SkyFall: 007 opened to huge critical and commercial success. It is the third film of the rebooted Daniel Craig Bonds. I have accepted a new Bond film coming out semi-regularly as a staple of modern life, but I remember a time when I thought: “Wait, didn’t they already do that movie about a thousand times?”
Yes, they have, but it is something our culture needs to do, and here are two reasons why.
The first reason these films continue to be made is about money. We, the consumer, like those movies, and will pay to see them no matter how many times they get made. Studios make them because people buy them. People buy them because they are familiar and dependable. Bond movies are like Hershey's chocolate, or Starbucks. They aren’t a risky investment. Viewers know exactly what to expect because they have refined their formula down to a science. The studios make money. The audience sees sex and violence wrapped in a classy suit. Everyone is happy.
An appealing mythology also keeps the Bond cannon evergreen. Ian Fleming himself, author of the original James Bond novels, said that his books had "no social significance except a deleterious one." That’s completely fine, because that isn’t what the Bond ethos is about. The Bond aesthetic is a fantasy. The Bond character is a superhero, and the Bond narrative is a myth. For most of his career he has been the perfect spy,a man without consequences with a license to kill, and a magnetic power over women. The story was pure escapist fantasy. The movies marched on for decades, until they got a little too glitzy for their perfectly tailored trousers. Enter the reboot.
The Daniel Craig Bond is still the archetype in his new, blond form, but he’s been given a gritty, post-9/11 makeover. Basically, the franchise had jumped the shark and it was time to make it modern and credible for an audience who no longer believed in a world without consequences. Now the hero can be hurt, and the world of spies is a dirtier and sadder place. The Skyfall premise, “this time it’s personal,” is still a classic one. This retro setup works in our time because we get to keep the basic Bond character of the best spy ever, and layer in terrorism, the issue of the decade.
What’s surprising to me is not that we remake Bond over and over, but that so few movies have followed this serial format. If it works for comic books, TV series, and books (particularly mystery novels) you would have thought movies would do more of it. Of course, given the number of reboots and remakes we’ve seen over the last few years, perhaps Hollywood has figured it out.