It’s amazing the avenues that technology can unlock. I got involved in a podcast at work, and loved it so much that I bought my own microphone.
Needless to say, I apparently love the sound of my own voice, so when Chris McPhail, one of my illustrious school friends, suggested we unleash the beast of critical evaluation together in front of the microphone… How could I resist? Close, But No Biscuit was born.
(Transcript is included in the blog post.)
I find podcasting interesting because it seems like you’re basically listening to other people having pub conversations… so why not just grab some mates and have your own? On the other hand, I’m a shameless self-publicist — so if people are willing to listen, then who am I to disappoint them? People listen to radio DJs all day as it is, and at least we’re having a meaningful discussion about Art and not random celebrity gossip.
We have of course chosen to begin with a subject that’s been close to our hearts all our lives and consistently pouring rage into our bellies for the last few years — the James Bond franchise. Children of the Brosnan era, we have certain expectations of what makes “a Bond film” that have been… shall we say, somewhat dulled in recent outings.
So we gathered in Chris’ front room with my microphone and a few too many beers (at least on my part), and began to tell it like it is…
Announcer: CLOSE, BUT NO BISCUIT
Chris: The audio-video podcast that looks at films, books, music and video games that we dearly love–
Rao Dao Zao: I was going to say; video games that we dearly love, and things that we dearly, dearly hate.
Chris: Today we are looking at the James Bond franchise, my name is Chris McPhail and I am joined by the always insightful yet eternally enigmatic Rao Dao Zao.
Chris: Tick, introduction done! Are you feeling in a spying mood? Are you excited for the espionage?
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, I am excited. I love a good conspiracy thriller and…
Chris: Which is not really what this franchise delivers very often, but…
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, it used to.
Chris: It used to.
Rao Dao Zao: A long time ago.
Chris: Okay. The James Bond 007 series focuses on a fictional British secret service agent who was created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming. The character featured in 12 novels and 2 short-story collections by the author and quickly became a GLOBAL ICON. The character has been adapted for television, radio, comic strips, video games and film — which is what we’re talking about today.
Rao Dao Zao: Wait, he’s been in comic books?
Chris: He’s been in comic books!
Rao Dao Zao: Ew.
Chris: I think the Daily Mail actually had a serial strip.
Rao Dao Zao: And television?
Chris: Yeah, do you not remember James Bond Jr., that terrible cartoon that was around when we were growing up?
Rao Dao Zao: No, I don’t remember that, and it’s probably a good thing.
Chris: It is a very good thing… although it did incorporate ideas that, compared to some of the modern bond films, were actually quite good. Ahem. The films are the longest-running and third-highest grossing movies in cinema history–
Rao Dao Zao: Third-highest grossing in history? Really?!
Chris: They are only behind, believe it or not, Harry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are the only two series that have trumped it.
Rao Dao Zao: So even, like, Avatar didn’t just beat it into a pulp in one in one film?
Chris: No, it didn’t.
Rao Dao Zao: Right.
Chris: As of 2016, there have been 24 of these fucking things, and there have been six actors that have portrayed the role. Sean Connery–
Sean Connery: Yesh!
Chris: George Lazenby, Roger Moore–
Rao Dao Zao: You can’t see my raised eyebrow.
Chris: Timothy Dalton and Danny Craig… Oh, and Pierce Brosnan as well.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, you forgot the best bond of all!
Chris: Yeah, but I left him ’til last because he’s better than the others.
Rao Dao Zao: He’s our generation’s Bond so we’re rooting for him.
Chris: Exactly, we really are.
Rao Dao Zao: Check it, Brosno.
Chris: The Bond films are renowned for a number of features, including their musical accompaniment, Bond’s cars, his guns, and the gadgets with which he is supplied by Q Branch. The series has proven itself to be consistently profitable but not always creatively fulfilling, hence why is is close… but no biscuit!
Rao Dao Zao: Ah, this is a fucking goldmine, I love it already.
Chris: I thought that was the most gently put…
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s not so much “close but no biscuit” as a succession of bungie-runs to try and get biscuits, and there are so many times where it just doesn’t quite get the biscuits. A couple of times it gets the biscuits, a couple other times it barely gets off the starting run. In hindsight, they’re quite variable.
