James Bond was born into film in 1962 wearing a Savile Row suit and soon became a byword for quirky adversaries, gadgetry, and oddly-named female associates. In his 50 years of life the world has gone from facing the threat of disruption of the Project Mercury space launch by an agent of S.P.E.C.T.R.E (The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) to busting purveyors of conflict diamonds who are also trying to use solar beams to cut through the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. And then there was a reboot, because every franchise needs one.
The reboot worked out quite well for Bond, taking a series that had begun to be overshadowed by gimmicks, special effects, and product placement and giving it new life in the form of a more physical, less graceful Bond whose villains largely wanted to make money and cause havoc in more conventional ways. The follow-up, Quantum of Solace continued to give us a Bond that was compelling for more than just the cars and the girls.
That brings us almost to Friday, October 5, when the world will celebrate an unofficial James Bond Day with a documentary, with appearances by the cast of Skyfall (in theaters November 9) .
There will also be a global survey on which is the best Bond film, a film retrospective at the MoMA, a charity auction by Christie’s, a Music of Bond evening in Los Angeles, a style exhibition at the Toronto International Film Festival, the release of all the Bond films on Blu-ray, and in case that were not enough for you people, the release of the new Bond song, sung by Adele. OK, that last one actually leaked on Tuesday and the Blu-ray set shipped September 24, but don’t let that distract you from the glory that is James Bond Day.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what the new Bond films have done for 007. For one thing, they have made him a spy again, rather than a superhero. The villains of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace don’t have steel jaws, or poisoned shoe blades, or deadly bowler hats. Instead they have insidious business practices and nasty treatment of prisoners. Contrary to what you might expect, bringing the story closer to a realistic world actually raised the stakes for Agent 007. The challenges in the post-Brosnan movies require a physical confrontation that was not always present in previous incarnations of Bond, and they exact a toll on him.
The popularity of James Bond is not a mystery. Who doesn’t want to see a sharp dresser save the world, beat the guys who need beating, score all the ladies, and deliver kind-of terrible one-liners? If you look at the events planned for this particular unofficial holiday, though, you’ll notice that the Bond movies have always been about more than the man with the license to kill — the clothes, the locations, the music, all of it combined make the spectacle of 007 we love to watch. Friday is James Bond Day. Wear something classy, break out your favorite puns, and enjoy the show.