fact, every film affords at least one of its female characters as much complexity as Bond possesses, which is more than I'd ever have expected from them.

If I were a pessimist, I'd probably see the changes at the end of the third film as the starting point for a regression into less interesting times, but then these last three films should be reason enough to give the series the benefit of the doubt, particularly since the next Bond film will be again directed by Sam Mendes whose Quantum of Solace shows him surprisingly great at imbuing the scenes of spectacle with meaning where Casino Royale's Martin Campbell and Quantum of Solace's Marc Forster tended to a somewhat old-fashioned solidity or the camera shakes, respectively.

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