Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moore: The mean-spirited and distasteful Bond?

I was recently watching some of the Roger Moore films from the Bond retrospect and a couple moments really stuck out to me. The first is in The Spy Who Loves Me where Bond is fighting a henchman who is about to fall off a tall building and grabs Bond's tie to level himself. Bond asks the henchman where his contact can be found, and as soon as he tells him, Bond flicks him off the hand, and allows him to fall off a two-story building.

The second scene is the finale of A View to a Kill as James Bond is Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), the main villain, is engaged in an axe fight with Bond. He drops the axe and is hanging off the ledge of the Golden Gate Bridge. Zorin reaches out for Bond's hand, and Bond lets him fall off the Golden Gate Bridge to his death as his mentor/father figure is watching.

These are two examples of moments that I find distasteful in the Moore Bond films. Don't get me wrong, I like the Moore Bond films. They usually had the most exotic locations, the best-looking and most competent girls, some of the most imaginative villains. At the same time, some of these moments make me truly cringe becasue they aren't explained in the context of what's going on.

Moore's Bond does something cruel and distasteful by allowing an unarmed man to die rather than bring him to justice and there's an extreme juxtaposition between these cruel acts and the light-hearted tone that's being conveyed. Him finishing it off with a light-hearted joke and a smirk makes it even worse. It would be like if Adam West's Batman allowed Burgess Meredith's the Penguin to be boiled alive in a lava pit before making a lecture to Robin about the deeds of fighting evildoers and buckling your seatbelt in the batmobile.

I think Dalton and Craig might do similar things, but it makes more sense in context. They have their conflicted moments where they might do cold-blooded things but the film acknowledges that it might have been hard for the villain to do it, or there was inner conflict. In part, this is because Dalton and Craig are classically-trained actors who take whatever material they're given and seek a human element to it. Brosnam, at his best, was portrayed as someone with that level of inner conflict. In Goldeneye and World is Not Enoguh he had personal connections at stake, first to his former colleague who was like his brother, and second to a family friend and his daughter. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnam was similarly merciless, shooting an unarmed psychiatrist/torture specialist and reigning bloodbaths on workers at a newspaper mill, whose job duties probably did not include a be-prepared-to-risk-life-and-limb-fighting-a-secret-agent-to-the-death-should-one-ever-break-into-the-printing-room clause.

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