Since a new James Bond film is imminent, I offer this. For the truly insane music videos, you gotta go to the early ’80s:

I came across this websurfing with the wife the other day, because she hadn’t heard the Duran Duran song they did for one of the most regrettable Bond films ever made. The music video is crazier, but more entertaining at least than the film. I have to assume drugs were involved because I don’t get the intended concept here–is Bond supposed to be chasing them? Are they directing the movie themselves with those cameras? Who the hell even knows. As with the a-ha theme for the movie right after it, it’s interesting to think that there was a time where the curators of the Bond franchise just found popular music acts of the time, gave them the title of the movie, and just let them do their thing with it. Both songs sound just like what those bands were doing during that time. Impossible to imagine that occurring either before or after–my guess for why that happened was that the Bond franchise wasn’t in the greatest shape in the ’80s and the curators were scrambing to find ways to make a fifty year old guy making bad puns relevant to the kids. So, Duran Duran got to cash what presumably was a huge check just to write one of their ordinary songs. And they weren’t even forced to include a woodwind or a horn section into the mix.

But, of course, there have been a few improvements in the Bond franchise since then. For example, the guy playing Bond now is capable of badassery in a way that only Connery (and Timothy Dalton at times*) was able to convey, but also manages to look in place in a tux. Charles Stross made the point in one of his books that the defining characteristic of James Bond as a character is his sociopathy–he kills people even at point blank range without it bothering him one bit, he forms no emotional attachments with anyone, ultimately all that moves him are abstract concepts and sensual pleasures. True enough. Ultimately, though, what Craig and Connery got that most of the other actors really didn’t was how damaged the character was that allowed them to be this way. Bond fulfills a certain kind of male fantasy because it’s the only way to escape from a life full of loss, and without a sense of what it cost him to get there, the movies are just going to be product placement and silly innuendo. Roger Moore’s Bond was happy to be Bond, Connery’s wasn’t and Craig’s isn’t, ultimately. And that is, I think, the key. Sure, drinking an expensive martini and sleeping with an endless amount of beautiful women is fun, but only for that moment. Doesn’t change what the guy is carrying with him. See also: To Live and Die in L.A. and Munich, which both feature special agent protagonists that from Bond to varying extents and deal with the basic dilemmas of the character in ways that the Bond franchise was absolutely unwilling to do until recently. Tired as I am of gritty reboots (oh, btw, get ready for a dark Munsters reboot, just as it was always intended to be!), but as with Battlestar Galactica as well, sometimes it’s merited.

* Dalton’s movies are a puzzle. He is capable of being an immensely charismatic actor, but there’s little evidence of it there. As fans of Hot Fuzz can attest, he’s hilarious, but he gets few opportunities in those films and the laugh lines are often awful. The Living Daylights I recall as being mostly good, though I haven’t seen it in ages and might be forgetting things. I seem to remember it being a return to tough, determined Bond after a decade of whatever the hell Roger Moore was doing. Then came License to Kill, which started in that vein before the producers apparently decided that, hey, it’s been long enough and let’s throw a big barrel of camp in there in the form of Wayne Newton. Regrettable, because Carey Lowell made for a pretty interesting Bond Girl.

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