What No Time To Die means; Bond and the Anglo-Saxon warrior code. SPOILER

LightspellLightspell Posts: 4MI6 Agent
edited November 2021 in No Time To Die (Bond 25)

Gentlemen,

I have enjoyed reading many of the threads on ajb007 about "No Time To Die". I've written a detailed critique of the film. What might surprise you is that Bond's death makes sense. How? "No Time To Die" is a retelling of the myth of Beowulf.

"Bond is a particularly British paragon, a blend of Christianity with the Pagan warrior's code. Much of Bond's morality is pre-Christian. The Anglo-Saxons measured a fighting man by his adherence to honour won in battle, courage, loyalty, generosity, and they valued fair play and truth."

Building on some of the points raised by @thegreatgalling's perceptive review (https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/54249/spoilers-i-figured-out-why-some-of-us-hated-it-analytical-review);

"BOND WASN’T KILLED. HE KILLED HIMSELF." - This is true. And in my opinion it wasn't like Bond at all. Until one considers that under the Anglo-Saxon warrior code death in battle is the finest honour.

One can argue there is a Christian sub-text of sacrifice. That's true too. But the mythology of the warrior culture and its values predate widespread Christianity in England. Scholars agree that Beowulf was transcribed by Christians but the subject is Pagan and the core values are Anglo-Saxon Pagan. Bond in NTTD is Pagan Bond.

Beowulf dies. Bond dies.

"A HERO’S DEATH MUST HAVE PURPOSE" and "BOND’S DEATH LACKED MEANING"

If one goes back to Beowulf it becomes apparent that the purpose and meaning of the hero's death is honour and perpetuation through history. It has nothing to do with the Christian notion of behaving well so you get a good afterlife. The Pagan concept is present and practical. Death in battle is the finest way a warrior can cement his enduring reputation.

The Bond in NTTD is not modern mythology. He is Old English mythology in a modern guise. As such, Bond is the Anglo-Saxon warrior personified.

Have you ever wondered why Bond doesn't do forgiveness? That's because forgiveness is a Christian ideal. It has no part in a warrior society. Bond is never going to let Blofeld off. The Anglo-Saxon warrior code expects retaliation and blood feud. There's a whole vocabulary in Old English devoted to such matters.

Of course, there's much more to NTTD than Pagan Bond. If you're curious, the whole critique is at https://blog.lightspell.pro/lightspell-critique-no-time-to-die.html

I'm very interested to hear your views.

Carry on.

James

Comments

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent

    say thats pretty good!

    you cover a lot of ground, but I like the focus on Bond's anachronistic taste in the early paragraphs: his car gun and watch are all stuck in the 60s, and so is his boorish behaviour barging into Q's kitchen. After then analysing various other aspects of the film you get to the promised Saxon stuff. The character isnt really stuck in the 60s, but rather about 1200 years earlier than that!

    towards the end you say:

     As a metaphor for the British Empire, colonialism and, of representations of toxic masculinity, the problem for the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, is solved. Old Bond is extinguished.

    I've been hoping that with Craig out of the way, Bond26 can be a return to the escapism of the old good films. Are you thinking itll be just the opposite, that the next Bond will dump all remaining nostalgic aspects to somehow be relevant in the 21st century? How far can they go before the character is Bond in name only?


    one other bit that made me think:

    Your discussion of the villains' inevitable physical deformity is good fodder for debate. I get that its socially irresponsible if we take our cues from what we see in movies. I think its an old trope that goes back to silent films and comic strips, primarily visual mediums which did not have other ways to suggest how an individual turned evil and relied on visual shorthand. Fleming liked all that pulpy stuff, so he mixed it into his fantasy world, but he also would usually give us a chapter of backstory that would really explain how these characters got so evil, regardless of their appearance. The filmmakers on the other hand did not have that opportunity for detailed backstory and film is still a visual medium (espacially action films), though even then the cinematic villains are not usually so disfigured as Fleming's characters.

    Here for example are a couple of Dick Tracy villains. cartoonist Chester Gould did not have the option of a chapter of backstory, so used visual character design to efficiently suggest Evil.

    On one of the Universal Frankenstein dvds, there is a documentary on the rise of Universal horror that suggests the fascination with monstrous appearance in early cinema was actually a reaction to all the real life facial injuries visible on returning veterans from World War I: a collective response to real life horror that got reimagined in more harmless cinematic form, perhaps as a coping mechanism.

  • Gassy ManGassy Man USAPosts: 2,961MI6 Agent

    The physical “deformities” also grow out of Western European concepts of race and phrenology. Western Europeans spent enormous effort up through the middle 20th century to prove why they were superior to others, especially along racial lines. Phrenology, along with theories of eugenics, was an attempt to codify these racial beliefs, using Western European standards as the basis for physical and intellectual perfection. Anything that didn’t meet those standards is inferior and/or a threat, and that includes inferior “White” faces like Slavs, Greeks, and Italians. Standardized tests like the SAT were developed, in part, to show how inferior Whites and People of Color were inherently less intelligent, for instance. Fleming actually incorporates a lot of this thinking in his novels. His diatribes about Blacks and Asians, especially Koreans in Goldfinger, reflect exactly that thinking, as does his focus on “mixed blood” to explain his villains, like Blofeld and Dr. No. it’s all baked into the DNA of Bond and stories, and we still rely on phrenology today, even though its not called that. Among the many criticisms of Craig as Bond, for instance, is that he looks more Eastern than Western European, and the former are racially inferior in this type of thinking.

  • LightspellLightspell Posts: 4MI6 Agent

    @caractacus potts "I've been hoping that with Craig out of the way, Bond26 can be a return to the escapism of the old good films. Are you thinking itll be just the opposite, that the next Bond will dump all remaining nostalgic aspects to somehow be relevant in the 21st century? How far can they go before the character is Bond in name only?"

    By killing Bond I think the producers have been clever. Now they are free to move in any direction whether that's a homage to the books or a New Bond of the 21st century. Or both, I would imagine in separate movies.

    The issue of escapism is a good point. I felt "No Time To Die" in some way lacked the escapism of films past. I suppose that once the audience have suspended their disbelief a Bond film can take them on a long journey. Making Bond mortal spoiled the invincible super-hero. After all, he could have dropped down a chute and escaped in the submersible glider. 😁

    The point about silent films and comic strips is interesting. A backstory would work for one or two villains but for all of them? I think we've reached a point that "marking" all the villains like beasts is unacceptable.

    The coping mechanism re. disfigurement in war is an intriguing theory. But wasn't it in the nineteenth century that "freak shows" were paraded around the USA in circuses and the like? I think that a repugnant interest in people with deformity goes back a long way. It doesn't really do Homo sapiens credit.

    @Gassy Man "Western Europeans spent enormous effort up through the middle 20th century to prove why they were superior to others, especially along racial lines."

    These days the ideas of phrenology are laughable. Though I question whether the Western Europeans were spending enormous effort to prove superiority when the industrial revolution had provided a huge productivity and military advantage over most other nations. There's no need to prove superiority between countries if they are so mismatched. Perhaps a more plausible theory might concern competition effects within society where different groups vie for power?

    Fleming's own attitude towards race was deeply prejudiced. Given there were plenty of his academic and literary contemporaries who didn't hold the same racist ideas, I suspect his thinking was not based on rational thought. But Fleming never set out to prove himself an intellectual. His implied position was an assertion or protection of social position in British society. He was a snob with a racist attitude. Which is a pity.

    I read somewhere that Fleming suggested James Bond was in keeping with the legend of St.George and the Dragon. Have you heard anything similar?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 33,443Chief of Staff
    edited November 2021

    There's a 1967 book, "The Devil With James Bond!" by Ann S. Boyd with Bond as Saint George one of its main themes. It's been a long time since I last read it, but I think it has quotes from Fleming on that subject. It should be available to read online.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent

    Lightspell said

    I read somewhere that Fleming suggested James Bond was in keeping with the legend of St.George and the Dragon. Have you heard anything similar?

    I'm sure I have, either in an interview or article, but cant find such a quote right now.

    There is Dragon imagery both in Dr No and You Only Live Twice.

    In Goldfinger Bond actually thinks "This time it really was St George and the dragon. And St George had better get a move on and do something before the dragon hatched the little dragon's egg he was now nesting so confidently." So Bond himself seems self-aware he is acting out modern day myth!

    Its definitely a theme identified by critics and biographers. for example his friend and editor William Plomer said:

     My own summary view of them is that they are brilliant, romantic fairy-tales in which a dragon-slaying maiden-rescuing hero wins battle after battle against devilish forces of destruction, and yet is indestructible himself: an ancient kind of myth skillfully re-created in a modern idiom. (Ian Fleming Remembered, Encounter, January 1965)


  • Gassy ManGassy Man USAPosts: 2,961MI6 Agent

    Actually, phrenology is still with us. We just don't look at it as science anymore. But because western European concepts of beauty and all that they represent are interwoven into culture (as it was in phrenology) -- including how other races are "exotic" or villainous or often inferior if their physicality or beauty concepts clash -- it's simply part of the standards that get applied.

    Just look at this board and how much people argue about how Bond's height is critical or that Daniel Craig doesn't "look" like James Bond but a Russian or Eastern European, as though that connotes some sense of inferiority. (And before one gets into some silly argument that it's really about the comparison to the "traditional" image of Bond, take a moment to consider how much of that "traditional" image, too, is right out of phrenological thinking.) Much of what they're referring has the same tenets as phrenology, where height, skin color, physical features, and the size and shape of the skull determine a person's morality, character, intelligence, trustworthiness, and so forth. It's so baked into the cultural thinking, people just see it as the natural order of things.

  • Gala BrandGala Brand Posts: 1,166MI6 Agent

    Bond fits Jung's warrior archetype to a T (Jung had Ian Fleming, who was fluent in German, translate some of Jung's lectures).

    Bond's death should have been glorious and in the service of humanity. There should've been organ music swelling and women's voices wailing (as in Lord of The Rings) as Bond drags his broken body to open the blast doors and then Bond dying in a brilliant flash of light.

    This may sound over-the-top but if you're going to kill James Bond, you need to go big.

    Instead, we got a cup of weak tea.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 33,443Chief of Staff

    There is a long standing theory that Bond's looks are based on an idealised version of Fleming himself, and certainly there are some pointers in the books to back that up.

  • Gassy ManGassy Man USAPosts: 2,961MI6 Agent

    Absolutely with the book Bond, right? I don't know that they ever really captured that guy physically in the movies, though I imagine someone closer to Lazenby and Dalton based on the description than Connery, Moore, or Craig. It's the reference to Hoagy Carmichael that always throws things off for me. No actor playing Bond looks that much like him as described in the books. The American actor Scott Glenn comes closer to me in that regard.

    To be sure, though, Fleming and Carmichael share a lot of general physical similarity. Their long, thin faces are shaped the same, and they both have long heads and noses -- common features among western Europeans and, not coincidentally, traits that to a point phrenology treats well (too long and thin, however, becomes villainous, a la Dracula and Batman's The Joker). Carmichael had wider set eyes and straighter hair than Fleming, but otherwise they're very similar phenotypes.

    The phrenology thing is fascinating the more you study it and how much it influences what we see in popular culture. For instance, the long face and nose is associated with lions. Now, phrenologists basically felt that similarity to animals suggested lower development in people, especially if the animals were a lower form, like pigs and frogs. However, if someone is going to resemble an animal, some are better than others. So, the lion was one that was more complimentary -- a king or natural leader -- and if you look at the proportions, they match up with the long face/head/nose phenotype. Here's an actual drawing from 1871 used in phrenology, along with images of Fleming and Carmichael:


  • Gassy ManGassy Man USAPosts: 2,961MI6 Agent

    For reference, here's Scott Glenn.