Chris: Before we turn the cannons of criticism towards this franchise, I just want to be clear that I do actually love it very dearly, and there are a few films that got it fucking right. So, what I want you now to do, is to give me, what are your thoughts — do you like the franchise, do you love the franchise?
Rao Dao Zao: I like the idea of Bond, I love a good conspiracy thriller, I love volcano bases…
Chris: First of all, is Bond a conspiracy thriller?
Rao Dao Zao: Evil people plotting to take over the world form the shadows using technology and shit to do stuff.
Chris: Yeah, okay, it is a conspiracy thriller.
Rao Dao Zao: ’cause that’s the thing, like, Blofeld and his volcano base is secret, it’s hidden. The media guy and his stealth ship, it’s hidden. He’s trying to control events without actually making himself obviously controlling events. So, you know, conspiracies, it’s governments and secret people and media moguls and all these people.
Chris: Conspiracy, espionage, thriller. There are other films that have those elements, so what is the particular draw of Bond to bring you in? Be honest.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, I don’t know, we go back to things like Goldeneye, where it is just that sort of blend of… I love the term “swashbuckler”, but Bond does not generally use a sword so he’s not much for swashbuckling… except in… Die Another Day is it?
Chris: Yeah, there’s a fencing scene in that.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, with Madonna.
Chris: There must be a few with some sword fighting going on…
Rao Dao Zao: Not that I can remember. Yeah, but in that sense, there’s a lot of sneaking around and, you know, having exciting gun fights and exciting action and then…
Chris: But what about the aesthetics of Bond? So you’ve got the gun barrel, that’s the first thing you see. I don’t think something as striking as that would get made today.
Rao Dao Zao: I think, in terms of classic Bond, it’s the willingness to put what is basically camp sci-fi into the modern day, and it’s what the Daniel Craig Bond has refused to do.
Chris: We’ll come onto that.
Rao Dao Zao: Which we’ll come onto. Yeah, having a volcano base — it’s not a lake, it’s a flat sheet of metal, and having a crazy secret base inside, having a ship that swallows submarines, or laser satellites and stuff — it’s crazy.
Chris: So what we’re saying is, the appeal is maybe, not to say “camp sci-fi”, but we’ll use the term… “big”. It’s big and theatrical, it’s over the top.
Rao Dao Zao: It’s bombastic.
Chris: From the gun barrel, the opening title sequences…
Rao Dao Zao: The gadgetry as well, the gadgetry is slightly ridiculous, but in a sort of… it’s not “nudge nudge, wink wink, har har this is hilarious”, but it slightly over the top. Again, all the contemporary spy films, they come back to being very down to earth, very gritty and serious, all “ohh, this is the real world, man, yeah”. But it’s like, no, actually, fuck the real world, we live in it already, can we have something that’s a little bit… just… funny and cool and good.
Chris: Because it’s escapist fantasy.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, it’s power fantasy.
Chris: ’cause I think that’s the thing, where it’s not really trying to represent espionage in reality, it’s a heightened world. If you go back to the books, it’s his interpretation, his world-view seen through his eyes. Moneypenny’s a really good example of it, where, whenever Moneypenny’s discussed in the books, it’s Bond’s view of her. So you’re not getting an independent third-person “Moneypenny is wearing this dress because blah”, it’s Bond thinks “oh, she must be wearing that dress because this”. ’cause the books, although they’re not written in the first person, they kind of are, because it’s third-person but all the opinions and character formulations that occur are Bond’s view. So M is never independently discussed; who M is, it’s Bond’s view of M. So you take that to cinema, basically, the movies are actually James Bond the character’s fantasy put to film.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, I guess the ridiculous technology would be explained if it is actually just Bond going crazy. It’s like “Yeah, and I did this and there was this and there was a nuclear missile and satellites being eaten by other rockets whooaaa.” It’s like “It’s not real Bond, shut up Bond, you’re a drunkard in a bar washed up somewhere.”
Chris: Yeah, that’s always how I interpreted, when I read the books that’s kinda how I got it. I was like, although this is written in the third person, this is clearly written–
Rao Dao Zao: As Bond.
Chris: Like he’s telling this version of events.
Rao Dao Zao: I don’t really care about Bond as a character, I care about him as vessel by which conspiracies are thwarted.
Chris: It’s interesting that you use the term “vessel”, I completely agree with that. It’s interesting that whenever it’s tried to over-analyse the character it’s normally not worked.
