Ken Jennings’ blog topic for today is iconoclasm, which put me in mind of an essay I had on my old website about James Bond, now resurrected for your reading pleasure.

I’m a James Bond fan who hates nearly all the James Bond movies.No, I don’t mean to say that I’m a fan of Ian Fleming’s written adventures instead; I’ve only ever read one (Goldfinger, and it was just OK). I mean that the promise of the first two movies — Dr. No and especially From Russia With Love — was squandered in every movie thereafter.In the beginning, the James Bond series was for grownups; now it’s for kids. Sure, there always were exciting action sequences and nifty gadgets, but they were by no means the focus of the movies. The focus was James Bond’s worldly bachelor, gentleman-adventurer lifestyle. A story, possibly apocryphal, is told of casting the role of James Bond for Dr. No. Sean Connery auditioned for the producers, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, giving an adequate but unremarkable reading. A few minutes later, one of the producers glanced out the window to see Sean Connery walking away down the street “striding like a panther,” and that’s when they knew they had their man. This story underscores that the original emphasis in the movie series was simply on Bond’s manliness, aspired to by millions of the burgeoning Playboy generation.

In From Russia With Love (which had a plausible and somewhat sophisticated story that actually centered on authentic-seeming espionage, the only one of its kind in the whole series), the familiar James Bond musical theme swells as Bond simply arrives at the airport in Istanbul looking for his contact, then again as he checks into his hotel. That’s because those are the minutiae of the lifestyle, which is what audiences came to see. In modern James Bond movies, that music is reserved for the dozens of credibility-defying stunts that the screenwriter has contrived, performed with vanilla action-hero aplomb by a generic Bond who isn’t really a character at all, and certainly has nothing that can be called a lifestyle.

By the time of Goldfinger, the third movie, the series had begun to descend into self-parody. The easily identifiable components of the first two movies — girls, martinis, guns, explosions, gadgets, saying “Bond, James Bond” — became ingredients in a formula that lacked the one truly essential element: savoir faire.

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