James Bond goes goon

When did James Bond turn into an even less emotive version of Jason Bourne?


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The quintessential James Bond has always been a hybrid of four things: hero, debonair dude, possessor of quick Brit-wit and all-around badass motherfucker. But this new "Quantum Of Solace" Bond, while arguably the baddest motherfucker yet, is neither witty nor heroic and is only debonair by default.

The Bond of "Quantum Of Solace" is a Jason Bourne-esque kill-first ask-never thug with as many jokes and smiles as a Bright Eyes song. His charm with the fairer sex seems to be less reliant on any sort of suave persona than, say, the fact that he looks like Daniel Craig. Sure, he's killing bad guys. But it doesn't really seem to matter to him either way.

There is context to it all. This is the revenge sequel to "Casino Royale." Daniel Craig's interpretation of 007 has left many of the semi-cheesy one-liners of Bond yesteryear behind to suit Craig's personality and focus on the action. And the immense popularity of "Casino Royale" and the connected resurgence of the Bond brand should create enough implied sympathy from the first film to carry over into this darker sequel, which is largely devoid of character development.

But Bond films are rarely viewed in connection with one another. While this is a true sequel, the exception to the norm in the Bond library, these films are typically remembered on an isolated basis. And this new "Quantum" Bond seems like he would take the cheesy, gadget-reliant, womanizing Bond with a hidden soft inside and shove him through a wall simply for looking at him funny. Badass? Sure. Fun to watch? Hell yeah. But there's something that feels not quite right about this Kanye/Daft Punk - harder, better, faster, stronger - Bond remix.

While these changes are equal parts plot and Craig-driven, they might have even more to do with director Marc Forster's choices to bring Dan Bradley (second unit director) and Gary Powell (stunt director) onto the crew, both of whom were also key players in the Jason Bourne trilogy.

This is to take nothing away from these men of the Bourne films. They were nothing short of fantastic, largely for their relentless action and leanness. There were moments in "Quantum," coincidentally the shortest Bond film ever, in which it felt like this Bourne influence was stronger than that of the Ian Fleming novels or even the old Bond films themselves. And while this worked to provide the audience with 90 minutes of straight adrenaline on planes, trains and automobiles, it did little to go any deeper than this. This worked in Bourne's case because there was no room in the plot for character development. Jason Bourne was a clean slate. We didn't feel cheated not knowing anything about him because we knew what he knew, step by step. And it was all he knew. If you were programmed by government to kill first, ask later, you would probably do it until you started figuring out enough reasons not to. This formula isn't as clear-cut for Bond. While it's true there has never been a more believable person to pull off Bond's high-flying tactics and hourly scrapes with death than Craig, the constant cycle of action in this film seems to negate any potential for depth or development.

It's hard to say at this point whether this will be an overall staple of the new Bond era (an era which seems inevitable given the sequel-worthy new fake-environmentalist villain empire and the "I never left" fade-out ending) or just a "Quantum" motif. "Casino Royale" had plot and development to spare, but it cited both the necessity of portraying the early stages of a legendary character and the strength of one of Fleming's most interesting and visually appealing novels to fall back on. "Quantum Of Solace" shares a title with Fleming's work, and little else, as the rest of the plot largely comes from a modernized team-written screenplay that obviously emphasizes a little less talk and a lot more action.

It seems logical enough that this new Bond era would seek to cut some of the cheese out. Looking back now, some of the "classics" such as "The Man With The Golden Gun" seem downright silly. But Bond might need look no further than the other franchise that just experienced a massive commercial resurgence and cut out a large chunk of novelty punch lines: Batman. Instead of going over-the-top action, the new Batman films went darker, into near film-noir depths of cinema. But even in the dark reclusive stages of his early story, Chistopher Nolan and his crew found ways to effectively mix plenty of plot in without so many punch lines. Now, while it might be a concern that Craig's eight-pack wouldn't show up in that noir-lighting, it seems like the new era in Bond could take just as many notes from the Bat as it did from Bourne. Because while the reinvention of the Dark Knight will be remembered for decades to come, the momentum built up from "Casino Royale" seems doomed by "Quantum" to be forgotten by the car ride home from the theater.

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