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James Bond: Action Hero, Secret Agent and Dark Knight

James Bond is a timeline of the western world. Just look at any Bond film from any year and you'll see the change. The Bond girls slowly became more assertive with the advent of feminism, the films changed in regard to cultural norms (just look at the excess of Moonraker) and the antagonists changed from Cold War villains to North Koreans. And now there is Daniel Craig, perhaps the most unique Bond yet.

Craig's Bond is rooted in the modern world. His character underwent brutal Gitmo-style torture in Casino Royale. The villains have lost their comical appearances in favor of plain looks, designed to suggest 21st century corporate villainy. Even Bond himself is less a hero. From an interview with Craig:

“The question I keep asking myself while playing the role is, ‘Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side? Bond’s role, after all, is that of an assassin when you come down to it. I have never played a role in which someone’s dark side shouldn’t be explored. I don’t think it should be confusing by the end of the movie, but during the movie you should be questioning who he is.”

Most importantly, Craig's Bond is not the swanky secret agent that Sean Connery's was. He is rooted in a gritty evil. The fact that James Bond is some mix of antihero and action hero shows that we have lost the British secret agent Ian Fleming brought into the world in 1953. The films might be good, but the fun is gone. From A.O. Scott:

...James Bond movies of the 1960s were smooth, cosmopolitan comedies, which in the Roger Moore era sometimes ascended to the level of farce. With Mr. Craig, James Bond reveals himself to be — sigh — a tragic figure.

Although Bond's relationship with critics has always been nebulous if irrelevant, Scott provides a good point. Is James Bond the new Dark Knight? It seems Craig's Bond is the product of a post-9/11, post-Tony Blair, terrorism and corporate evil-filled world. But now that we are in an age of hope, will Bond change? Will 007, now in a dark age, return to his old wittier self?

As we enter Obama years, it will be interesting to watch how Craig and the writers mold Bond to fit the times. But if we can overcome the fact that we have a blonde Bond, maybe one day down the road, we might even get a black 007.

For more on Bond, check Charlie McSpadden's review of the new Bond film.


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