Spectre has officially released worldwide to mixed reviews, and once the latest James Bond film releases in Australia this week I’m hoping to be able to add my voice to the sea of opinions. But before we move forward, it’s worth looking back. James Bond has a bit of a history. Originally appearing in an Ian Fleming novel in 1953, the British spy has gone on to become one of the most iconic pop culture figures of all time. It is a testament to the character that is has lived for so long, through multiple iterations, actors and styles. Not every step has worked, but James Bond as an icon has been a part of the cinematic landscape since 1962, producing twenty four (official) movies over fifty three years. The Bond franchise has also raked in over six billion dollars worldwide (and counting). Only two other franchise has brought in more money: Harry Potter and The Avengers, and both franchises have the benefit of inflation. His impact, both culturally and financially, cannot be underestimated.
Just like the three (and only three) Indiana Jones movies define what it means to be an adventure movie, James Bond is the quintessential spy film. Without it franchises like Bourne, Kingsmen, Mission Impossible and Archer wouldn’t have a framework to bounce off of. Mike Myers would never have had the material required to momentarily become the funniest man in Hollywood and the classy suit and tie combo would be only slightly less stylish. The series has also proven that a character can be bigger than the actor that plays him or her. As good as Connery was, he only accounts for just over 1/5 of the portrayals.
But Bond has lived on. Every variation, from Connery to Lazenby to Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and now Craig, Bond has evolved into something separate within the same character. A person’s selection of their favourite Bond comes down to more than just the quality of the actor, but the way the movies were constructed. Each type of Bond brought with it a different spin on the genre, but it all interconnects with the same universe. Although the timeline itself is sketchy at best (I had always enjoyed the ‘Bond as a codename’ fan theory that explained that each new actor took over the ‘codename’ rather than different actors playing the same person – this theory was extinguished with the Craig movies), they can be enjoyed as parts of a whole or as single movies.
Admittedly I’m not a die-hard Bond fan. I’ve seen my fair share, but I haven’t seen them all, and while I would like to sit down and watch through the set, it’s not high on my list of priorities. But when a franchise has such an extensive reach it’s not unusual for it to only be partially consumed. Someone might enjoy Batman, but there’s so much material over the 7 and a half decades available for consumption that it is understandable that some goes by the wayside to the average audience member. But the beauty of Bond is that you can jump on at virtually any point and be able to understand who Bond is and what he does. He’s not quite a blank slate devoid of personality, but the character is so ingrained into the public consciousness that he, like Batman, doesn’t need to be explained. You know there’ll be gadgets, guns and girls, that there will be quips and there will be action. The degrees vary, but the concept stays the same.
My first experience with Bond, like many around my age, came with the franchise’s return in 1995 after a six year break. Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Goldeneye is still how I picture the character (even if the other movies he was in don’t stack up as well), much like so many older fans see Connery. This is helped in part by the Nintendo 64 game based off the movie, which acted as a forefather to the modern FPS just as the Bond movies are to the spy genre. It was essential for multiplayer back in the day, and while it’s a little outdated (arguably like the classic Bond image that has Daniel Craig’s interpretation has kept at an arm’s length) its legacy shouldn’t be forgotten. It was fun, with good graphics for its day and a compelling soundtrack on par with the film. It is still one of the better movie-to-game adaptations ever, and helped secure a new generation of Bond fans like myself.
While there have been many imitators, none have been able to produce the kind of staying power or cultural impact that James Bond has had. Whether it is his quintessential look, the mountain of classic quotes or the gadgets, Bond has cemented himself as a cornerstone of British pop culture and film. He debuted in the Fleming novel one year before Godzilla was created in Japan, which helps visualise just how old the character is. Even if Spectre would be the last Bond made (unlikely, though it is rumoured to be Craig’s last) the character would survive, being parodied and remembered for generations to come. But as for the future? Well Bond’s character has already evolved sharply between the Brosnan and Craig handover, and with a strong public push for Idris Elba to become the first black Bond (a move I am all for although he’s getting on in age) it seems likely he will continue to grow. How far removed he ends up from Fleming’s novel interpretations, or the original performance from Connery, will be seen. But he will forever be Bond…James Bond
And to end this week’s article, I thought it’d be fun to stop and consider all the lives claimed by the 007 moniker. Thanks to Auralnauts on Youtube, you can relive every death at the hands of Bond: from Dr No. through to Skyfall. The link to the video is below, but Andrew Morris in the video’s comments section was kind enough to provide a numerical breakdown. So which Bond claimed the most lives you ask?
But of course, Roger Moore has the advantage of having more movies to work with. So what about when you break it down by averages? Well, the most kills per movie changes a couple of things up:
As for the most kills in an individual movie? That belongs to Octopussy with a massive sixty four kills, filling up over half of Moore’s total kills. Meanwhile The Man With The Golden Gun owns the rights for most efficient Bond, claiming the life of only one man. Since those two are such substantially affective numbers to the total, I busted out my early high school mathematics knowledge to determine the mean number of kills for Roger Moore. By considering this (and note I’ve only taken the mean for Moore, not the others) Moore’s average KPM (Kill per movie) drops to 11.2, putting him below Connery. It also means the two most recent Bonds are the most bloodthirsty, which shouldn’t be too surprising. I always felt the Brosnan movies were a little more casualty heavy than the others, and the numbers certainly do back it up.