This past weekend, I finally watched Skyfall, the latest movie in the “James Bond” franchise.
Let’s look to the scoreboard:
Was it entertaining? Yes.
Were there plenty of glamorous set pieces? Yes.
Did the main character wear a tuxedo at some point? You betcha.
Was there an over-the-top villain and deadly beautiful women? Oh yeah.
Did bad guys die in droves? Of course.
Did James Bond actually do any spying? Uh, well, not exactly.
Did 007 infiltrate an organization using his high society upbringing? No.
Final score: Good action movie, but not a James Bond movie.
Here’s the problem: Just because the main character is in a tuxedo, doesn’t mean he’s James Bond. The producers have forgotten this crucial point. Casino Royale got it right. Quantum of Solace got it wrong.
The key to James Bond is that he has the upbringing, style, manners and insider understanding of how high society works. He is able to navigate past the social landmines in order to discover where the actual landmines are hidden. Sure, he has to be able to defend or attack physically if needed, but it’s not his first move. His first move is drinking martinis, sizing up opponents through gambling and seducing the right informant. That’s spy work. And that’s a major part of the appeal—getting to pretend, as viewers, that we’re not only a part of high society, but that we are masters of it.
Instead, we get a well-dressed thug. A heroic and charismatic thug. Heck, even a resourceful one. But, alas, nowhere near the gentleman needed for the task. “If you please, sir, Jeeves will see you out, Mr. Bond.”