Four years between Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall might seem like an inordinately long time to wait for fresh Bondery, but for some of us it's the blink of an eye compared to the aeon for which Eon Productions left Bond fans hanging between 1989 and 1995. During those long and desolate years, the entire world experienced cataclysmic change: communism in eastern Europe came crashing down; Timothy Dalton got bored and wandered off, and I discovered all sorts of things about girls.
Two of those things had a direct impact on the direction of the James Bond films, while the third just made me realise what a load of rubbish all that "Oh, James"ing was. Nobody's ever said that to me in the throes of passion, no matter how many times I've asked. Nevertheless, I maintained my 007 devotion throughout and spilled all sorts of excited juices in the run-up to the release of GoldenEye. I didn't really know much about this Brosnan guy but he certainly looked like he knew how to... uh... stand on some stairs.
The capacity for moody but inappropriately-attired banister-reclining aside, it turned out that Pierce Brendan Brosnan made a pretty good James Bond, even though it felt like he'd been genetically engineered to please everyone. Consisting of precisely 44% rugged Connery, 39% cheesy Moore, 6% funny-accented Lazenby and 11% ruthless Dalton, James the fifth effortlessly ascended the throne of Bond from the moment he hurled himself off a bloody great dam, challenging The Spy Who Loved Me for the title of most jaw-clattering pre-title sequence.
And if Brosnan appeared to have been grown in a petri dish to be everyone's ideal Bond, then the script was constructed with equally precise cold, mathematical precision. As undeniably enjoyable and exciting as GoldenEye may be, somewhere lurking beneath the surface is the clinical stench of Bond-by-numbers that's been mercifully absent since Roger Moore hung up his corset. That Brosnan and director Martin Campbell managed to make such an entertaining film is to their credit, but there are a few too many throwbacks to the Moore years for my liking. Clumsy cyclists, laboured sight gags in Q's lab and shit one-liners accompanied by over-animated eyebrows all feel like a massive step back after the majestic Age Of The Dalton.
At the same time as it rifles through a back catalogue of James Bond's Greatest Hits, GoldenEye's script also appears to be some kind of sixth-form dissertation on the cultural history of 007. Almost every character gets to have a pop at Bond's failings, as if the writers had ploughed through every BlogalongaBond post before starting work on the film. And while it's superficially clever scripting in terms of addressing the series' place in '90s action cinema, it feels forced and a little tiresome seventeen years down the line.
Lines like Alec Trevelyan's smart-arsed observations on the psychological reasons for Bond's liver-crippling martini habit and Natalya's remarkably presumptious judgement on what keeps him alone (she's known him for about 48 hours) might appear to offer the character some depth, but in truth they only pay lip service to the complexity that Licence To Kill so effortlessly conveyed. Once all the pouting and new-age self-assessment are out of the way it's not long before Brosnan's eyebrows are re-activated and he's carefully timing dreadful kiss-off lines like "She always did enjoy a good squeeze".
The least clanging attempt at all this self-referential navel-gazing is the one in which Brosnan is almost acted out of his Brioni suit by the untouchable Dame Judi Dench as M. Significantly wearing a Nehru-esque outfit with a mandarin collar that almost dares us not to think of Dr. No or Blofeld, M ostensibly takes Bond down a peg or two but actually gives a much more interesting insight into her own character, ensuring that we - and he - know that she's quite prepared to send him to his death if the mission calls for it. Sadly DJD's hard work is almost entirely undone by the script's insistence that she softens up and asks 007 to "come back alive" like a damp-gusseted schoolgirl, and all those withering put-downs are suddenly and tragically cancelled out.
Brosnasaurus Rex: sexy, misogynist dinosaur
So GoldenEye remains a curiosity. Turning Bond back into a superhuman in an OTT adventure ensured the brand regained its unique place in a world full of fallible, blubbing action heroes like Martin Riggs and John McClane, and consequently provided the series' most successful reboot up to this point. Had it failed to do so, who knows if we'd still be eagerly awaiting Episode XXIII in 2012? Deep down though, the script feels like it's aimed at the lowest common denominator, and while that worked to some extent it also quietly swept everything from six years before under the carpet, and to me that seems a shame.
The pre-title sequenceshitter. Still, the rest of the sequence is crowd-pleasingly brilliant, mixing subtle comedy (the squeaky trolley) with balls-out, jaw-dropping stunts. Although why Bond didn't shout "Must dash, I've got a plane to catch!" as he drove off the cliff is a mystery.
BONUS BONDFACT: The force on stuntman Wayne Michaels when he performed the jump was so great that his trousers disintegrated, according to this still from the GoldenEye Video Journal:
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'The GoldenEye Overture'
OK, I'm just going to put this out there: the score for GoldenEye is amazing. No, Éric Serra's largely electronic contribution isn't "traditional" Bond music, and yes, when it's rubbs it's rubbs, but it's massively atmospheric and incredibly bold, and when he does swap the synths for the orchestra he's perfectly capable of producing swooning, romantic themes. It's just that there aren't any, you know, tunes as such. If you really can't bear the sound of a set of saucepans bouncing around inside a zero-gravity squash court, John Altman's bits during the St Petersburg tank sequence (requested by shit-scared producers after hearing Serra's submission) are just as great in an old-fashioned way. Having said all of that, Serra's end credits song, 'The Experience Of Love', is so excruciatingly awful that my ears try to detach themselves from my head whenever they hear it.
Ксения Сергеевна ОнатоппFiona Volpe, part Never Say Never Again's Fatima Blush, no parts A View To A Kill's May Day (thank Christ), GoldenEye's delightfully mentile erotophonophiliac Xenia Sergeyevna Onatopp is a Bond Girl for the ages. Possibly inspired by The Living Daylights' brief mention of Ula Yokhfov, a KGB assassin who strangled victims with her thighs, Xenia achieves sexual arousal from the faces P-Broz pulls when clamped between her vice-like femora. But then, don't we all?
The best Bond fight scene for 33 yearsrumble on the Orient Express in From Russia With Love. In fact, the fight - set inside a claustrophobic room somewhere in the inner workings of Trevelyan's massive satellite dish thingy - is a direct homage to the earlier film, even down to Brosnan mimicking Connery shielding his torso and face with his arms and getting roundly walloped in the guts for his trouble.
And finally: I'm not sure if it's a cause for celebration or commiseration, but the references to Little James - which some may say were beneath Timothy Dalton - are back...
Bond and Xenia are playing cards in a Monte Carlo casino.
It appears we share the same passions... three, anyway.
I count two: motoring and baccarat.
Bond loses the hand.
I hope the third is where your real talent lies.
One rises to meet a challenge.
BlogalongaBond will return with Tomorrow Never Dies
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