Rao Dao Zao: It starts to fall apart.
Chris: This is the thing, I use a comparison between Bond and Batman. The writers of Batman understand that that character is a one-note character, and if you spend all your time focusing on him, it doesn’t really work. And the reason why his rogue’s gallery is so big, large and creative and cool, is because we have to, to make this guy interesting, we have to have him going up against interesting people.
Rao Dao Zao: He has to have villains, yeah.
Chris: And I think that the Bond franchise, until recently, was doing quite a cool job of coming up with these people to go against. Basically, he is a blunt instrument, and therefore you put that blunt instrument up against the impossible enemy, the creative enemy, the larger-than-life enemy, that’s the key to it. Also, the reason why I agree with liking Brosnan’s Bond, is that you kind of get the sense that every Bond, apart from Daniel Craig’s Bond, is actually maybe quite enjoying being James Bond.
Rao Dao Zao: When you have main character, consciously hating his entire existence… It’s like, this is an escapist power fantasy, and he’s sitting going “I fucking hate this escapist power fantasy”, it’s like, well, get the fuck out the film then. You’ve written a script… or you’ve put two scripts together that don’t match. You can have your introspective spy who hates life and hates the world and the way it is, but, we’re not watching– or, I’m not watching Bond for that, and… the box-office takings for Skyfall and all the rest of it have been immense, so I’m possibly the one who’s wrong here, but that’s… to me, I never went to Bond for introspection.
Chris: So, is that where it’s gone wrong?
Sean Connery: Yesh!
Rao Dao Zao: Stop changing what other people have already interpreted and just make your own thing. If I want to write a superspy novel, I don’t want to write Bond fanfiction basically, I want to write my own superspy novel which will have my own stuff, and maybe it’ll be heavily influenced by Bond because I grew up with it and enjoyed many bits of it, but the value of new art comes in the recombination of these different ideas… Instead of taking Bond and then sort of mutating it to not be Bond anymore, actually, just go and make your new character who can be a new thing and do his own thing and have elements of Bond but not be “Bond done differently”. You know, so you don’t get that confusion of which one is the official canon, which one is the truth, there is no truth.
Chris: Does it fundamentally not work, just, it’s a spy movie that has that name on it, but it has deviated so far away from the 50s source material that they might be better off now just developing a new British spy franchise.
Rao Dao Zao: The thing is, certainly there’s a sharp difference between the Brosnan Bond and the Craig Bond. If you take it superficially, Dr. No is like… There’s a guy with robot hands and nuke silo, it’s campy sci-fi. And then you go to the final Brosnan film, and there’s a laser satellite and a guy with diamonds in his face, and again, it’s still campy sci-fi. Superficially, it’s got all the same building blocks. And then you go to Daniel Craig, and it’s all gritty and serious and he’s punching people in bathrooms and it’s oaarrr and it’s all introspection and grrrr-rrrr-rrr I’m The Batman. And it’s like, fuck that bullshit, that’s not… So, the Cold War, we left the Cold War behind, but we replaced it with the fear of the media, or rogue Russian states just stealing nukes anyway, and that kind of stuff… And we could replace that with Islamist terrorists, for example, to make it totally topical. We still have these fears of people in the world doing bad things on a grand scale to change the world to shape their own feelings and needs. Those fears still exist, even though the Cold War, whatever that was, has ended, that kind of Bond can still work — but instead they’ve changed it, they’ve pulled it into Bond himself, and then we’re like, well, Bond is boring, I don’t care about Bond, I care about him as a tool, as a rollercoaster cart.
Chris: You’ve turned the camera away from the world, and away from the enemies there, and by turning it towards the character of Bond himself, that’s the fall-down. It’s close… but no biscuit. And actually, the more we’re talking, the further away from the biscuits the franchise seems to be getting.
Rao Dao Zao: As I said, the franchise is on a bungie-run, and the biscuits are just there. Sometimes it reaches them, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it just falls over and just smacks its face against the bouncy castle and… shit happens.
Chris: Has the Daniel Craig– has it ever got he biscuits? Because the first film we’re going to talk about is Casino Royale, and even the most staunch Craig critic might concede that that does function quite well as a sort-of beginning-middle-and-end Bond film… ish. Is it near the biscuit?
