Why is James Bond such an iconic character?

Its twenty-fifth film and Daniel Craig’s last outing in the role “No time to Die” is the latest addition to the James Bond franchise. It is one of the longest-running franchises in film history, starting in 1962 with “Dr No.” Back then, the rough and tough Sean Connery was at the helm, although he defined the suaveness and relaxed parameters that typify the character.  It is also the third highest-grossing movie series behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars. To be fair to James, whilst he has gadgets and a few fancy cars, he doesn’t need the likes of a Space station or superpowers to get the job done. Why is this character still so iconic, famous and significant, given how society has changed over the last fifty years or so?

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In Dr No, Bond ogles Ursula Andress as she emerges Bikini-clad from the sea. In an outrageous example of “the male gaze,” he then decides to chat her up a bit. All of this is done while supposedly on a mission to save the world. Jump ahead to “No time to Die”, and the latest Bond is working with women of colour and is told that he’s a dinosaur. Despite this, the writers have kept Bond essentially the same suave, cool lothario who kills his enemies without thought or compassion. Daniel Craigs’ portrayal of Bond somewhat addresses this with the fundamental change of making him a regretful, tortured hero. This Bond takes little joy in offing people. This is a significant difference from Connery, Lazenby and Moore interpretations. He even takes the time in Casino Royale to emerge from the sea in just his trunks to attract the Female gaze.

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Bond always dresses well. This is one of the keys to his success. The directors and the actors who have played him down through the years have always conveyed the effortless, nihilistic chic that the character has through the clothes and attitude. An example of this is his first meeting with the Bad Guy of the film. In most cases, certainly with the Roger Moore years, Bond would be sat down for a meal with the lead Bad Guy. The Villian starts by being charming, offering Bond all manner of fine dining. Bond insults the villain, and the next shot is of our hero being thrown into a dingy cell before the third or fourth mouthful. This seems to have been all part of the plan.

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Author: Richard Brown

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