Bullets, Barrels, Babes and Bond: 50 Years of 007

James Bond was created by Ian Fleming in the early 1940s. He was originally a part of a long running book series. It wasn’t until 1962 that the first James Bond film was released: Dr. No. The film starred Sean Connery as James Bond. Dubbed with codename 007, Bond traipsed around the world, fighting bad guys with sleek gadgets and wooing women with his suave charm. The films were action packed, filled with enough one-liners to show up even Arnold Schwarzenegger. The films were cheesy, the villains were very cliché, but we loved every second of it.

As the years progressed Bond was recast; the first one being George Lazenby (with a performance so bad they had to bring back Connery for one last film). From there you have: Roger Moore (my personal favorite), Timothy Dalton, Peirce Brosnan (the worst), and finally Daniel Craig. Each actor has brought something unique to the role and made the character their own, while still reminding us that this is indeed James Bond.

James Bond films are known for its catchy theme songs that are either named after the film, are based off of themes presented in the film, and occasionally both. The most famous of these songs is “Live and Let Die”, by Paul McCartney and the Wings. It is the only James Bond song that we constantly hear playing on the radio.

Many famous artists have performed the opening songs, such as Madonna, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Chris Cornell and most recently Adele. The theme song for the film can make or break the movie. If the song is good, like Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale or Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” form the film of the same name, it is guaranteed that the film itself will be good. However, if it’s like Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die,” from Quantum of Solace, you can be sure the movie will be a flop.

The only thing as recognizable as the songs are the villains.

007’s villains are one of the most interesting and unique aspects about the films. They either have a personality quirk or some kind of physical deformity that sets them apart from any other film villain at the time. However, the most well-known villain in Bond franchise is Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Have you ever wondered who exactly Mike Myers was spoofing with his Dr. Evil character? This is the guy.  He is the maniacal leader of the criminal organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Blofeld was the definition of maniacal villain; from the scarred face to the pet cat, right down to the volcanic lair. He brought Bond to his knees, on multiple occasions; going as far as killing Bond’s wife on their wedding day. Blofeld was known for getting plastic surgery to elude the MI6 and Bond. This allowed for multiple actors to portray him. Talented actors such as Donald Pleasance (Halloween) and Charles Gray (Rocky Horror Picture Show) have played the nefarious mastermind.

Another essential element of the Bond franchise is the Bond Girl.  The Bond girl is the girl that 007 finds on his adventures and ends up having sex with them or they end up joining him on his adventure. Each film has a new Bond girl and the secret agent rarely gets attached. In the older films the bond girls had pseudo-sexual names such as Pussy Galore, Plenty O’Toole, or Holly Goodhead. The later films dropped the silly names and made the characters more serious or pivotal in James Bond’s growth as a character. Some have been allies, others have been enemies, but for the most part they were eye candy. Like many other things, the 2006 reboot changed that and made the Bond girl someone James falls in love with and ultimately tries to avenge in the sequel.

For the longest time James Bond fought the enemies of the cold war. Anyone with a communist influence, he went up against, mostly the Russians or Chinese. Towards the end of his career it was the North Koreans.  2002 marked the last James Bond film in the original continuity (if you could actually call it that).

Four years later, the series was rebooted with the film Casino Royale. The film revamped James Bond for the new generation. The film was more serious and reflected our own dark times. Bond sequels have never been continuations of a story; they have always been different stories with only the same characters connecting them.  That all changed with the 2008 film Quantum of Solace. This film marked the first time that Bond had a continuing story. Unfortunately, the film was horrendous.  With a boring plot, a lackluster villain who had no distinguishable traits except that he was rich, and an overbearing political message, the film was a disaster. The shaky cam did not help either. It was difficult to figure out what was going on during the action scenes and it takes you completely out of the film.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond in film. It has been 50 years of chasing cars, chasing women, and 50 years of being a straight up badass. James Bond will go down in history as the greatest action hero of all time. His films, whether they be magnificent or horrendous, leave their mark on society and change the way action movies are made.  It has been-and always will be-the golden standard.   Though I have not seen Skyfall, I have high hopes for the film. Perhaps it will redeem Bond from the travesty that was Quantum.

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