Rao Dao Zao: I think it probably is, I saw Casino Royale at the cinema and I remember enjoying it. I’ve not seen it since. From that perspective, it must have got pretty close to the biscuit, if it didn’t get the biscuits.
Chris: Okay, in the sense that, if it had gotten the biscuit, you’d be sat here going “I own that on DVD”.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, you and I, we watched Goldeneye… Not recently-recently, but some time in the past, and without the aid of rose-tinted spectacles, we were actually like “this is actually a really fucking good film”, so I think Goldeneye got the biscuits.
Chris: Goldeneye to me, is still the best Bond film.
Rao Dao Zao: They were ridiculous overblown campy sci-fis, they went off some rails but not others, they still had… Everyone says the invisibility car stuff is stupid, but it’s a Bond gadget though, and having a car chase on the ice with the car guns and stuff… It’s like, that’s still… the Brosnan Bond there’s always that kind of twist. In Goldeneye, it’s not a car chase, it’s a tank chase. And then in Tomorrow Never Dies, it’s not a car chase, it’s him the backseat of a remote-control car chase, so there’s always that little extra addition. Whereas, other Bonds perhaps didn’t do… they might have gone more and more ridiculous stunts, but they never quite twisted them in that kind of… “actually, that’s quite clever”. You don’t notice it when you’re watching, you’re just like “ahaha, it’s Bond’s car chase”, but no, it’s a car chase… where he’s in the back seat of the car and it’s like “ahh, ahhhhhhh”.
Chris: So you’d say, to contrast, that every car chase Daniel Craig was involved in was just… a car chase. Again, for all the stupidity of some of the Brosnan aspects, at least it’s consistent stupidity.
Rao Dao Zao: And he’s always got a smile on his face, and a wink, he’s always got a spring in his step, he’s never sitting in the corner going “I hate my life and I’m a terrible spy”, he’s always going “eaaaaah, whatever”.
Chris: What I was saying earlier on about the gadgetry, though, is that it actually does follow logically, there is a progression to it.
Rao Dao Zao: So it depends on, I guess, how much sci-fi you’re in to. To do invisibility in that way, a million infinitessimally tiny cameras on each side of the car, and projectors, that’s slightly ridiculous… But it’s like having smart blood in SPECTRE, that’s a step too far, becase… We’ve invented nanotechnology just out of nowhere?
Chris: It was very selective, like, this technology has advanced to this level, but we’re only going to give you a gun and radio here. There’s that line, to come back to Goldeneye as well, because there’s that one line where Q has a dig at the exploding pen, and he says “What were you expecting, an exploding pen?” And clearly it’s having a pop at the best Bond movie ever made.
Rao Dao Zao: Actually, a really good gadget brilliantly deployed, perfectly, cinematically, narratively beautiful.
Chris: I will go to my grave and I will say this now — the exploding pen scene in Goldeneye is better than any scene in any Daniel Craig Bond movie. Of all the things to take a shot at…
Rao Dao Zao: The best Bond gadgets, Q hands them over and he says, it’s got this weird function, and we’re like, when’s he going to use that? You think, okay, an exploding pen, he’s going to sneak some explosives into somewhere and he’s gonna blow up a wall to get through something and it’ll be fine. But then, the activation mechanism comes into it, and that’s the extra dimension, the extra mile, that he’s gone — and it’s like, actually, that’s fucking genius.
Chris: There’s the thing in that art gallery scene, where he gets the pen gag and everything else, but the whole point of that is to say “we don’t go in for those over-the-top gadgets anymore”, but in the very same movie, we have an ejector seat and guns in the car… So, you can’t have your cake and eat it, you have to either say… and the same thing with the smart blood — it has to be, either you’re saying we’re going oldschool and doing this, or…
Rao Dao Zao: Or we’re going super high tech. Yeah, one film ago, he had a radio transmitter the size of his thumb, and then he’s got smart blood which is nanotechnology. Whereas the invisible car, we had a giant laser satellite, robot arms controlling the satellite towards the end, and all kinds of rockets and fuckin’ insanse stuff.
Chris: There was virtual reality in that, it’s so over the top.
