The evolution of Bond
No doubt you will have some time to kill this holiday period and if you are like many others you will be considering catching the new Bond film Skyfall. You wonâ€™t regret it: the Sam Mendes direction is superb, the storyline intricate, and the performances by Dame Judy Dench, Javier Bardem, and Daniel Craig himself are top notch. Having said that, as the Bond franchise celebrates 50 years a new study has raised a worrying issue about the Bond films.
Since Sean Connery first portrayed James Bond, a secret agent codenamed 007 with MI6, in the 1962 film Dr No, an impressive 23 Bond films have been made by Eon Productions with two others made by production companies outside the Bond franchise. In that time six actors have portrayed Bond, and despite maintaining his status as a maverick womanising agent Bond has evolved with the actors and the times. Conneryâ€™s mischievous animal allure was replaced by Roger Mooreâ€™s suave charm and today Daniel Craig brings dark brooding and danger to 007. The salary of the Bond actor has evolved too with Connery being paid $100,000 for Dr No while Craig was paid $17 million for his role in Skyfall. At the same time the nature of the films themselves, while staying true to much of the Bond formula, has changed with the times. Unfortunately, according to a new study from the University of Otago, some of that change might not be for the better.
At the time the study was done Skyfall had not been released, so the researchers compared the level of violence in the most recent film they had access to (Quantum of Solace) to that in Dr No. In Dr No there were 109 acts of violence while in Quantum of Solace the number of violent acts had escalated to 250, and there were three times as many acts of â€œsevere violenceâ€ in the later film. Violent acts were defined as any attempt by any individual to harm another and severe violence was classified as punching, kicking, or attacks with weapons.
Of course, much of the Bond violence has an exaggerated almost comic quality to it, but the fact remains that the films feature much more violence than they once did. Does this mean that we, as film consumers, have become desensitised to violence and need more and more of it to register? Or is violence to others perhaps less of a shock than it was 50 years ago?
The Bond franchise is unarguably successful. Skyfall has (as of Dec 29th 2012) raked in $979 million at the box office and the entire franchise over 50 years allowing for inflation has made around $12 billion. The films are well made, highly entertaining films. What this new study asks us to do though, is ask what we consider entertainment in the modern world and where have our values shifted? It is this latter question that is the most important because where lie your values lies your future.