  • 007Downunder007Downunder Hobart, Australia Posts: 355MI6 Agent

    Hi James very interesting. Can you recommend a good version(s) of Beowulf.From reviews I was thinking Seamus Heaney illustrated and Stephen Mitchell.But there are many versions available thanks Anthony

    Anthony
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,701MI6 Agent

    @Lightspell Thank you: a persuasive take on the Bond of NTTD as Pagan Bond, adhering to the Anglo-Saxon warrior code. I remember having been equally persuaded by Ann S. Boyd's textual study, mentioned by @Barbel , arguing that the Christian myth of St George and the Dragon influenced Fleming's writing. Your critique of NTTD is fair and your thoughts about possible ways forward for a cinematic Bond are interesting.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 50 years.
  • LightspellLightspell Posts: 4MI6 Agent

    @007Downunder - I have the 1963 edition of Beowulf by Burton Raffel, and the Beowulf translation by Seamus Heaney. I also took a look at the original text online but didn't get very far with a translation. I've read pieces of various other English translations, enough to say that they differ quite dramatically in quality, style, and veracity. Beowulf is part of the canon of English literature, some would say it is the foundational piece. Unsurprisingly we studied it at school (more than a few decades ago, I confess!)

    JJR Tolkien made a translation, completed in 1926, which was published in 2014. He also wrote a well received academic paper, "Beowulf, the Monsters and the Critics" which has influenced successive literary commentary. Given his expertise in Old English I would imagine his translation, while risking archaism, would be more close to the original in meaning than Heaney's rhythmic version and well worth a read.

    It is a sign of Beowulf's central importance within Anglo-Saxon culture, and in countries across Europe, that since 1787 there have been more than six hundred and eight-eight translations and adaptations. In contemporary times the story has been retold in multiple forms. In the past fifty years writers such as Neil Gaiman, who wrote numerous treatments including a screenplay and a graphic novel, have re-imagined the story of Beowulf. DC comics picked it up in 1975. There have been multiple cinematic, operatic, and theatrical presentations. All of which doesn't begin to include the horde of writers who have raided Beowulf to pillage thematic treasure for their own works including word-warriors Purvis and Wade for their - was it unintentional? - allegory, "No Time To Die."

    If I may mix linguistic metaphor, Beowulf is the foundational myth in excelsis.


    _ _

    References

    Tolkien, J.R.R. (2006). The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. Edited by Christopher Tolkien. HarperCollins, London, p. 256, ISBN 0-261-10263-X.

    Tolkien, J.R.R. (2014). Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary together with Sellic Spell, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 448, ISBN 978-0-544-44278-8.

    Beowulf's Afterlives Bibliographic Database. Retrieved 3 January 2022. http://beowulf.dh.tamu.edu/

  • LightspellLightspell Posts: 4MI6 Agent

    @Shady Tree Thank you for your comment. I haven't read Ann S. Boyd's book yet. It's time I did.

    For the future, there's immense flexibility to adapt and update the Bond formula. EON Productions have literally mastered their job. In almost every aspect the Bond movies are slick, high quality productions. Where they have difficulty is in the storyline. I wonder if EON are ready to take on a new writer who can blend Bond with modernity?

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,701MI6 Agent
    edited January 4

    @Lightspell I'd agree that the writing for Bond in the cinema needs refreshment. For many years Richard Maibaum earthed the writing while others working in tandem with him, such as Tom Mankiewicz and Michael G. Wilson, added value and wit. It's probably time for Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to step aside and for a new writer or writing team to reconnect Bond with the structural roots of the classic formula, generate contemporary relevance, reflect modern sensibilities and - crucially - manage to do all that without cranking out clunky soap-ish arcs across a series of films.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 50 years.
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