The name’s Battler. Bookshelf Q. Battler.
I’ll have a banana daquiri. Fresh, not frozen.
BQB here with a review of the latest Bond flick.
If there’s one universal rule about the Bond franchise, it’s this. Every Bond incarnation usually has one fantastic, blow-out film and then the rest are OK or subpar at best. For Pierce Brosnan, his great was Goldeneye. For Daniel Craig, his knockout was Skyfall. The rest are too old for me to parse through, and perhaps all of Sean Connery’s were great, but ultimately these flicks can be hit or miss and on occasion, you’re left wondering what were they thinking.
Daniel Craig has been at the Bond game a long time now and the world has been through a lot of changes. First, he had the unenviable task of reviving the franchise in the post-9/11 world. After the Twin Towers fell, audiences had less of a tolerance for Bond’s sillier side. Sure, it’s always a good time when he saves the day with the help of one of Q’s wacky gadgets while delivering a clever one-liner, but we viewers collectively grew up and realized that what a nation’s intelligence service does (fails to do or doesn’t prevent) matters. Thus, Bond had to get more serious…yet somehow retain the fun.
Flash forward another decade and a half later and Bond’s womanizing ways have also become tres passe. How much more can society chip away at this beloved character? First, we told him he has to stop being funny. Now we’re telling him he has to stop bagging babes which is hard because he has a track record of getting it on at least three times per film. There’s always one random hottie who is just a fling, then a good hottie he has to work with, and also a hottie dating a villain he has to convince to switch sides…with his studliness.
Truth be told, Bond films are the ultimate male fantasy. We dudes dream of being handsome, suave, sophisticated, driving the cool car, able to get any woman we want…and seriously, y’all have no idea how getting any woman you want is a superpower. Women never have to worry about finding a man. Women can just poke their head out the window and shout, “I want a man” and they will all come running, but a man? Most men have to really work for it and are lucky if they find one in their lifetime and are luckier still if they don’t screw it up. Meanwhile, Bond finds oodles and they all seem like they all feel very lucky and happy to be with him, even to the point where it leads to them being painted with oxygen depriving gold paint or befalling some other terrible fate.
As if that weren’t enough changes for Bond, the women want in on the action. They aren’t just happy to be Bond’s eye candy. They want their chance to murder the bad dudes and save the day too.
Tall order for a movie but somehow it delivers.
Going into it, I heard a lot of bad reviews, people chanting the old “go woke, go broke” mantra. While I think we all have to embrace diversity, I have noticed that some films/franchises go to eye-rolling lengths (see the latest Superman comic with Supes french kissing a pink-haired man he apparently dumps Lois for more.)
I didn’t find that here. I think the film managed to straddle the line between wokeness and Bond’s patented studliness.
How’d the do it? SPOILER ALERT. REPEAT SPOILER ALERT.
They had Bond settle down. Ingenious, no?
The plot? Bond finally meets the true love of his life and gets hitched. On his honeymoon with Madeleine Swann, he gets sidetracked by villains henchmen because he’s Bond, so why wouldn’t he? This leads him down a rabbit hole toward a war between uber baddies Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and Safin (Rami Malek) over a virus that can be tailor made to target anyone its wielder desires (and thus we understand why the film’s release was delayed from its original unfortunately time date during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, though I suppose it’s not like the producers could have ever foreseen how their plot would come too close too reality when they made the flick.)
Bond does get his side-babes, but only in the form of co-workers/spies Nomi who has taken up the 007 mantle in the wake of Bond’s retirement (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma, a Cuba based spy who claims to only have three weeks of training (Ana de Armas who I intend to propose to one day if my self-publishing enterprise ever makes me rich…unless she’d take me as poor. What the hell? Ana on the off chance you’re reading this…and I’ve embarrassed myself. Moving on…)
At any rate, Bond doesn’t bang these women because he’s a changed man now. He’s found the love of his life and is now a one woman man so no other babe will do. And the babes don’t come onto him because they’re professionals and they don’t mix business with pleasure. Hell, they don’t even seem interested…because they aren’t. Nomi, if anything, taunts him over being the new 007. So they’re just colleagues who work together to save the world and there’s no hanky panky that will lead Bond to a trip to MI6 HR and a vigorous drubbing on Twitter.
Ultimately, I found the ways in which the wokeness was blended in, baked into the cake, as it were, clever. We can’t really complain that Bond isn’t snogging chicks two, three at a time because he has finally found true love and frankly, for the past few films, we’ve seen a Bond who has become saddened by the love and leave ’em or worse, see them deep-sixed by the villain lifestyle. We dudes who like seeing babes on the screen still get to see them but we have to see them as experts in the espionage trade who get the intel through tactics and guile and not just by flashing their boobs (although let’s face it, in real life, one boob flash is all it takes for even the most stalwart villain to give up the launch codes because men are that basic.)
I won’t give up much more other than to say SPOILER ALERT the film does close Craig’s iteration of the franchise, which is unheard of in Bond history, because usually, the films just keep going until the Bond actor either gets too old, or the films get stale, or enough time passes that Hollywood says we haven’t done a Bond film in awhile and hey, there’s a new British actor on the scene who would fit the bill.
Thus, I suppose this means the next Bond version will be an actual reboot. Strange, because somehow the Bond films never get rebooted. It’s just as if Bond has somehow existed for 50 years as one man or another. There’s that old fan theory that perhaps there have just been a series of British spies who go by the name James Bond, 007. Either that or we just understand that Bond just exists and we don’t blink as he moves from one generation to the next.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It’s by no means terrible as the critics are saying. It is a bit confusing though these films often are. Skyfall still remains Craig’s best. Quantum of Solace is still the worst. Spectre is middling. This one and Casino Royale are decent. To Craig’s credit, he only had one stinker, shaken, not stirred.
I am curious though how the next Bond iteration goes, or if they’ll have one. I mean, he can’t be a one-woman man forever and the character is a dude who is so damn sexy that women throw themselves at him, even if it means their peril as they switch sides and give up their villainous boyfriends. Maybe this ultra macho stud is a casualty of the woke era or maybe he’ll be back in ways we heretofore will never expect.