James Bond, all dressed up and everywhere to go

ADAM TECHORN
Los Angeles Times
Modified: November 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm •  Published: November 13, 2012
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photo - Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions' action adventure "Skyfall." (Francois Duhamel/Courtesy Columbia Pictures/MCT)
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions' action adventure "Skyfall." (Francois Duhamel/Courtesy Columbia Pictures/MCT)

The perception of Bond as superhero is actually integral to 007’s enduring popularity, says Rob Weiner, a humanities and fine arts librarian at Texas Tech University and co-editor of the book “James Bond in Popular and World Culture: The Films Are Not Enough.”

“Bond is like the non-costume equivalent of Batman in a lot of ways,” Weiner said, explaining the character’s long-lived appeal. “He gets to sleep with beautiful women guilt-free … he gets to go to beautiful locales and play with lots of gadgets … he can drink as much as he wants, and he never has to pay any consequences; he can eat as much as he wants, and he never has to pay any consequences; he can get out of any situation more or less intact, and he lives a life of adventure and intrigue. How is that not cool?”

Of course, Weiner says, it helps that there’s a certain “poise, suaveness and panache” that he sees connecting every Bond from Connery to Craig. “Even David Niven in the non-canon ‘Casino Royale’ had that panache and style,” Weiner said. “It’s indefinable, but you know it’s there.”

Weiner thinks there are a couple of reasons Bond has been with us so long. First, he cites the ability to adapt the character to times far beyond those in which he was born.

“The bottom line is, we don’t really care that much about (comic book hero of the ‘30s and ‘40s) Doc Savage anymore, yet (he) was huge at one time,” Weiner said. “We don’t care about the Shadow that much. … The difference is that (those characters) are more difficult to adapt to our modern times, but James Bond has this sort of timelessness that can be easily adapted to 2012 in a seamless way that Doc Savage can’t.”

The second key element, in Weiner’s opinion, has less to do with the suave super spy and more to do with the forces of evil against which he does battle. “The first rule of storytelling — whether it’s a superhero or not — is to have compelling villains,” he said. “And Bond has those compelling villains.”

It’s no accident that the nattily attired Bond stands out in sharp relief against the likes of recurring villain Ernest Stavro Blofeld, who is clad in a gray uniform with mandarin-collar, or SMERSH operative Rosa Klebb in her severe military tunic in “From Russia, With Love” or even Jaws, the metal-mouthed man-mountain of “Moonraker.”

Here too, “Skyfall” follows the well-worn fashion formula, with Temime using the contrast between Bond and nemesis Silva (played by Javier Bardem) to define both.

“In a scene where they first confront each other, the goodie was in black, so I wanted the baddie in white. I wanted that contradiction and that balance between the two men,” Temime explained. “I wanted Silva to be kind of sexy in his own way but also a little outre, a little over the top.”

“I wanted him (to wear) white,” she added, “because I wanted him to look very ‘new money’ — completely different from Bond.

“Bond has class; (Silva) doesn’t.”

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