You have got to give the James Bond franchise one thing—despite the popcorn nature of the series, each installment automatically brings up issues of global war and terrorism. Whether it was the easy dismissal of the series during the Cold War as a kind of cartoon comic book, or the more recent and relevant line in the Pierce Brosnan re-start of the franchise in GoldenEye that Bond himself was a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur…a relic of the Cold War,” a question begged by every entry, including the upcoming Quantum of Solace has always been: “Is James Bond relevant?”
I think the answer in every decade, under every star, and in each global situation in which each film was released is a most definite “yes,” but the question certainly should be immediately rephrased as “How is James Bond relevant?” The suave and sexy secret war of the early films being held against S.P.E.C.T.R.E.—an international terrorist organization usually bent on exploiting the rivalry between the Soviet and American superpowers—may be dismissed as a manageable and alluring fantasy interpretation of real fear, and all the post-Cold War Bond films may also be somewhat paradoxically dismissed as lacking the punch of the earlier films because the Cold War rivalry which drove their stories no longer exists. The Batman franchise, as we saw last summer in The Dark Knight, with wide, welcoming arms ushered in a bad guy and a film world that was directly inspired by the current state of affairs in global villainy—is it too much to expect the same from a James Bond movie? Well, probably, since Bond as always been about lifestyle first and foremost, well before politics. But this leads us to the question of how the beloved and oh-so-glamorous Bond lifestyle struggles to survive in such environments as the Cold War and the “war on terror,” how lifestyle combats the politics.
In other words, if current James Bond movies adhere to the conventions of the older films but not to their relative realism of threat and fear in the contemporary world, how does the lifestyle of the series attempt to counteract or dissuade a viewer from seeing these gaps or having these fears? Does Daniel Craig’s brutish, proletariat Bond take a different position than, say, Pierce Brosnan’s elegant, satin-sheet sleeping cocktail partier, or the cruel, almost bitter malice Timothy Dalton brought to the character? What does this character, embodied in these various men, do that allows us to push aside the fact he is fighting harmless threats?