“The name is Bond. James Bond.”
This line has become a staple of cinema history; it’s as ubiquitous as the Force phrase from Star Wars. Just like any famous quote, even people who have never seen the films know the names and phrases. Mr. Bond is, indeed, a big part of cinema history with — so far — 22 films. The latest entry, Skyfall, is released in two weeks (in some parts of the world). Six different actors have had the pleasure of personifying the British 00 agent, fighting for Queen and country. The latest of the batch is Daniel Craig, who has been a welcome refreshment to the franchise.
During the opening ceremony of the London Olympiad 2012, there was an amusing section involving James Bond and the Queen herself. This settled the long-running assumption that England’s Queen has no humor. It was also very effective, indirect advertising for the upcoming installment. On a related note, the trademark 007 designation was inspired by real-life spy John Dee. He always signed his letters to the Queen with 00 and an elongated 7. Dee used this glyph to signify when a letter was for her eyes only. This particular piece of Bond history comes from the research of Phillip Gardiner in his 2008 book The Bond Code: The Dark World of Ian Fleming and James Bond.
October 12, 2012 was the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s world-renowned and flirtatious special agent. Speaking of flirtatious, any Bond film isn’t complete without a Bond girl. In every outing, there’s always a love interest of particular sexiness. It’s part of the Bond formula. Notwithstanding the beautiful female counterparts, big action and gadgets are always featured prominently.
The character Q, who is returning in Skyfall, is the great inventor in the service of the MI6. He has also been played by several actors. Welsh actor Desmond Llewelyn is perhaps the most famous incarnation of Q, until he passed away in 1999. In Skyfall, his role will be reprised by English actor Ben Whishaw. Since Casino Royale was a reboot, it’ll be interesting to see how this character is reinvented.
Over time, James Bond has also become a haven for product placement, most notably Omega watches, Aston Martin, BMW, and Sony. The last three films have been produced by Sony Pictures, so of course there are many close-up shots of Bond using a Sony phone. In Casino Royale, there’s also a very clear placement of Blu-ray recording equipment. So the franchise has certainly become a very commercially driven film series, with a fictional super agent who is a perfect frontman for marketing.
On a personal note, the third film, Goldfinger (from 1964), has a particularly special place in my heart. The music, the villain, and the locales make it perhaps the most recognizable film of the series. One of the memorable images is, of course, the dead girl covered in gold. Goldfinger himself also represents the classic villain with delusions of grandeur and a passion for exquisitely advanced technology, like metal-cutting lasers. Storming the Fort Knox gold depository can only be the goal of a James Bond villain. Furthermore, there’s Shirley Bassey’s seminal hit theme.
Speaking of themes, every James Bond film has, to this day, held the tradition of a graphical intro sequence. Each of the title songs is accompanied by a beautiful sequence of visuals. This has also become a part of cinema history, since each intro is so unique to each installment, reflecting the ensuing story. So all in all, James Bond is a household name for escapism, beautiful women, explosive action, and great cinematic villains. Daniel Craig has so far done a great job of making the Bond character his own, and I hope that he still does a couple of films more.