With the latest Bond movie Spectre doing its’ level best to break Box Office records around the world, it is worth noting that this is the 24th instalment of this famous franchise. Doctor No represented the first offering back in 1962, with Sean Connery reprising the iconic role of Bond and laying the foundation for more than 50 years of incredible success.
Not many cultural icons have survived for so long in such a rapidly changing social and political climate, meaning that Bond and his creators have had to adapt and change to sustain their success. But how exactly have these changes manifested themselves, and what has the evolution of the character and his adventures done for his legacy?
While some may argue that the traditional Bond girl was integral to the appeal of the franchise, although as time progressed you felt that Bond was never more than one comment away from a sexual harassment lawsuit. Not only did historical Bond girls tolerate the star’s misogynistic behaviour, for example, but they were also gullible, easily charmed and lacking in any substance beyond their looks. Even those that were presented as independent ended up being bedded by Bond, and it is interesting to note that modern Bond girls are decidedly feistier and liable to challenge our hero.
This is another key area of change, although once again traditionalists will argue that recent alternations to the typical Bond plot have not necessarily been for the better. Certainly earlier films were simpler and benefited from superior pacing, while character development was also given a great deal of emphasis. This contrasts sharply to the technology-led, action-packed and often convoluted plots of modern instalments, with Quantum providing a relevant case in point.
Much of this is down to audience expectation, of course, which has influenced directors to adopt the relentless pace that has become the trademark of hit films such as The Bourne Identity. This does not necessarily work with the classic Bond franchise, however, and the suspicion remains that while the overall quality of actors has improved recently plot themes have declined.
No entity, even one as all-conquering as James Bond, can avoid the lure of technology forever. This is certainly something that has had a huge influence on contemporary instalments, whether in relation to the plot, gadgets or high-octane action scenes. Classic bond watch gadgets are now smart and intuitive, for example, while Bond has also had to counteract cyber criminals and terrorists from around the world. The films are certainly better for this, as the integration of innovative digital technology sits well with modern fashion and narratives.