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James Bond: Evolution

James Bond series is more than part of cinematography; it is pop culture heritage that is significant for having a purely British touch.  The hero is a unique combination of adventure, sexuality and irony, which makes it special and easily recognizable among other ones. At the same time, the character of James Bond has clearly evolved during the few decades of its existence. This change is caused by the clash of tradition and new challenges that today’s entertainment industry poses in front of film creators. Casino Royale released in 2006 is an example of reinventing an old story for new viewers who have enough choice of special effects thrillers and need a touch of individuality.

Overall, the main strategy that Casino Royale’s creators have chosen is to focus on the personality of James Bond as a human while keeping all external gloss that is usually associated with him. The film reveals the background which resulted in shaping the hero in the way that the audience is used to see him. There are no extreme special effects that outshine the human aspect, as well as the creators deliberately excluded possible superhuman aspects. So, it is clear that the public does not need another Batman in the face of James Bond. It has had enough of superheros; it is interested in humans again.

Drama is something that was not totally expected from James Bond film; so this is probably one of the main surprises from the filmmakers. Indeed, it is traditionally believed that Bond films are deliberately shallow and avoid creating deep characters. James Bond is rather a “fairytale” character, a trickster archetype, who is more a type that a personality. Casino Royal does not change this approach drastically but still aim at giving a deeper insight and trace the history of Bond’s personality formation. Excess involvement of special effects would tar this opportunity, the filmmakers choose the strategy of being as simple as possible when keeping the glossy cover. For instance, the sign of this simplicity is a black-and-white introduction. As it is claimed, “The sequence was designed to feel more like spy films from the Cold War era, such as The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, than a big action film of 2006”( Silberg,2006, p 206)

When speaking about Bond series, it would be useful to focus on some of the philosophy that this character introduces in the films. It is worth saying that this philosophy covers a whole range of aspects starting from politics and finishing with sexuality. Hence, in the course of time any of these aspects cannot help undergoing at least a small change. Society changes, as well as political situation in the world. For instance, it would be strange to expect the same political bias today, as it was in the times of Cold War. In the same way, moral values of society change to a higher tolerance. Due to this, the kind of Bond’s behavior that was exciting decades ago cannot lure in the same way today.

Sexual message of Bond and its transformation can be considered as an example of Bond’s evolution. Over the decades, Bond has not lost his lover’s charm but less focus is made on his promiscuity. Sexual revolution has changed the values in this field so that sex does not seem so closely related to rebellion today. Having a lot of women has lost its status as a feature of true masculinity. Society is no longer surprised by sexuality in films, so it needs more psychology than demonstration. As a result, in Casino Royale presents Bond as a person who is involved in serious romance rather than momentary flirt, although it does not devoid him of his classical sexual appeal. Nevertheless, male character becomes more alluring today and is more a sign of strength and attraction than “machismo”.

Researchers of sexuality in the context of Bond series point out that it was closely related to politics of the time. Sexuality is the field of ideological battles whose aim was to demonstrate Britain’s victory over its Cold War enemies. “English nationalism is not only embodied

in Fleming’s villains; the novels also reveal perceived cultural supremacy through the bodies and sexuality of the series’ women” ( Jenkins 308). For instance, Bond wins a sexual battle, literally and figuratively, over the Russian agent Tatiana in From Russia with Love. She was sent to seduce him but eventually fell under his spell, which demonstrates the political might of Britain. It is also states that Communism was associated with total pressure of sexuality, so the promotion of promiscuity through Bond was a kind of demonstration of democratic camp’s anti-Communist battle. In contrast, today sexuality is no longer a manifesto because of its social acceptance, which can be seen in Casino Royal.

Another philosophical aspect about James Bond is his “license to kill” and its transformation over the years. The morality about being a spy has never been openly discussed or questioned. On the one hand, James Bond has always been somewhat a comical superhero on screen, so conventional morals and philosophy do not work for him. On the other hand, however, this question has been addressed in one or another way, and it would be true to say that the answer was more evident during the times of Cold War than it is now. If it is suggested that the James Bond films belong to comics series, it should be realized that comics have certain patterns that are usually followed by filmmakers. Traditionally, there is a strict and clear division into villains and good guys, so the viewer does not need to contemplate whose side to take. At the same time, both villains and good guys should be equally charismatic to evoke the public interest. The intrigue is more interesting when equal enemies fight, and this is how it usually works in James Bond series. The difference between James Bond and his opponents is that he is usually slightly smarter, quicker and more ironic than his enemies are.

If transformation over the years is considered, it is made clear that the background for Bond’s mission shifts from being seriously ideological to taking life as a game, although both components are present. Casino Royal, on the other hand, is an attempt to reconsider both principles in order to find the new sense for Bond. This film, keeping all the irony that is typical for the Bond series, still takes courage to involve the viewer in contemplation about why Bond does what he does. As researcher point out, "A big part of what makes the James Bond character so intriguing is his license to kill, a license granted by the British government to a very exclusive club: the double-O agents. " (Held and South 111) So, this aspect of Bond’s activity has always been part of Bond’s personality that played a crucial role in his image. The controversy about his killing activities has always intrigued the viewers despite being morally wrong. As a personal who has a special state mission, he seems to avoid being condemned or judged by the same laws as an ordinary person would. His estimation depends on the moral theory that is chosen, however there is a recent trend on the topic. It is obvious that in the latest film James Bond is depicted as a slightly complex personality that he used to be before. He stops being a totally comic flat character, and the authors take a bigger interest in him as a personality.

Speaking more about Bond’s cultural references, it is worth paying attention at remarkable opinion about his relation to chivalrous literature and morality.

The special role accorded to noble women in knightly tradition paralleled in some fashion the rise of the cult of the Virgin Mary (Mariology). For some, Mariology traces its origins to the preaching and writings of Bernard of Clairvaux (died 1153) who saw in the mother of the Christ child a female figure to whom monks and men of religion could constructively direct their masculine devotional energies, not to speak of their desires. (Held and South 102)

The researchers point out that the Bond films are always woman-centered in the sense that the agent either fights with or seduces the heroine, or both. In a way, women do motivate Bond no less than his state mission does. They boost his energy and desire to express his male nature, they urge him to win. This aspect is kept in Casino Royale as well, as his attachment to Vesper grows, and he takes risks to save her. Bond is not much different from his usual image; he is still self-confident and pitiless. At the same time, because he is just at the beginning of his double-0 career, he is presented as more vulnerable and having flaws. Sometimes he is overwhelmed by emotions over his losses, and this demonstrates that he is not a superhero. In the film, there is some controversy about Bond despite his usual attraction. He is not totally perfect, and that makes the viewers believe him more than to a purely comic hero.

All in all, Casino Royale is not a revolutionary film in the Bond series. It presents him as a highly recognizable character, full of pride and irony. He is smart and charming, is able to kill women by his charisma. At the same time filmmakers realized that the public has enough comic superheroes equipped with all kinds of gadgets. For this reason they prefer to present Bond as a personality allowing the public have a look into his history and his way to becoming a super agent. At the beginning of his career Bond is not almighty, he makes mistakes, he loses to his opponents and he demonstrates his vulnerability. There is less ideology and more psychology about the film; and this kind of human touch makes the viewers intrigued.

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