Narrative Across 007 (research proposal)

A Bond film, like many franchise installments, can never exist entirely in its own right, but rather is always seen in reference to its predecessors. As Times Online’s Jeff Dawson notes,

“The avowals of “grittiness” that greeted Daniel Craig are interchangeable with the “Bond for a modern era” banners that welcomed Pierce Brosnan — until he went out in a fug of Cossack hairspray, smug one-liners, and an invisible car… ‘Why?’ does not figure with Bond. It’s simply ‘How does the new film compare with the last?’”

The focus of the paper is to use the Bond franchise to chart a narrative of its narratives. That is, how the character is portrayed over the decades, why the filmmakers “restarted” the Bond story with Casino Royale, etc.

The paper’s broader question is how narrative functions within the constraints of a franchise. That is, how does the franchise function to cue the viewer to receive the narrative? The long tenure of the Bond franchise exists as a useful framework for such exploration. With this in mind, the paper will be structured in two parts:

Part I will focus on observations of cycles and patterns in the Bond franchise. Including:

– the various characters that cross over the films.
– the various villains, how they died (the manner of death became more gruesome and sensational as the films progressed, and the villains themselves  became more sensational.)
– the arcs within each Bond cycle (excepting George Lazenby, as he starred in only one film).
– For Pierce Brosnen, films got more sensational, less realistic, and more ridiculous as the cycle progressed (from Goldeneye, that was the most realistic and dealt with post-cold war issues, to Die Another Day that had genetic modification, a giant laser from outer space, and – my personal favorite – an invisible car.)

Part II will contain explanations for Part I and suggestions for where the franchise will head in the future. Including:

– Looking at political trends, how that has affecting the style of Bond.
Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace – come amidst a new cycle/trend in Hollywood of “restarting” franchises.  Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and especially restarting the Batman franchise from ridiculous (George Clooney’s nipple suit) to dark, intense, and (dare I say) relatively realistic with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Filmmakers saw that such films are more successful when they take themselves seriously and give even their protagonists serious internal conflict and faults. Enter Bond Reborn.
-Casino Royale cues you from the very beginning that this is not going to be like the other films. The black-and-white footage is startlingly different, and reflects Bond’s cold-hearted killing attitude. In this sense, it could be argued that the narrative of the Bond franchises serves as a microcosm for the narrative of Hollywood filmmaking at large.

Bibliography:
1. Amis, Kingsley. The James Bond Dossier (London, The Trinity Press, 1965)

2. Bennett, Tony, and Woollacott, Janet. Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (New York: Methuen, Inc., 1987)

3. Black, Jeremy. The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming’s Novels to the Big Screen (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. 2001)

4. Chapman, James. Licence to Thrill: A cultural History of the James Bond Films (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

5. Comentale, Edward P. et al. Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007 (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005)

6. Dawson, Jeff. “Quantum of Solace: 007 Goes Art House” <http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article4907724.ece>

7. Lindner, Christoph. The James Bond Phenomenon (New York: Manchester University Press, 2003)

8. Rubin, Steven Jay. The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia (United States; Contemporary Books, Inc., 1990)
Additional Sources:

9. The 22 Bond Feature Films

10. www.imdb.com

11. www.metacritic.com

(I hope this is readable, wordpress is being fussy with formatting issues at the moment…)

  1. Jason Mittell’s avatar

    This looks like a strong proposal, with good research & interesting ideas throughout. I know we talked about this question before, but I think a relevant issue to grapple with is how do the films (before Casino Royale) teach us to view them as more episodic rather than serial, making us willing to accept discontinuities & major shifts (in actor, timeframe, etc.)? I can see this fitting into your structure, and might help cue the differences with CR & QoS even more, as I’ve heard the new film is really tied to the last. Is that a first for Bond?

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