The Culture of James Bond: The Brosnan Years
James Bond might be a British agent, but he’s subject to the whims of the American public in much the same way as our other cinematic heroes. The film industry is, after all, a business, and the best way to make money is to give the people what they want. As one of the oldest and most beloved film franchises, starting with Dr. No in 1962, 007 has had to adapt to the times… for better or worse depending on the era. As a result, the influences that have shaped the Bond films have been numerous and at times (and at other times not) surprising. If you really look at the movies throughout the years, you’ll be able to find exactly what event or craze that gripped America at the time. With the tragic passing of composer John Barry, who graced us with exciting scores for eleven of the Bond films, it seemed time to honor both him and franchise.
In part four of our retrospective, we look at the Bond most of us grew up with: Pierce Brosnan.
The Story: Bond tracks down a Russian crime lord, who is working with ex-Soviet defectors to use a Soviet satellite weapon in a robbery on the Bank of England.
Why We Got It: After a six year absence due to a massive legal battle (which cost them the patience of Dalton… Goldeneye was originally written for him), the Soviet Union had collapsed… leaving the world to wonder if Bond was still relevant. Indeed, the entire crux of the story became Bond’s place in the post-Soviet world. Judi Dench’s M goes so far as to call him a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur… a relic of the Cold War.”
The skepticism everyone had towards Bond became heightened when they cast a TV actor in the role. Boy, were they in for a surprise. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it. It brought Bond back in an even more spectacular fashion than The Living Daylights… and the movie has the same director as Casino Royale.
Another interesting little rumor around the campfire is that early versions of the script were written with Anthony Hopkins in mind to play the second male lead. He would play the old M from previous Bond movies. Unfortunately, Hopkins proved impossible to get (though he’s rumored to be pursued by the producers for the villain in Bond 23), so the role was rewritten for a younger 006, to be played by the talented Sean Bean.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997):
The Story: Bond investigates media mogul Elliot Carver, who plans to use his vast resources to start a war between China and Britain as a way to make headlines.
Why We Got It: A villain whose entire purpose is that he uses the free and wide exchange of information to his advantage. If you remember the days of the mid 1990’s, the internet had become a necessary commodity in every home. No longer just the tool of government and business, everyone was using it for everyday activities. It was only a matter of time before a lame Bond villain tried to use it to destroy civilization as we know it. Look on the bright side, he wasn’t trying to make a new society in the internet.
Die Another Day (2002)
The Story: After being captured and tortured by North Koreans, Bond hunts down a rogue North Korean military officer who plans to use an orbital weapon as a way to eliminate the Korean DMZ. I’m honestly making the movie sound better than it is in that blurb.
Why We Got It: In Die Another Day, James Bond fights militant Koreans with extensive plastic surgery, has an invisible car, fights a henchman named Mr. Kill, rides a CGI tidal wave on a surf board and a parachute, Halle Berry as a Bond girl, and battles on an airplane hit by a satellite that harnesses the light of the sun into a massive laser beam. Honestly, I could go into a sermon about how the filmmakers became drunk with the increasing power of CGI, but I think we all know the real culprit here: