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This week the United States finally gets to see Skyfall, the new James Bond film that's been universally praised for what feels like months, and which many are calling the best Bond movie ever (most of us around here agree). The movie has inspired all kind of conversations among movie-lovers about Bond, from listing the characters best films and gadgets and babes to simply wondering how a character so clearly born from the Cold War has managed to stay relevant so long.
We don't really have answers to any of those questions (though if you're curious about all that ranking, click here). We just want to celebrate a character who's captured all of our imaginations over the year, a guy we've all grown up with and who never really forced us to think about just why we found him so appealing… until now, that is. Below are four reasons we love James Bond, and why his glorious return to Skyfall is hopefully just the beginning of many more great films to come.
England doesn’t have a big-screen, mainstream superhero quite like Batman, Spider-Man or Superman just yet, but they will always have James Bond. His missions regularly take him on a globetrotting adventure and he’s usually trying to do more than save just his tiny island home, but 007’s devotion to Queen and country is more than just a fun character quirk – it’s actually something that’s rather important.
To understand why, one doesn’t have to look much further than this year’s London Olympic Games, when director Danny Boyle created a short film where Bond (played by Daniel Craig, of course) goes to Buckingham Palace in order to bring her majesty to the Games’ opening ceremony. Superspy 007 is more than just a guy with a gun and a martini to England: he’s a pop culture icon who means more to the country than any regular action hero. Even right now, as Skyfall is establishing itself as a huge hit, London is catching Bond fever, as everywhere you look there is some reminder of the Ian Fleming-created legend. Every culture needs their model – the equivalent of the perfect, patriotic citizen who stands up for his or her people in the time of any crisis. For England, that is unquestionably James Bond.
Bond girls come and go, M becomes a woman, the Cold War ends and the villains dry up, and hell, even Bond has a different face from time to time. But when you buy a ticket for a new Bond movie, any Bond movie, you know you're stepping into the passenger seat with one of the most confident men on the planet. A Bond adventure can go to some truly insane places-- surfing on melting glaciers, women killed by being painted gold-- but the series pulls off all these crazy leaps because they share Bond's confidence. No matter what happens, they'll tell you it's the coolest place you can possibly be.
Not every blockbuster does that, of course-- some heroes have existential crises and need your help to build them back up, some movies get so busy and wrapped up in their own plots that they lose the audience entirely. But even when they're not that good, every Bond movie has the vibe of a guy who's leading you into his super-swank apartment, full of gadgets and luxuries you've never seen before-- he knows you'll be impressed. You don't even have to wind up going to bed with him to get to enjoy all that spectacle.
His Ability To Change
The main reason I remain enthralled by the Bond franchise is because it breaks Hollywood’s rules of continuity, and usually fickle fans are totally fine with it. Imagine if Warner Bros. recast Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and handed the directorial reins to someone other than Christopher Nolan? Or if key action characters like Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker or John McClane had been recast with actors other than Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Bruce Willis, just to ensure longevity. Film fans would lose their minds – and rightfully so.
But the Bond franchise prides itself on reinvention – or “resurrection,” as Craig confirms in Skyfall. New faces reinterpret classic formulas, often with explosive results. The idea that gifted directors like Martin Campbell, Michael Apted or Sam Mendes can pop in and apply their voices to the Bond Blueprint remains thrilling. Over the years, the series also has reworked vital supporting parts, from M to Q to Feliz Leiter. The direction of the 007 series is simultaneously open-ended and pre-determined. Who’ll direct Bond next? Whom will he face off against? No one knows, and that’s the reason I keep coming back to the series time after time.
James Bond is a mess. Were he poor, uneducated and incompetent, we’d all consider him a fool or an addict. Instead, he’s a man who enjoys playing on the fringes of high society. He pounds glasses of Bollinger in the afternoon. He gambles for millions of dollars in one sitting. He ruins marriages with a few extra glances of the eye. He throws right hands for no other reason than to prove he’s the toughest man in the room, and every so often, he risks everything merely to defend his pride. He’s the hyper-competent, ballsy college freshman lingering deep inside each and every one of us, and that’s why he’s so damn fun to watch.
Bond is the type of guy that will play for every last dollar in his wallet. He always goes big and never goes home alone. He has no off-switch, and while it’s best most of us don’t follow his lead, it’s fun to live vicariously through the secret agent. He’s a yes man for his own desires, his own lusts and his own longings. He leads the life we’d fashion if everything was always guaranteed to work out. Watching him is like therapy, and if it leads us to have the occasional morning martini while on vacation, why not?