Some Thoughts on James Bond

“You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face”
― Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

Audubon Park, New Orleans

This weekend I found myself, wonder of wonders, with a little bit of time on my hands and deciding I wanted some free (or at least already paid for), mindless entertainment – I watched the newest installment in the James Bond franchise, No Time to Die, currently streaming on Netflix.

It was… OK, I guess. I still haven’t fully recovered from the experience of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once – so any other cinema will be a pale imitation of art… but it kept me mostly entertained for a while. I did like seeing Felix Leiter, Bond’s faithful longtime CIA sidekick, get some cred, even if it ends badly for him.

But I began thinking about No Time to Die being the 25th James Bond film. You see the franchise, with Dr. No coming out in 1962, when I was five, roughly parallels my life – or at least as much of it as I can remember. James Bond was always there – rebooted, changed, evolved… but always a cultural touchstone of some kind – always reflecting the times, distorted, like a funhouse mirror.

I remember seeing my first Bond Film, From Russia With Love – probably in 1964. My parents were huge bond fans and a little of that rubbed off on me – I was excited to go. At that age I didn’t really remember everything – but some scenes stick with me. There’s an assassination with a guy climbing out through a billboard, of course Rosa Klebb and her poisoned shoe. Most of all is the fight with the giant Red Grand on the train.

As an adult I was shocked when I realized that actor is Robert Shaw, who decades later played the grizzled old captain Quint in Jaws.

Then I saw Thunderball (for some reason I missed Goldfinger when it came out) – which was special to a kid that age – underwater fighting!

On and on over the years. Did you ever see the original Casino Royale? The comedy spoof with David Niven and Peter Sellers? Check it out. Some good looking women (including a very young Jacqueline Bisset) and a Tijuana Brass theme song.

Over my whole life a Bond film would pop up every few years… some good, some not-so – most just mindless entertainment. The worst were the gimmicky silly ones, especially with Roger Moore – I never liked his Bond – which was a shame I liked him on TV as Simon Templar in The Saint.

I’ve read a handful of the Ian Fleming novels. Not exactly my cup of tea but Bond on the page is a very interesting character. Daniel Craig is the closest… Literary Bond is not a very nice person.

So now we’re here. What’s next? I’m sure there will be something – that’s too much money to be left on the table – I’m pretty sure the franchise will outlive me. That’s pretty weird, now that I think about it.