James Bond has often been a sexual barometer of the times. Almost half a century ago, Sean Connery created the template and epitomised the swagger of the swinging ’60s. When the sexual revolution turned sour in the AIDS-affected ’80s, it saw a reconstructed Bond in Timothy Dalton, who gave up his licence to thrill for monogamy and early nights.
Now since the noughties, Daniel Craig has brought us a new Bond and once more we find the rakish rogue not only revived but almost entirely revised. The major point of difference for this first Bond of the new century is this — now Bond is the babe. After having been surrounded since the inception of the series by easy-on-the-eye escorts, the new squirm-in-your-seat sexy Bond has become the focus of the erotic gaze.
The Bond character had become an unsettling anachronism. The sartorial swank of the likes of Roger Moore was satirised in Austin Powers and ever since Bond has seemed ridiculous — Pierce Brosnan was forced to deliver appalling puns more often than punches.
Not anymore. This James Bond isn’t without wisecracks but this version differs from the rest in one important way — not only is Bond a babe, he’s a bastard as well. If you think about it, it makes sense. How could you get a licence to kill and be a nice guy? Bond begins as a brute in a cheap suit and ends up being a thug in fine threads. But he is still a thug.
In some superficial ways, Bond films have remained the same: it has to include a baddie with either a disfigurement or a disability or a dubious mental state; an international conspiracy threatening global security; a dangerous glamazon to be seduced by our hero and chase scenes through exotic destinations the world over.
But it’s what it doesn’t include that is critical. No more gag gadgetry — the toys we see have brand names on them. No more bevy of beauties — no one is allowed to outshine 007 and the women in this film are quite ordinary by the standards of this series. And most importantly, when it comes to Bond, no more Mr Nice Guy.
Daniel Craig is so outstanding in the role of Bond it makes the initial criticism of his casting seem absurd. Craig represents one of the most important pieces of recent casting not only in Bond films but in films in general. They have created in this blond Bond the perfect millennial man: masculine, muscled and metrosexual. For decades critics have been talking about the crisis of masculinity in modern film as heroes have become increasingly coddled and cuckolded. With Daniel Craig, the crisis may have been averted. Sean Connery may have kick-started the sexual revolution but Daniel Craig has brought it to climax.