James Bond? He's basically Jeremy Clarkson in a sharp suit

How odd that we should still celebrate this willy-waving, xenophobic man-child

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The Independent Online

Bond is back, though, like a dose of herpes, he has never truly been away. There are six weeks to go before the new film, Spectre, arrives but the pre-publicity is already at full throttle (the announcement of its title alone merited a press conference). Since then stills have been shared, teasers issued and, in the past week, speculation over who might succeed Daniel Craig as the next Bond – Idris Elba and Tom Hardy are alleged contenders – has become national news.

How odd that we should still be celebrating this willy-waving, xenophobic, gun-obsessed man-child who is for ever battering expensive cars in European back streets and delightedly blowing stuff up. Bond is basically Jeremy Clarkson in a sharp suit.

These days we have other, more interesting heroes – Sherlock, Bourne, Katniss Everdeen – who make 007 surplus to requirements, an embarrassing anachronism in an age where audiences require more than car chases, casinos and cartoon baddies.

There are those who would argue that Bond is merely a fantasy figure, a pleasingly old-fashioned throwback to a time when men were men and acting was done exclusively with one’s eyebrows. He isn’t just an icon, they will say, he’s an emblem for our flourishing film industry and a bastion of Britishness. Interesting, then, that even those behind the films have tinkered with Ian Fleming’s template and tried to bring him up to date.

The winds of change first blew across 1995’s GoldenEye when Judi Dench’s M calls Bond a “misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War”. Since then, assorted writers and directors have attempted to make 007 darker and more complex. Under Craig’s tenure, Bond has become disillusioned and tortured, his psychotic tendencies visibly bubbling beneath the surface.

Even so, M got her comeuppance in Skyfall (and was replaced by a man, naturally) and Bond’s periodic crises of faith are never allowed to get in the way of a 20-minute, all-action, pre-title sequence involving car chases, explosions and toppled fruit stalls.

Meanwhile, the brand staggers on, laughing at its in-jokes, engaging in shameless product placement and peddling the same hoary image of a relic in a tuxedo smirking his way into the beds of beautiful women who are still, ridiculously, known as “Bond girls” (that Monica Bellucci, the latest love interest is 50, we are told, progress. Thanks guys!). They get a few more lines than they used to, but they are still as disposable – literally, since half of them end up dead – as the gadgets irritably dispensed by Q.

If I ruled the world, there wouldn’t be another Bond film. My fantasy 007 would be stripped of his car keys, handed his P45 and added to the rota at the nearest Amazon warehouse to show him what it is to suffer at work.