Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shaken ... Not Stirred

If one needs a metaphor for the new James Bond, one need look no further than his new martini, which he orders with sweet juice -- and even gets downright "When Harry Met Sally" over it in Casino Royale as he tells the waiter the ingredients to put in it. It's a funny scene, but one grimaces at the overplay of a man who is supposed to be black, white, bold, clean, concise, terse, dismissive.

What the world-in-crisis needs are three words. Shaken, not stirred. Bold ... James Bold. If the writers wanted to get clever, they could've had Bond say to the waiter, "Shaken, not ..." And then have the waiter finish the line with "Stirred." And have Bond look into the eyes of his evil opponent at the poker table and smile, "Indeed."

The new martini is no accident for the new, modern Bond. He is primpy, not peremptive. He is bulk, not brains. He is sweat, not suave. He is action, not acumen. He is Jason Bourne in a tux, with a sweet tooth. The new flick, Quantum of Solace (which makes no sense in the movie), is no different.

We need a return to the old writing, directing and acting. And we need a man who can deliver. There has been only one man fit for a Bond: Sean Connery. Elegant, suave beyond suave, menacingly astute, dapper, bold, confident. In a word: aplomb. He is a man who saves the world and finds time for women and wit along his merry way. His entire demeanor shouts "evil is impotent, and I am not." He is the perfect character for an Ayn Rand hero. And the writing in the first Bond movies extolled these virtues. Here are a few quotes:

In From Russia with Love, a beautiful woman says: "I think my mouth is too big."
Bond says dryly: "It's just the right size."

After electrocuting a bad guy in a bathtub in Goldfinger, Bond says breezily: "Shocking. Positively shocking."

In Goldfinger, Bond meets a gorgeous woman. He says with raised eyebrow and suave grin: "Who are you?"
She says: "Pussy Galore."
He says: "I must be dreaming."

After getting picked up on the side of the road by a beautiful woman driving extremely fast in Thunderball, Bond says, "Do you fly here often?"
She says: "Some men just don't like being driven."
He says: "Some men just don't like being taken for a ride."

From Dr. No, Bond says: "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six."

Connery pulls off these lines with perfect aplomb. The lines can get a bit kitsch, no doubt, but that's part of the charm, because Bond is so impervious to danger, he gets a bit over-the-top with his fun.

In contrast to the clever, blithe era of Connery, we get a new Bond who runs for a quarter of the movie, chasing bad guys or getting out of jams. He takes his shirt off to reveal a man who spends too much time in the gym and not enough with the women. He delivers one-liners as if aloof, not amused. Women confuse him or do not appeal to him, instead of enthrall him. He is always one step behind the bad guys, instead of so far ahead that he allows himself to fall into danger, knowing he will devise a clever strategy of escape.

No Bond has been perfect. The old ones are sometimes cardboard. The new ones are angst-ridden.

But, if we're to have a man to save the world, let's not have Mr. Blanding Orders His Sugar. Let's have a Bond basking in his pungent vodka and vermouth and giving orders.

"Shaken, not stirred."


Just Julie said...

I agree, David. This recent movie was disappointing. I did like his first one, but I think overall Sean is the best!


David Elmore said...

I liked the first one, too, Julie. It was actually pretty well written and amazing on stunts. It's dialogue was crisp. It was still Jason Bourne-like, but it was pretty darn captivating.
It was only after being disappointed in the second one that I really began to think about the differences and what I was really missing in my Bond hero.