James Bond: Live Or Let Die?

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James Bond: Live Or Let Die?

The British Secret Service Agent, James Bond, has been gracing our silver screens for over half a century. The Eon-produced film franchise currently consists of 24 movies and has generated more than $7 billion in box office receipts. It is, for many, an international institution – much parodied, but never duplicated. Bond is struggling, however, and a quick glance at the bigger picture makes it clear why.

The character of Bond – 007, if you will – was created in 1953 by the writer Ian Fleming. The fictional spy featured in 12 of his novels and 2 of his short story collections before Fleming died in 1964. Since his passing, 8 other authors have written official James Bond stories to continue his narrative.

The first film – Dr. No – arrived in 1962, with Sean Connery in the title role. It was a surprise hit and launched the franchise – establishing many of the plot and technical elements that have become synonymous with the Bond series. Gadgets, exotic locations, outlandish action, noteworthy music, stylized credit sequences and ‘Bond Girls’ – this is the formula, and Dr. No set the stage for the next 50 years.

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But, if we take an honest look at the 23 films that followed, have we gained anything from the Bond franchise, or have we actually seen the same thing repeated two dozen times? Sure, there have been minor fluctuations. James Bond actually fell in love twice – with Teresa di Vicenzo in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and with Vesper Lynd in 2006’s Casino Royale – but those characters were quickly killed off in favour of maintaining the status quo. That status quo is of a highly trained secret agent thwarting the nefarious plans of villains while being enigmatic, suave and (more often than not) emotionally unavailable.

James Bond is the quintessential white male fantasy. He uses his gadgets, drives cool cars, travels widely, has sex with lots of women and saves the day. Each film sees him move unhindered through the landscape – always having a plan, always having the answer, and always having a collection of female characters back in the office, and in the field, facilitating his actions. But, here’s the problem – it’s no longer 1962.