Rao Dao Zao: This is where it comes back to my theory that Bond is actually, actually at its core, it’s campy sci-fi. Dr. No is a guy with robot hands and a nuke silo, and there’s Blofeld with his rocket that eats satellites, and his volcano base… This is not down-to-earth espionage, this is not gritty back rooms deciphering Russian signals, this is fucking proper out-there sci-fi.
Chris: Yeah, I think Goldeneye, the reason why that works so well, because that film wasn’t necessarily written for Brosnan, the original draft still had Dalton’s Bond in mind, and License to Kill had sort of established that more serious edge, and I think that Goldeneye is the perfect balance between… it’s doing the camp sci-fi, like “it’s a big radio dish under a lake”, but it’s doing it with enough straight face that it gets away with it, and therefore…
Rao Dao Zao: The counterpoint, the thing about the radio dish under the lake, it is actually an actual satellite dish, that is actually real.
Chris: But the fact that it’s the big evil lair, is what I’m trying to get at.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, the reveal of having it pretending to be a lake and then draining away, yeah.
Chris: Adding that little spin that makes it Bond, because just having a big aerial dish is… not Bond. But a big aerial dish that comes out of a lake, that is fucking Bond, it gives you that extra dimension to it.
Rao Dao Zao: It’s hidden, it’s secret, it’s about spies, about conspiracies.
Chris: But big, large.
Rao Dao Zao: Giant conspiracies.
Chris: So we come onto Casino Royale, ’cause I think we’ve come round to this point quite well, Casino Royale went in completely the opposite direction.
Rao Dao Zao: So my impression of Casino Royale was that, they totally cut away all previous continuity, any suggestion of continuity was just gone. This is Bond, starting afresh, and… no gadgetry at all.
Chris: Well, there was–
Rao Dao Zao: There was the defibrilator in his car.
Chris: And there was a tracker in the arm, which they discarded in the other Bond films. They came back, with the smart blood in SPECTRE.
Rao Dao Zao: That’s really shit then. So in Casio Royale we have a tiny transmitter in his blood, then we’ve got a transmitter the size of his thumb, then we’ve got… smart blood. And then… Smart blood. Smart blood, smart blood, smart blood.
Chris: Smart blood, but… no other technology that would match.
Rao Dao Zao: That’s the thing, if you invent nanotechnology, you don’t stop at fucking smart blood. That’s my sci-fi hat coming on. Well, they had a couple of sops, where, “oh a gun that only he can shoot, we’ve not d– we’ve done that before in previous Bond films”, you’d have that by standard on every gun by now.
Chris: That annoyed me in SPECTRE, they dropped it, it was like, that must be standard-issue by now.
Rao Dao Zao: Because that would be really fucking useful.
Chris: In Casino Royale, if you’ve established the agents have implanted trackers… the frustration factor for me that comes in with the Craig films, is they made the choice to have direct continuity. Quantum of Solace starts 20 minutes after Casino Royale, so therefore, if that is established, then you’ve made your fucking framework–
Rao Dao Zao: Follow through, yeah.
Chris: So therefore, the palmprint gun, every double-oh now has that. If you’re making the thing where your films are following on directly, you’ve made your fucking choice.
Rao Dao Zao: The lack of continuity is really irritating, yeah, they’ve chose to be continuous and then not followed through and that’s… Each one had a different writer, I think, so they’ve not even tried.
Chris: They’ve had different directors.
Rao Dao Zao: But a director should still be able to direct– like, the scripts should still be contiguous, if the direction style changes a little bit, the script should still be consistent.
Chris: To be fair to Quantum of Solace, the main problem it has is the direction style is so jarringly different to Casino Royale. If you’re now making a choice to have continuity in your narrative, which you are now because you’re saying these films are back to back, then you should also have continuity in your style. If you’re saying to me, the car chase at the beginning of Quantum of Solace takes place 20 minutes after Casino Royale, then that car chase has to look like a car chase would in Casino Royale.
Rao Dao Zao: When I first saw Quantum of Solace, I didn’t get that it was 20 minutes after Casino Royale. I just thought, it was a really awkward, very…
Chris: Fast cut.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, it was too fast, it was too close, too juddery, it was just like, “okay, we’re starting in a really close-in car chase”.
Chris: I’ve actually watched that movie three times now, I watched it once in the cinema, once when it first came out on DVD and I watched again before we did this, and there is such a thing as what they call “over-editing”, where basically if you’ve been editing something for so long, your eye adjusts to it, so therefore you start editing too quick, and there’s no excuse for it. Like, three views and it’s still incomprehensible what’s going on.
