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PERFECT BONDS

21 July 2010

,,There is no perfect Pepsi. There are only perfect Pepsis.” This is a lesson the inimitable Malcolm Gladwell taught us through a story about market researcher Howard Moskowitz. A revolutionary in his time, he was hired by big brands to find the perfect version of their product. What he found, controversially, was that there was no perfect version. There were only multiple versions, multiple flavours of Pepsi, Campbell spaghetti sauce, &c, that each represented the perfect version for their specific bit of audience. The brilliance of Moskovitz was that he didn’t take the target audience as one homogenous mass (which was the way to go back then), but subdivided them into categories according to their wishes. He discovered they could be put into rough categories of people who, for instance, liked spaghetti sauce with chunks in it, or runny spaghetti sauce. According to these groups, he then manufactured the perfect sauces. Plural, of note.

And so it is with James Bond.

There is no perfect Bond, there are only perfect Bonds. Though Bond changes as a reflection of our culture throughout the decades, administrating always to roughly the same target audience instead of existing parallel to one another for different groups at the same time, the principle holds. When we look back at Bond, we find only perfect variations.

Sean Connery. The quintessential Bond. One of the nastier Bonds (just look at the faces he makes while he’s fighting bad guys in speedboats), he’s also always mysterious, suave, attractive and sophisticated. His demeanour was always such that he kept audiences at a distance, however. Identifying with this Bond was impossible, since he was too grand, too amazing. For Bond, that’s maybe not such a bad thing. Sean Connery is quintessential.

George Lazenby. Nobody likes him. Fuck off, George Lazenby.

Roger Moore. The Bond with the sardonic glance. After making his debut in the appalling Live and Let Die (next to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service possibly the worst Bond film, if weirdly exciting in a lurid, B-film way), Moore got comfortable portraying a Bond that dripped with British irony, all dry one-liners and raised eyebrows. The movies went with that and became sensational and campy, just right for the 70s and mid-80s. It didn’t even matter that Roger Moore has less sexy in his whole body than Connery had in his earlobes.

Timothy Dalton. When Dalton came in he wanted to return Bond to a more serious form, reminiscent of the actual Fleming novels. Though only two films were made, he does an admirable job. This is probably the first Bond that you could actually identify with, who let you inside his head. Dalton is perhaps a little underrated as Bond, as he gives a truly gripping performance. Serious, yes, but intense and believable. It’s a shame the great The Living Daylights was followed up by a haphazard Licence to Kill. Strong premise, weak execution all around. I would’ve liked to see more of Dalton.

Pierce Brosnan. Goldeneye was spectacular. Whether that had anything to do with Brosnan, I don’t know. Brosnan has always been an extremely functional Bond. You believe him, he’s slick, he works on the screen in that world. Brosnan’s Bond is a child of the 90s, all flash and little content. Especially the three follow-up movies were just glitzy, explosion-filled pulp movies. Although I do think that especially his last two, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, don’t get enough credit. Though Brosnan was his usual vapid Bond self, the movies did at least try to have a point, an emotion to them.

Daniel Craig. The Dark Knight Bond. Reflecting modern times, this Bond is gritty, violent and story-based, more in line with Dalton’s approach, but brought to its inevitable conclusion. There’s a rawness inside, a tale of man hurting and becoming stronger to fight back. But scarred, always scarred. Craig is intense as James Bond. The seminal Casino Royale is top 3 material, easily. Quantum of Solace less so, but hopefully, despite the MGM troubles, we’ll see him return again.

Bond has always been whatever he needed to be for us, perfect for every age we live in.

Roderick