Bond and the baddies
Bond movies, even the forgettable ones starring Pierce Brosnan, are to be watched as soon as possible, with a group of friends, to be followed by an adda where you can dissect the said movie every which way. The new movie opened here couple of weeks after the worldwide premiere, and it’s hard to avoid the chatter in our hyper-connected world. So I was very keen to watch it during the weekend. Needless to say, the Black Friday in Paris cast a shadow. But to let that tragedy stop us from discussing movies and books would be a betrayal of the joie de vivre and La Résistance that we associate Paris with.
Is this movie too sentimental or emotional? Does Bond fall in love too easily? Is he not ruthless enough? Well, this is what you get from Batmanisation — you can’t give the guy a backstory with emotions without turning him, well, emotional. But it’s also Sherlockisation — am I coining a term here? Let me elaborate. In one of the very first scenes of the BBC show, an eccentric chemist deduces that his potential flatmate, a complete stranger, is an Afghanistan vet — a scene straight out of the pages of the first Holmes novel. While not a strict adaptation of anything specific of Doyle, every other scene in Sherlock harks back to the cannon. So it is in Spectre, which continues Bond’s evolution from a thug-with-a-government-paper to mister-suave, paralleling the evolution from the earlier, younger, rough-edged Connery to the later, older, smoother Moore. If anything, the forthcoming fifth Craig-starter (don’t believe the hysterics about him not doing another) is set up pretty well for a…. okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Let me pause here and turn to one aspect of the Bond lore — the antagonists, the villains, the baddies.
Bond is meant to be a spy, conceived when the Cold War wasn’t particularly chilly, and was in fact blazing hot in Korea. Unsurprisingly then, from his very first outting to the last novel penned by Fleming, he played against KGB operatives. Of course, it would make little sense to have Le Chiffre working for the Soviet Union in the Craig-starrer, but couldn’t Christopher Lee have been a KGB gun? In fact, it is only once, in the early 1980s, that the KGB appears as Bond’s on-screen foe.
Contrast the screen Bond’s adversaries against the baddies that Jack Ryan battled as the Cold War fizzled out. Mr Clancy’s leading man is an all American hero — US Marine and Wall Street before he came to the CIA, and went on become the President. His enemies? The Evil Empire and its minions, and then Latin American drug lords, jihadi terrorists, Japanese and Chinese state capitalists, careerists and liberal opportunists in DC — you could be forgiven for thinking that these books were written by Dick Cheney while recovering from his heart attacks!
Bond’s villains, in the classic Connery-Moore era, were after something bigger:
Even when legal complications prevented Bond battling the evil criminal organisation, Stromberg-Drax-and-such-like filled in. Others, from Auric Goldfinger to Max Zorin to Elliot Carver, Bond’s on screen adversaries were actually capitalists trying to make a quid by restricting competition or otherwise gaming the market.
Does it work? My friend circle, virtual and real, is decidedly mixed. Personally, I felt that Christoph Waltz was underutilised. Unless, of course, the scene is set for the recreation of this: