Well, as ever I would say it all goes back to Ian Fleming. He created Bond as a wish-fulfillment figure initially for himself and then for the ever increasing international audience. Bond did things many people would like to do but were unable to, so his adventures were enjoyed vicariously. At first, people in the UK were subject to strict rationing so they enjoyed reading the luscious meals Bond would eat. They couldn’t travel to exotic places (yes, Turkey was exotic in those days and Fleming has to tell us what a doner kebab is) so enjoyed his eloquent descriptions of, say, Jamaica. Male readers enjoyed his beautiful leading ladies, and everyone got wrapped up in the larger than life villains and their outrageous plots.
The first few films transferred this to the screen, and then began to broaden their scope while still clinging to those aspects. Well into the series, Bond has an interesting meal with Kristatos or Kamal Khan and the viewer (now not the reader) sees exotic locales and meets beautiful leading ladies and outrageous villains- still Flemingesque if not his actual words.
Through it all, Bond struggles against seemingly impossible odds and unbeatable villains. We are comforted by the knowledge that no matter the situation, no matter how high the stakes are, James Bond will come through. The villains will be beaten, Bond will end up with the lovely lady.
Until the recent movies, anyway…. Now, Bond can lose the lady (not unheard of in Fleming, though rare). He can fail in his mission. He can even….. die.
We have been accustomed to Bond surviving and getting the girl at the end. That has been the message of the preceding Bond movies, more than 20 of them. This is what people mean when they say NTTD “isn’t a Bond movie”.
Bond surviving is something we've become used to, yes. But I think there are other aspects that makes up a Bond movie. You mention locations, girls and the villans. There's also, humor, adventure, action etc. If I overlook the "small detail" of Bond finding the time to die I think Bond is in many ways more Bondian than some other Bond movies such as QoS.
I think this new film may need to be compared with Craig's first four, and not the first twenty or what Fleming wrote, regardless of being billed a James Bond movie and having a gun barrel at the beginning.
? You might want to rephrase that, N24, for clarity.
Edit- You're quite right, I didn't mention humour, adventure, action, etc. I was taking them as given and didn't want to add to an already long post.
I think NTTD can be compared to any of the earlier Bond movies in all other ways than his death and child and it holdes up. There too many Bond elements to mention here. I mean, other than Matilde and Bond not surviving, there's not much I miss. Perhaps a big, spectacular stunt or two.
Has anyone here seen the film more than once? I heard from online reviews that Bond's death becomes more palatable on subsequent viewings.
I know I came out of the cinema in shock, not knowing how to feel about Bond's death. It's either a bold move on the part of the producers, or chasing the trend of killing off heroes in recent TV series and films. I wonder how we will feel about it in years to come.
My problem isn't the death itself, shocking as it was, but that it feels out of character - the Bond of yore never gave up - and it's not earnt. Rather, he succumbs to the fruitlessness of his situation. If he does escape, he puts Madeleine and Mathilde at risk based on Q's knowledge of the nanobots. But surely they could always be reprogrammed or neutered as the technology evolved. I can understand how his sacrifice to let his loved ones live is meant to be heroic, but Bond gives up too easily; he's always been a character that would find a way no matter the odds. Even a Marvel-like hint that he might still be alive in some form at the end of the credits would have given viewers the hope they wanted/needed.
I have. I actually found it less palatable the second time. The problem isn't Bond dying. It's fiction. That can always be undone. At the same time, the hero sacrificing himself is an old saw. The problem for me is three-fold:
1) NTTD's writing doesn't build to the death in either a thematic or dramatic way. It merely tacks it on, almost as an afterthought in the way it's portrayed.
2) The story makes Bond a dope. He's not only shot and infected with nanobots but calls in the very strike that kills him -- the only reason they're even racing the clock is because of Bond's action. I keep saying it, but he's Maxwell Smart done seriously. (In the vastly overrated Skyfall, he should have said, "Sorry about that, M," when she got shot.)
3) Bond films have served as escapist entertainment, sometimes more serious, sometimes less so. Even when Tracy is killed in OHMSS, we know Bond will be back and order in some fashion will be restored. Films and stories that pushed back against that presented a wholly different world of espionage -- the books of LeCarre and Deighton, for example, or TV shows like Callan or the original The Equalizer series. They were the antithesis of Bond, and they built an entire cynical world to prop that up. Take LeCarre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, for example. The opening scene at the checkpoint, like the Kobyashi Maru in the second Star Trek movie, is a mini-version of the rest of the story. Just as the poor agent trying to sneak back into West Germany is doomed, dying mere inches from freedom, so will be Leamas. But his descent will be fraught with choice and drama. In the end, he must die, not only because it's the only way out of the dirty business, but because in returning to it for one last mission, he involves a innocent idealist that he gets killed (and not to mention Fiedler, his counterpart in being used by his organization). NTTD has none of this grounding or development.
There's a lot of sentimentality to Bond's death in NTTD, just like there was a lot of sentimentality in Skyfall to suggest Bond was more than a foil or incompetent. But a lot of people like that and respond to the emotions. It's rather like listening to a pop song that's critical of something but not really paying attention to the lyrics because the melody is upbeat and you can dance to it. So, when I watched NTTD again, I paid even closer attention to the poor construction of the story. That is, if we're to see Bond as a bona fide hero as opposed to the deconstruction he sure seems to be.
I would add that a constant feature of all the Bond novels and films up to now has been their avoidance of domesticity. This has been a large part of their fantasy appeal to adults of both sexes: neither the men nor women in Bond's world are tied down by marriage or children (until now there has never been a child character of importance). But in NTTD Bond gains a de facto wife and a daughter who he cooks breakfast for and drives around in a Range Rover, along with carrying her toys and so on. These film kills Bond as a result--it would be impossible to keep making Bond films this continuity if Bond kept a "wife" and child to look after. Never before has a Bond film ended with such a hard reset.
Much of NTTD retains recognizably Bondian elements, all the way down to the echoes of Dr. No near the end. But the film's major departures from the essence of Bond--domesticity and genuine family, Bond's death and the hard reset--are radical departures and have overshadowed the film's Bondian elements in many people's minds.
@Mailfist talks about a Spectre orgy on a 12A certificate - do I need to see this film again? I seem to have missed that.
Absolutely, though even the domesticity is merely sketched. The story pays dramatic lip service to so many of the ideas it raises. I felt little chemistry with Swann and none really with Mathilde, who’s a rather affectless but otherwise ordinary little girl put in danger eventually. The effect is it’s more like we see the equivalent of photos of Bond’s domestic life than actual scenes. Even after two viewings, I don’t recall anything moving, charming, or salutary about the scenes. It’s the situation I have some sympathy for.
I’ve read some reviews that say much of the second half of the movie is really Swann’s story, not Bond’s, and there’s some truth to that since the movie is bookended by scenes with her. Bond at times does seem like a special guest star in another story. It’s interesting in this regard that so much focus is on Bond’s sacrifice and not the repetition of Swann’s childhood that Mathilde represents. She, too, loses a parent at a young age after having been exposed to great violence. Bond, an orphan, has orphaned her. It’s rather unsettling how being orphaned is a constant idea in the Craig universe. As much as domesticity is suggested in this movie, all five are really anti-family, including Blofeld’s patricide, the massacre and/or rape of Camille’s family, the assassination of Saffin’s family, and then ultimately the disruption of the Scooby gang through Bond’s demise, too. If the other Bonds merely presented a fantasy free of the shackles of domesticity, these seem to suggest it’s outright deadly to characters.
yes that makes sense: the story begins with Swann's flashback, and the plot is about the return of the monstrous character from that flashback. and as you say it ends with Swann. So its the second act, Bond's adventures in Jamaica and Cuba, that is the digression.
If Blofeld were the villain instead of Safin, the opening flashback sequence would not have had any place in the story, and a whole lot of Madeleine content would also be irrelevant, though not all. She still would be Blofeld's psychiatrist, thus the breakup scenes in Matera would still be part of the story, we'd just lose segue that links flashback to Matera, and all her dialog about "her secret" (which inspires Bond's distrust) . The scenes of Mathilde would lose much resonance because we are meant to compare Mathilde in peril to the flashback of Madeleine in peril.
I don't mind a Bond film that is told from the woman's point of view. Fleming certainly wrote a story from the woman's point of view that has not been adapted yet didn't he. I don't think we've seen an argument yet that Swann's role in this film parallels that of Vivienne Michel (because her role in the story more obviously contains aspects of Tracy and Kissy), but structurally its kinda sorta valid.
I read an essay a while back arguing the leading ladies in Bond films are more interesting when they are introduced to the viewer before Bond first sees them. Because we know them as a character independent of the hero, thus care more, rather than merely being an object perceived through the male hero's eyes. Try to think of the way female characters are introduced in the various films, and consider if that's true. Tracy and Vesper, the loves of Bonds life, are actually both introduced via Bond's gaze. So is Swann in SPECTRE, slightly complicated by the fact we first learn of her existence from her villainous father. So in SPECTRE our knowledge of Swann is filtered both by what her father says and what Bond sees, rather than her being able to introduce herself to the viewer independent of male perceptions. But in this new film we are experiencing events from her eyes, with a lengthy digression in the second act she could not possibly know about.
Both of you have made very compelling points. I didn't feel much chemistry between Bond and Swann either (Why is he interested in her? Because she's traumatized?) and Mathilde is cute but has no personality. She's eerily affectless in a way kids that age aren't (for God's sake, at least throw a temper tantrum!). I hadn't considered the second half of the film as Swann's story, with Bond as the self-sacrificing guest star, but that makes a lot of sense. It seems to be a result of many hands working over the script, but not as a team--so the film can't resolve who its main character is. The reviewer for the London Review of Books made the point that NTTD was unique in having a flashback entirely from the female's point of view. I just wish the inside of Madeline's head was as interesting to visit as Vivienne Michel's. But what we see of it serves a very schematic purpose.
Blofeld could still ultimately be shown as the major villain -- I wrote up a possible scenario somewhere. Actually, if it was done more or less like that, it might even have surprised people who assumed Saffin would be the main bad guy. Actually, a lot of the elements from the current film could be retained. They'd just have to be reworked, I think.
Boy, did I get some flack for this, but I still think NTTD cements the 5-film arc as a deconstruction of Bond as a toxic White male hung by his own petard at the end, a kind of revisionist film series not unlike Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven deconstructs outlaws and heroes in westerns. For those who don't know, Petardiers were essentially grenadiers who would scale walls and the like to plant or toss their bombs -- sometimes they got hooked on something and killed the petardier in the ensuing explosion of their own making. Sound familiar? Shakespeare popularized the idea in Hamlet.
The fact that the film opens with Swann as the focus may seem merely like a reworking of Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but it's more than that. It starts with Swann and ends with Swann and Mathilde. Meanwhile, Bond, Leiter, Saffin, and Blofeld are dead. Ash is a traitor. The male M is shown to be shady in working with a male Russian scientist to develop a horrible weapon of mass destruction, Tanner is essentially just a prop, and Q is powerless to effect a solution to the nanobot problem. Men don't fare well in this movie. Nomi, Paloma, and Moneypenny, on the other hand, are shown in a reasonably positive light. The movie ends with Swann and Mathilde surviving -- apparently not the worse for wear -- and inheriting at the very least Bond's car. To me, there's more subversion to the Bond character going on here that further calls back to moments in the previous Craig films. That we want so bad to apply the traditional Bond template to the character may be why it's so hard to see the possibility that this film is not a salute to Bond's heroism so much as other things.
After watching NTTD (& feeling like the last third was a Twilight Zone goof on me somehow), I watched SPECTRE to compare, and I had a pleasant enough time with it despite the cuckoo nonsense. Last night I watched Skyfall, and I was surprised how much I didn't hate it (until NTTD it was my least favourite Craig entry). In fact, it left me feeling nothing at all. And then it hit me- I've been desperately trying to like Craig's Bond for the last 13 years. Basically, everything after Quantum Of Solace has been, more or less, a hot mess for me. NTTD was like the final straw. There are too many other Bond movies I can just throw on & enjoy without reservation.
SPECTRE effectively finished Bond's career. He literally drove off into the sunset.
But they wanted Dan for another, and his stipulation was that no matter what story they concocted, his Bond must die in the end.
This was BOUND to be divisive, and it was BOUND to be a money-maker. When they killed M it set records, right?
So, instead of getting a new thing going with a new actor & new stories, they went for the bread. Easy money.
This is why they shouldn't have made this movie. It's wasting time & resources on a cash grab instead of furthering the legend of James Bond. And time is and has been a' wasting.
Yes, Craig-Bond's ramshackle "personal arc" was already finished by the end of Spectre. But the producers wanted Craig back and welcomed his demands, so it was time to extend the arc. The only other personal element they hadn't tried yet was giving Bond a kid, an idea kicked around for QoS and Spectre. Since they knew Bond was going to die they could give him a brat and not have to worry about it afterward, since Craig-Bond's death was an obvious reset button. The calculation behind the film is rather offputting.
For me, the personal developments in NTTD felt unneccesary, since they didn't reveal anything about Bond, who acted in the most generically heroic way. But in a sense, the sentimental end of NTTD does engage in "furthering the legend of James Bond," since it's so obviously a contrived heroic last stand. Unlike the brutal ending of OHMSS, which offers no emotional consolation, NTTD's is a feel-good weepie that tries for mythic resonance. Bond struggles through adversity to save the world yet again and stands tall as the missiles rain down, saying goodbye to the family he sacrificed himself for; Madeline drives off with that self-consciously mythic last line.
I have the feeling that if Fleming had lived on and decided to truly kill James Bond (rather than giving him a cliffhanger), he would produced something with more sting and quirkiness than NTTD's bland version.
On the second viewing, I noticed the artificial set up for the whole countdown, too. Saffin is having "buyers" come in for the nanobots. They're unidentified and apparently arriving by high speed boats or ships So, Bond has to call in the missile strike, ostensibly to destroy the lab and all traces. a few minutes before they get there.
Why didn't they just shoot the boats or ships?
If the argument is those could be ships from another government and not merely privately owned, the British are already trespassing in either Russian or Japanese waters and attacking an island that both nations may claim. The UK has no sovereignty there. They're already violating any numbers of international laws or agreements. And it's not like they can hide any of that, especially after launching a military action involving a secret incursion followed by a missile strike.
From a simple writing point of view, it's just dumb. And if they needed some excuse for Bond to be so quick on the trigger ("premature eradication"), why not just flip it -- it's not that ships are arriving, it's that Saffin is sending his out. They're loaded and ready to go. Or Saffin is going to launch missiles or whatever. It seems there are far more sensible ways to start the clock running. But it's like they decided Bond had to die in a rain of British missiles and then just spun a rickety plot wheel as to what the circumstances would be.
We now know Craig was pushing for a film in which Bond died as early as Casino Royale, so the CraigBond arc was not over at the end of SPECTRE: the actor had one more story in mind from the very beginning of his tenure. What would seem to complicate that is that Craig in real life decided to quit after his fourth film, leaving his own desired arc incomplete.
For folks who think this film did not somehow "earn" the character's death (sorry, I'm trying to remember some of the wording above, I think the word "earn" was used) can you suggest an alternate story culminating in his death that would be more satisfying?
Folks who believe the character should never die need not answer, as there can be no such story for them. But for those who say a death story could work, just not this story, can you suggest a preferable story?
I'm trying to think of stories in other media in which Bond died. Nothing official, but there's some unofficial stuff out there that comes close.
The "funny" version of Casino Royale of course. Actually that was official, just not EON. Quite different to the last scene of this new film, not just one but seven James Bonds go to Heaven.
Alan Moore's copyright-infringing version of the character did die in the last volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but that version was a vicious takedown of the character from his introduction, making Craig's version seem reverently traditionalist in comparison. I'll try to dig up the issue to see how it went down, but nobody here's going to like that one. I seem to recall the character who kills him then hums the Theme song.
I remember rumours of an unpublished novel a few years back and I think Bond's death is just about all we knew about it. After some discussion that turned out to be a bit of amateur fanfic nothing to do with an official product, more like an aspiring author trying to drum up publicity for himself. Anybody else remember what I'm on about? I swear I didn't dream it, it was topic of conversation here several years back.
One book most of you have never read is the Canadian public domain short story collection Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond. One of the better stories near the end is You Never Love Once, by Claude Lalumière. Bond doesn't die in this one, instead we see him at the age of 95, living in a Jamaican beachhouse satisfying Vivienne Michel's granddaughter(!), a little but alzheimer-y and paranoid bit still very dangerous looking, known to the locals only as The Commander and worshipped because local legend says he once killed a dragon there long long ago. I like that one, it supports the idea he is invincible (as I think many here would prefer) and draws together several elements of the mythology as established by Fleming.
By coincidence I am currently reading the final Modesty Blaise volume Cobra Trap, and shall report when done because it is relevant to this discussion. Sometimes authors do choose to kill off their own characters.
Hard to believe DC had any clout during the making of CR. Maybe afterwards for sure which might help to explain the decline from there on.
@caractacus potts The Cobra Trap short story is very very good.
yes I did read Cobra Trap once before, about a decade ago, though don't really remember it. Suddenly seems like a relevant thing to compare, and since I recently found a copy of the book, this is the time to read it!
Modesty Blaise related spoiler:
Modesty and Willie definitely die sacrificing themselves in a mission, they do not get the chance to live to 95. Thats why its a relevant comparison to this new film. Writer Peter O'Donnell did not want future creators using his characters, so he wrote one Final story
@ichaice Craig may not have had any more creative clout than Brosnan when he made his first film, but we now know he did suggest the idea of a Bond death scene way back then, I'm sure the article where he said so has been discussed elsewhere in ajb007. By SPECTRE he had some sort of co-producer credit and unprecedented creative control. Then they had to persuade Mr Slit-My-Wrists to come back for one more, so I gather this ending he had always wanted to do was his condition for returning.
by the way, I remember one quote where he said he'd quit before his films started to look like Austin Powers, then the film where he gets that co-producer credit repeats the Dr Evil reveal from Goldmember! so I'm not arguing that his creative control is a good thing, just that the death scene was indeed a story he himself wanted to tell long before they filmed SPECTRE's more satisfying ending.
EDIT: the news Craig himself suggested a death scene as early as Casino Royale is from the book The James Bond Archives: No Time To Die, see this post
There are many ways to make Bond's demise at the end more a heroic sacrifice than a satirical suicide. I posted one possibility elsewhere.
But whatever they might choose, the story needs to hit the ground running. It can't just lumber around with some sad bits here and there and at the end say, gotcha. That's just poor storytelling.
Consider movies where the seeds are planting throughout:
1) On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond saves Tracy at the beginning but only delays the inevitable, which is especially ironic because she dies when she's the most happy (a very Hemingway-esque demise). One can argue Bond is partially responsible for her death by saving her and getting her involved in his obsession to bring Blofeld to justice, but in actuality, Tracy chooses her own path when she searches for Bond and rescues him after his escape from Piz Gloria. Had she stayed put -- had she not been stubborn and determined as we've seen her with her own father -- she would not have been captured by Blofeld and later killed. Arguably, Bond wouldn't have escaped either, but we'll never know that. What we do know is that Tracy puts herself into harm's way for the best of reasons -- she loves Bond. This is what makes her death at the end even more tragic than it already is.
2) Von Ryan's Express. Frank Sinatra's downed American pilot is a loner and outcast, in part because he's an American and does not fit in and because, as a free thinker, he conflicts with authority. But he slowly starts to win the respect of the others. When the prison camp is attacked, the men naturally want to execute the Italian commander for his brutal crimes against them, but Von Ryan talks them out of it. His gesture of humanity is the right thing to do but at the wrong time. By letting the commander live, he puts them at risk, and indeed the man escapes, warns the Nazis, and costs the lives of many prisoners in their escape. At the end, Von Ryan is gunned down after helping make a final stand so the train can get away -- but of course he must be. His free-thinking -- even if on a moral plane makes him a hero -- directly leads to others being killed. Von Ryan must pay the price if there is justice is the universe. (Saving Private Ryan borrows some of this, with Captain Miller stopping the execution of a German prisoner, who like the Italian commander, betrays their mercy by heading straight back to the Nazi forces; at the end, he's the one who mortally wounds Miller.)
3) The Cowboys. John Wayne's gruff, aging rancher, Wil Andersen, is a proud man. When gold is found in the hills, he becomes desperate, so much that against his better judgment he decides to recruit boys to help him drive cattle for sale to a distant town. Along the way, Andersen rejects a group of young toughs his instincts tell him are trouble. But he does so in his proud way, insulting them. They later attack the camp, mortally wounding Andersen, whose refusal to capitulate results in the psychotic leader shooting him mercilessly. But if you watch the film carefully, it's also clear Andersen is drawing the villain's fire and anger away from the boys (he literally turns his back and walks away), who are indeed spared once the others have what they want. Andersen is buried in a patch of weeds the boys can't even find later when they return with a headstone, but before that, he inspires them to take justice on the gang.
4) The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Alec Leamas is by no means heroic. He's at best anti-heroic, but really, he's more pitiable. He knows the spy business is dirty and even gives dialogue speeches about it, yet his devotion to duty blinds him to his own ultimate fate as a cog in a big, meaningless machine. He has multiple opportunities to simply stop, but his desire to get Mundt, the man responsible for the killing of the agent Leamas is powerless to save at the beginning, drives him to trust the duplicitous British command one last, fatal time. After he implicates Fiedler as a traitor (falsely, the irony being Mundt is the double agent and Fielder is Leamas' devoted counterpart in East Germany) and gets his idealistic colleague killed, Leamas (and we) have no choice but to see his death as the only way out.
These four movies are united in both dispatching a main character but also preparing the audience for it in a natural, inescapable way. For the character to not die would seem to violate everything the story is driving at. NTTD does the opposite. It may steep the characters in sadness or tragedy, but the plot machinations are sloppy and underdeveloped, so Bond's end doesn't seem inevitable so much as arbitrary.
thanks @Gassy Man I'll read it properly later.
I know The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a very precisely engineered plot, Le Carre's most efficient story by far (his later books are bloated in comparison). The logic leading to the final scene is inevitable from the opening, yet that final scene still really hurts when it comes. Le Carre also plays careful tricks concealing certain information from the reader, and manipulating our need to trust the good guys.
Just caught up with NTTD here in Australia.
I think for me this Bond is the happy medium of all of Craig's iterations between the cheesyness of previous Bonds and a real world, relatable character we have known him for. There were quite a few quips and I felt he really loosened up the character quite a bit compared to the stout and determined "for Queen and country" Bond we've seen previously.
Through the journey of the movie, at the time of watching I thoroughly enjoyed it. I sat there thinking wow this could really be a CR or Skyfall contender for me but ultimately on reflection it feel a short.
On Bonds death, this is what has made me feel most disheartened by it all. It makes me feel like everything he went through, the pain and torment was all for nothing. Yes he saved the world and the people he loved but he didn't get to enjoy any of that himself.
I actually feel a little less enthusiastic about going back and watching the previous movies now, knowing it all amounts to nothing for him personally. It also makes me feel like I will be less invested in the next Bond, knowing now they could kill him off at any time. He is supposed to be invincible in a way, but the death does at least tie in to his vulnerability and that real world relatable character they created with him, he wasn't invincible and they showed that.
I'll watch it again in time but for now I'm in a bit of shock lol. Sad but true.
Though many will probably disagree as it's not Bond-like, my preferred ending would have been to see him retire out of the service with his family. Perhaps he could have come back for a cameo in the future...or not, but it would have been a nicer ending knowing he could still be out there ready to help save the world should it be needed.
I think someone said earlier on in this thread that these Craig era films were really his own take on his part in the franchise. The next Bond will also certainly not look the same as Daniel Craig or pretend to be him, so it will in essence be another reboot story line / iteration of the Bond character so they should easily be able to carry on the James Bond / 007 character.
Sorry quoted the wrong comment, I was replying to Jon_1UK