Warning: Spoilers Throughout
You and I are the same age James (at least your movie incarnation) both being born in the black and white world of 1962. That you—or at least a very specific iteration of you—died so early seems inevitable. That I lived to see it is just disappointing
Spectre is an unintentionally apt title for this film James, since you are now a ghost of what you once were—and a pitiful, declawed ghost at that. The brutish, unmannered pig we were introduced to in Casino Royale has evolved into a character that is close to indistinguishable from some overwrought Roger Moore/Pierce Brosnan hybrid. Sans the invisible car, thankfully. Although we do get the front half of a plane skiing down a hill.
There were hints of this in Skyfall—intimations of a return to the smarmy, ludicrously heightened Bond. The old Aston Martin, the return of a male M, Moneypenny back in the office. I had hoped those moments were just a bit of fan service, a bump in the road before we got back to what makes your character so compelling: the fact that you are a blunt instrument of realpolitik; the ugly, twisted tip of the spear.
Instead, in this new installment, over the course of one hundred and forty eight minutes, you are utterly de-balled. The film begins well enough, with an effectively tense and well-choreographed opening sequence. Superb really. But at the very end of that sequence something occurred that made me cringe—and that small moment made it clear that Bond was back. But it was the small b-Bond, with the dad jokes and the annoying visual gags, not the Bond that you actually believed might be worthy of a double O designation.
And here’s the thing: the world has moved on. The character you were initially modeled on was repugnant. Ian Fleming’s Bond was a racist homophobe who couldn’t comprehend the term cultural sensitivity, let alone practice it. He was the epitome of a kind of colonialism that was, and is, completely toxic. The fact that the filmmakers choose to move you along with the world may have been expedient, but it destroyed the very thing that made you such a durable and interesting character.
That Bond was also someone who would much rather die than evolve. He smoked seventy cigarettes a day and drank like a fish. Jittery and bleak-minded he epitomized a life that absolutely precluded dying old and in bed. He was a spy with a license to kill, and he enjoyed the shit out of that prerogative.
That Bond was a nasty dinosaur, a man literally out of time, and by far the most interesting incarnation by any standard. The man who, bare-handed, beat another man to death in Casino Royale—in black and white no less—has now given way to a man who throws his weapon of choice aside in order to ride off into the sunset with his girlfriend.
For you to exist in any meaningful way James, you have to contrast with your environment—you have to be the antithesis of a chameleon. For you, to adapt is to die. And if you continue down this road, it will be a slow, undignified expiration.
A Spectre of your former self indeed.