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Bonded, for life

We may know Commander James Bond as Ian Fleming’s greatest invention but honestly speaking the Bond that Fleming saw in films before he died was hardly the man he imagined, writes Gautam Chintamani.

brunch Updated: Nov 02, 2012 14:18 IST
Gautam Chintamani
Skyfall-The-latest-007-instalment-Skyfall-is-set-to-be-the-most-successful-James-Bond-movie-in-the-50-year-history-of-the-franchise-and-is-predicted-to-rake-in-more-than-1-billion-dollars-at-the-box-office
Skyfall-The-latest-007-instalment-Skyfall-is-set-to-be-the-most-successful-James-Bond-movie-in-the-50-year-history-of-the-franchise-and-is-predicted-to-rake-in-more-than-1-billion-dollars-at-the-box-office

Would Ian Fleming have liked how James Bond changed over the years? Earlier Bond was supposed to be a superficial, near misogynist alpha-male who served Her Majesty secretly without questioning. A smooth operator, he dodged bullets, romanced beautiful women in exotic locations and managed to save the western world as if it were a walk in the park. Today, Bond is a thinking patriot. There was a time when Bond films weren’t considered anything more than flippant capers but now we are supposed to treat them like great pieces of art.

With the passage of time Bond has become more internal than exhibitive. Not that unwarranted emotions ever escaped him in the past but now he is, well, simply put, more human than ever before. The interesting thing is that if one were to go back to Fleming’s blueprint of the character then it’d be clear that Bond wasn’t anything like the films made us believe. Yes, Sean Connery’s Bond was suave and got the job done but somewhere the cinematic interpretation lost a lot in translation.

If you read Casino Royale before watching the 2006 version that introduced Daniel Craig as the new Bond, you’d see the disparity between Fleming’s words and Terrance Young, who directed the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), interpretation. The success of the initial films ensured that the template that delivered wouldn’t be tinkered around with. I’m not sure how Fleming might have felt about it. There is a lot of material that suggested he might have entertained the producer’s thoughts on Cary Grant playing Bond although he reportedly wanted Richard Todd, he never opposed Sean Connery but very little to suggest what he thought of the final product.

From Dr. No till the mid 1980s Bond films happily followed the formula. It was almost like as if everyone connected with the franchise went through the motions without applying much thought. If you look back now then Bond was like the Pirelli calendar of films- only the locations and the models changed but everything else was the same. This worked fine till the time Timothy Dalton became Bond. The two films of his- The Living Daylights (1987) and License to Kill (1989) were as confused as he was playing Bond.

He and the films looked the part but the tiredness couldn’t be hidden anymore. No one even missed the superspy till 1995 when Pierce Brosnan came about. Even then the template wasn’t challenged. We got to see a Bond that looked more like Bond than Dalton and wasn’t an old foggy like Roger Moore, who might have been a memorable Bond but what else would you think when a Bond debuts at age 46? The thing that fueled the concept of James Bond till as recently as Casino Royale was that Bond couldn’t change and if that were the case his creators were convinced that neither could his world. So even though the Cold War was long gone and USSR had ceased to be Goldeneye (1995) couldn’t help but belt out an almost same tune.

We may know Commander James Bond as Ian Fleming’s greatest invention but honestly speaking the Bond that Fleming saw in films before he died was hardly the man he imagined. If you thought that the Bond in Goldeneye was real then Casino Royale onwards we were sure that he was much too human. He got his backside kicked like never before, he got doubled-crossed more regularly than a busy railway crossing and he failed on more occasions than we could count. That’s what made him cooler and ironically that’s exactly what Fleming had in mind when he penned him down. The thing with Bond is that the more things change the more they remain the same. But such things exist for we may not be the same without them….I might not know that for a fact with most things but when it comes to 007…it, strangely, feels like a strong enough bond.

SkyFall, the 23rd Bond installment is in theatres now.

Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.

(The views expressed by the author are personal)

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