Rao Dao Zao: You know, I would say actually, with my computer game stuff, I have noticed the need for breathing space, throwing them straight into the action is a bad thing, or it can be, in certain circumstances, doing it sparing, you can do it a few times, but doing it all the time–
Chris: Doing it with no establishing shot–
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, but ending every cinematic ending straight in a battle, like, woah, no, you need to give them ten seconds, twenty seconds, to just be like, yeah, here, now the battle is coming, and now here’s the battle, don’t just go straight into it… So breathing space, yeah, so fast editing is not… you shouldn’t start a film with fast editing, I think that’s… you can build to it… maybe.
Addendum: I became slightly incoherent here, so for clarity… I was referring specifically to my map The Oasis (which, much as I have never seen Batman, Chris has never played), which uses a single location with a quick-fire sequence of events to deliver a short, sharp scenario. It is, of course, a bit too tight, with pretty much every main quest cinematic ending in the middle of a conflict. Rather than give you time to put your hands back on the keyboard and get your bearings after an introduction, battles just start. Players, like film audiences, hell, like normal human beings, need a few moments to collect themselves before being thrown into the action. He’s right with the over-editing though — I should have noticed this during development and testing…
Chris: I think that, especially, with no establishing shot. The opening shot is flying across water, and it’s not clear where you are, then you slam cut into a tunnel, and you slam cut into a tunnel inside a car, and you’re then cutting close-ups of Daniel, so you get “that’s Daniel Craig, I think”, and then wham! You’re a thousand miles an hour. Whereas, if they’d opened it with a very similar shot towards the end of Casino Royale with that building where he shoots that guy in the leg and comes out going “the name’s Bond, James Bond” — oh, we know where we are now, we’re in the same location that that location ended with, and then you start to go into it. Whereas you just go BAM! and they can’t get their bearings, so it’s just noise.
Rao Dao Zao: I suppose though, I guess that was ultimately a misstep because no-one every espected Bond films to be so closely continuous, and it wasn’t called Casino Royale 2, it was called Quantum of Solace, and we were like, okay, it’s the next Bond film, and we weren’t– so nobody was expecting it to be continuous, so to then not even help people realise that, oh wait, I need to remember– it’s the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe thing, isn’t it? Everything is a callback to something else and now there’s like five million films, you’re like, which ones have I seen and not seen, do I even care anymore, it’s too continuous.
Chris: If you’re making a scripting decision to have continuity of story, you have to have continuity of presentation. It has to be… As in, Captain America films look like Captain America films, Thor films look like Thor films, even though they’re probably written and directed by different people. But there is somewhere, someone at the top of that pile going “no, no, it looks like this“. To make a decision where you’re going to have this narrative continuation with a totally different visual style, and inconsistencies between the narrative, it doesn’t work. Quantum of Solace was overdirected to such a degree that it looked like this was not the same character, almost.
Rao Dao Zao: And that comes back to the Brosnan versus Craig juxtaposition, is that they weren’t set in the same universe, they weren’t directed in the same style, written in the same style. If you put the dying days of Brosnan versus the early days of Craig, you wouldn’t say “those are both James Bond films”. They are not… Whereas, if you put Dr. No against Goldeneye, you’d probably be like, superficially, there are recognisable elements that makes these two things the same, but not the same.
Chris: Casino Royale, I think, you maybe could, but Quantum of Solace you definitely couldn’t. If you put Quantum of Solace next to any other Bond movie, you would go oh, Sean Connery, that’s a Bond movie, Dalton, Brosnan, even Roger Moore, even George Lazenby, that’s a Bond movie. Quantum of Solace, that’s simply not a Bond movie.
Rao Dao Zao: I think the Bond villains, they’re going to start nuclear wars, they’re going to steal all the money in the universe, and then… Quantum of Solace, what are they going to steal? Water.
Chris: The stakes, I think, in the Craig films it’s fair to say, are never overtly clear what they are, first of all, and secondly, there’s never an urgency to resolve the situation, and thirdly, the stakes are actually never really that high. SPECTRE’s the only one that kind of gets up there, where it feels like actually, something is happening that may have a worldwide effect. But even then it’s not really that bad.
