This post marks the first in a series of reflections on the James Bond franchise. In the run-up to Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015), the most recent Bond film, Mediascape Blog editors James Fleury and Matthias Stork will survey the entire Bond cinematic canon, covering both the official and unofficial films. For those who don’t know their M’s from their Q’s, this will include 24 official Bond films, all produced by EON Productions, as well as two guerilla productions, Columbia Pictures’ Casino Royale (Ken Hughes et al., 1967) and Taliafilm/Warner Bros.’s Never Say Never Again (Irvin Kirshner, 1983).
The goal of this series is to pay homage to one of the most iconic series in cinema history. Furthermore, it is a way to revisit the longevity of the films from today’s perspective and evaluate their nostalgic value. The authors will take two distinctive approaches. James will review and reevaluate the films based on his childhood memory. Additionally, he will watch the films with someone entirely unfamiliar with the series and try to negotiate both point of views. Matthias, meanwhile, will highlight specific moments and scenes from each film, particularly focusing on the aesthetic and historical background that informs the series.
I was ten-years-old when I saw my first Bond movie GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995), which my family had rented around Christmas 1997 in the lead-up to the release of Tomorrow Never Dies (Roger Spottiswood, 1997). Prior to this, I had heard of James Bond; for instance, I remember seeing the commercials for the toyline based on the animated series James Bond Jr. (I don’t recommend watching it), and the Nintendo 64 video game GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo/Rare, 1997) was released a few months prior and many of my friends were obsessed with it. Immediately upon watching GoldenEye, though, I was hooked. For ten-year-old Jim, the movie had everything! In the first ten minutes alone, the victim of the drive-by fruiting from Mrs. Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, 1993) rode a motorcycle off a mountain to catch an airplane!
With my Christmas money that year, I bought GoldenEye on VHS and was pleased to find an insert in the box advertising the previous sixteen Bond films on VHS. Over the next year or two, I collected all of the movies on VHS, and starting in 1999 acquired them all on DVD before getting the fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray set in 2012. Sure the Bond movies have their issues – especially in terms of their treatment of women and people of color – but my admiration for these movies have never changed.
I grew up with Bond. I saw Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) when I was eight years old. I saw GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995) in an old-style movie palace at a kid’s birthday party. I saw a Bond-themed concert at the Frankfurt Opera House. I marathoned the growing canon of films over 4 times. I devoured my uncle’s collection of Ian Fleming books. I lost 2 whole summers in a row to the N64 game adaptation of GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo/Rare, 1997) – why two summers? Blame the Rumble Pak which was released the year after I discovered the GoldenEye game. My dad and I even traveled to filming locations all over Europe – Monty Norman’s iconic theme song was our constant musical companion. And I unsuccessfully made attempts to build up skiing skills as exceptional as Bond’s. Full disclosure: some bones were broken in the process.
To me, Bond is style. More precisely, I am fascinated by the cinematic formula the producers have created and iterated over time. From the iconic gun barrel sequence to the virtuoso pre-credits to the gadgets and the showdowns. What makes me go back to Bond is the series’ evolving take on a familiar scenario, the creative deviation from the norm. I am interested in the aesthetics of Bond.
This blog will return with… Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962).
James has written about Bond and video games here.
Matthias has written about Bond action aesthetics here.