Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Stock Bond

James Bond is not a character. He's a placeholder, a collection of martini preferences and witty one-liners. He doesn't undergo change or growth in the movies; he decides early on that he must tackle this task, and although he meets obstacles and difficulties, they are always from without, never from within. He has no self-doubt.

Don't get me wrong; I like Bond films, and I like the character. If Bond hadn't been invented, we'd have another superspy character filling that niche. But I wonder whether it's necessary for Bond to never undergo any character transformation?

Bond-as-franchise demands that he never change too radically. For each film, he must always be ready for another adventure. He cannot grow tired of getting shot at all the time, he cannot decide that Britain's politicians are corrupt and resign his position in protest, he certainly cannot grow old and be forced to retire, and of course he can never die from old age or an assassin's bullet.

I've watched most of the Bond films; in particular I've seen all the films starring Dalton or Brosnan, most of the ones starring Moore, and a few of Connery's. Out of all those, the only one that seemed to contain anything like character development was The World Is Not Enough (aka TWINE). Although it came out six years ago, I'll display the obligatory


before I continue. In TWINE, Bond at first thinks he must protect Elektra King, daughter of a wealthy British aristocrat who has been cleverly assassinated (while inside MI6, no less). During the first half of the film, Bond and Elektra appear to fall in love. Alas, Elektra was behind her father's death, and turns out to be one of the film's main villains. Elektra easily pushes aside her feelings for Bond, so that she may pursue her evil plans.

Bond, on the other hand, feels truly betrayed by Elektra. After a series of typically harrowing adventures, Bond and Elektra finally meet once again, on a small island near Constantinople. Bond escapes the usual overly-elaborate death trap, and confronts Elektra, who taunts Bond that he will not be able to shoot her because he loves her. When she pulls a gun, he shoots her anyway (I guess self-preservation trumps affection), but the look on Pierce Brosnan's face in that scene is apocalyptic -- Bond has just been forced by circumstance to kill a woman he loves.

He gets over it in short order, since he still has to thwart doomsday brought on by the arch-villain Renard (whose name is French for "fox," oh ho ho). But I found that one scene, where Bond shoots Elektra, to be particularly powerful, and I think it shows that there is a great deal of room for exploring Bond as a real filmic character.

I've never read any of the Bond novels, neither Fleming's nor the rest. It's possible that Bond actually demonstrates some character development therein, and maybe once I finish Knife of Dreams, I'll see if I can find some of the early Fleming Bonds.