Friday, 23 October 2015

"The Name's Bond..." by Jason Rohan

Three iconic words that almost anyone can finish, and a promise of action, intrigue and adventure.

It's been estimated that over half the world's population has seen a Bond film and, with 24 official movies going back 54 years, that's probably not an exaggeration.

With the release this week of the latest film, Spectre, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about the esteemed franchise.

For me, the essential question is "What make a Bond movie a Bond movie?" as opposed to any other genre. There are lots of interesting articles laying out the minutiae of the Bond formula, but the key elements I remember from my impressionable childhood are mind-blowing stunts, world-threatening plots, a sense of humour, and larger-than-life villains. If you've read any of my books, you'll see all these child-friendly motifs at work.

However, since the late 80's, there's been a conscious move away from the traditional Connery/Moore world-saving exploits to more parochial storylines featuring drug lords, disgruntled former spies and stock market manipulation. 

With the end of the Cold War and the changing political climate I can understand the need to modernise but there's a part of me that yearns for the more innocent fun of the earlier films. This might make me sound like an old fogey but the last Bond film I truly enjoyed - warts and all - was Goldeneye.

Mercifully, I won't go into all of the things that grate with me from the recent, hugely successful films but if I distil them down into one gripe, it's the move to ape the Bourne films, even down to hiring the same fight director. I'm sorry but if I wanted James Bond to gouge eyes and choke people I'd stick to the books.

The funny thing is, though, that while Bond has moved away from his traditional escapist formula and gone into darker and grittier territory, other film franchises have gleefully adopted the old formula and are having a blast with it. Kingsman, out earlier this year, even made a nostalgic joke out of it. Tom Cruise's Mission:Impossible series is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from a Bond movie and even Fast & Furious is cashing in with Bond-style stunts, plot lines and escapades.

As with Doctor Who - that other perennial British favourite featuring a changing actor in the lead role - there is plenty of scope for Bond to reinvent himself when ready. I, for one, would have no issue with an Idris Elba James Bond just as I would love to see Emma Watson play Doctor Who.

We see many times in children's literature how a familiar story can be retold in fresh, exciting and original ways. Tweaking such a successful and popular formula, as others have done, would be easy and I don't see it as accidental that heavyweight MG authors Anthony Horowitz and Steve Cole have been asked to write the last two James Bond novels. Gritty doesn't have to mean grim.


Like with any long-standing institution, everyone will have their own strong opinions and many Daniel Craig fans will no doubt disagree with me. Please feel free to post your own thoughts below in the Comments section.


  1. I like the nuance of the last few Bonds, the feeling that he's a bit of a dinosaur, trying to cope in a world he doesn't really understand. I like the pathos. And I hated Kingsman for its general misogyny - why put back the one thing we none of us miss in Bond?

  2. Absolutely, and I couldn't agree more. The dinosaur aspect goes back to the John Gardner reboot novels in which it's made clear that a blunt instrument is sometimes required. The Timothy Dalton Bond picked up on this.

    My point is simply that Bond films used to be pure escapist fun. Now they're angst-riddled and mopey. Bring back the fun, I say!