Rao Dao Zao: I think actually, ultimately the scripts are very muddy, but they’re trying to be oblique, or… It comes back to the introspection thing, they’re trying to be so introspective, but you can’t have introspection without a framing narrative that is still coherent, and they’re forgetting that… They’re just naw, if we focus on Bond being a broken human being, that makes a good film. But yes, but, why, what’s happening around him, why are we even bothering with this?
Chris: Why is this guy the one guy that can fix, what is the problem and why can he fix it? As opposed to being, we don’t even know what the problem is, but man, this guy is really broken. Well that just means, everything’s broken.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, we’re all fucked.
Chris: To me, the philosophy of Bond writing is that, really within 15 minutes, the audience should know what’s at stake and who is the guy that’s going to solve the problem… Tomorrow Never Dies, within the first 20 minutes of Tomorrow Never Dies, we understand the premise is that the British and Chinese navies are going to start World War 3 and one guy says, “you’ve got 48 hours to investigate”, so we know what’s at stake, how long we have, and you have your ticking timebomb situation. Bond is deployed as the only guy that can fix the situation because he’s the best we have and off we go. And that’s within 20 minutes!
Rao Dao Zao: And now we have to know, how’s he gonna do it, how’s he gonna do it?!
Chris: It’s grabbed you, you’re invested, and you’re there. Whereas, at no point in any of the Daniel Craig movies can you say that, because everything, it’s him going along to find out what’s going on — because nobody actually really knows what is going on.
Rao Dao Zao: Yeah, nobody even has the vagues idea–
Chris: Until we get to SPECTRE, and even then it’s the tail fucking end of SPECTRE, before we actually even get to the point of a coherent villain.
Rao Dao Zao: And then when it turns out, it’s shit…
Chris: It’s not even a good ending. So you’re watching these films, when I watch the Daniel Craig movies, it feels like they’re washing over me, it doesn’t feel like that at any point it’s told me, why should the audience care about what is going on. “Aw, but he’s having a really hard time being a spy!” But why do I care? Why do I give a shit?
Rao Dao Zao: I don’t like him.
Chris: If he’s having a hard time being a spy, but he has to do it save my life and rest of the planet, then I might give a shit. But if you’re saying he’s got to do this because some guy might get some money, or MI6’ll get hacked… I mean, they’re okay but they’re not grabbing the audiences, saying this is raelly important, this is nuclear war level shit we’re dealing with.
Rao Dao Zao: The literati talk about films that are all very character driven, looking down on the generic action film, where there’s no depth at all, and it’s like… these two things should not be mutually exclusive, we can have a bit of depth along with…
Rao Dao Zao: We can have our massive explosion scenes and our romance subplot and our gritty character action, but the scriptwriters of today seem to concentrate on one or the other. We can have introspective deep Bond but we can’t have any of the other cool… Like, we can totally have all the explosions as well, if you do it right.
Chris: Where that started from, Batman Begins I think is, I don’t want to say “blamed” for this, but is the start point of where this began to happen.
Rao Dao Zao: The grimdark franchise reboot.
Chris: The thing about is, I don’t think that’s even technically true. Because, Batman Begins, the premise of that movie was not to make it darker or to suck the fun out of it, all it was doing was saying, let’s try and look at Batman in a way where we can make it more believable, or realistic for the contemporary audience. All the Batman tropes, still in place, everything is there.
Rao Dao Zao: I’m The Batman.
Chris: Batmobile, batcave, batarang. If you’re a Batman fan, everything is there. It didn’t do the thing which it kind of gets accused of doing, which is going darker, darker, gotta get the series dark, and it didn’t really. Whereas the Daniel Craig Bond films are like, we have to go so dark, and so serious, that we’re actually now–
Rao Dao Zao: Forgetting to have a fucking narrative.
Chris: Forgetting that we’re James Bond, and it seems like Quantum of Solace does it, it tacks on the gun barrel at the end, just to remined you actually did watch a Bond movie.
Rao Dao Zao: Which again comes back to the point, that if you want to tell a story about an introspective spy who hates his life, then don’t use Bond, Bond is not a vessel for that, Bond is a vessel for something else.
Chris: And if you tune in next week, we’re going to explain exactly why that is the case.
Rao Dao Zao: Maybe.
Chris: Because, I think Daniel Craig is wrong.