Ian Fleming’s James Bond has been entertaining, shocking and marvelling us through the moving image for almost forty years, and the perception of his character has changed dramatically over that time. In the early years his character was a typical stereotyped Englishman with all the qualities of a civilised gentleman. However, more recently Bond has been increasingly relaxed and sarcastic. James Bond started out as Sean Connery in the Terence Young directed 1962 film ‘Dr. No’. By 1973, Connery had been replaced by a fresh Roger Moore in ‘Live and Let Die’, directed by Guy Hamilton.
Still pulling in the audiences another thirty years later, Pierce Brosnan plays James Bond in the Martin Campbell directed smash hit ‘Goldeneye’ in 1995. As the films have progressed the camera angles have advanced greatly and have set the standards for films to come. In ‘Dr. No’, the camera angles appear simplistic and have not much variation. With most of the film being captured at medium range, the film looks very repetitive. For a long period of time during the opening card scene and Bond’s meeting with M, the film is all played out in medium shot, without close ups or long shots.
Variation in camera technique is limited. However in the opening scenes of the film, while he is playing cards with Sylvia Trench, many close ups on Bond’s face are used. An extreme close up on his eyes also adds tension as the audience eagerly awaits seeing Bond’s face. Only a few minutes later do the audience see his face in full. The film lacks use of panning or change in vertical tilting. More complex camera techniques such as slow motion and personal views are also not included. The opening credits are the first motion in the film and also basic.
Very bright colours are used to fit in with the ‘hippie’ goings on; tough graphics are also restricted due to undeveloped technology. As cinema became more advanced, so did the camera angles, which is clearly demonstrated in ‘Live and Let Die’. This more recent film is played out in medium range, yet more close ups, long shots and panning are available. Panning is shown as the camera follows the national representatives at the meeting being held, only a few moments into the film. This was new in Bond movies and has proved to be a good asset.
During M’s conversation with James Bond, the camera is attracted to the person who is talking, showing the head only. In contrast ‘Dr. No’, displays both characters at once in an objective viewpoint. A lot of establishing shots are also incorporated into ‘Live and Let Die’, here; the camera starts out at medium range, and extends out to a long range shot. This is used to show the viewer where the scene is and provide context. The opening credits in ‘Live and Let Die’ are far more advanced than the previous Bond films and come after a clip of the film. A flame is used in the background.
Representing destruction and violence, a voodoo theme of the film. The opening of hands is used to symbolise the start of a new Bond – Roger Moore. ‘Goldeneye’ really does ‘shame’ the camerawork of the other two Bond films of discussion as the variation is so superior. A perfect blend of close ups, long shots, medium shots, panning, tracking and extreme close ups, ‘Goldeneye’ displays the technology of a more modern age. Tracking is used to follow Bond over the top of the dam, as in ‘Dr. No’, the vision of Bond’s face is delayed to increase tension; the fast camera action creates pace.
Panning is used also to follow Bond across the faculty floor as he wheels the trolley towards the conveyer belt. Amazingly advanced camera angles are additionally used in the stunning car chase between James Bond and Xenia Onatopp. As they race, panning, tracking, close ups, and long shots are all used. Accompanied by even more advanced techniques such as passing shots, crane shots and cutaways. As the two cars race towards the cyclists, a cutaway is used to show the advancing cars approaching the danger. This allows the audience to know what could happen. The credits once again are far superior to all previous Bond films.
Like in ‘Live and Let Die’ the opening credits are shown after a small clip of the film, but with even further delay. ‘Goldeneye’ shows women at work on a very advanced computer generated background. Many long and slender guns are shown all around women. This is a phallic reference to Bond’s masculinity and virility. As the films progress, the sounds – unlike the camera angles – have remained fairly similar. Non-diegetic sounds have been used throughout all Bond films. In ‘Dr. No’ less non-diegetic sounds occur than in ‘Goldeneye’, yet they are still a regular occurrence.
Within all the films sounds are enhanced to add that cinematic feeling. For example, in ‘Dr. No’ African assassins break through the window and shoot Strangways’ secretary, the glass shattering is enhanced as is the shooting. Music in ‘Dr. No’ is used widely to build tension as well as to draw out emotions. To suit the 1960’s audience, reggae music is played to link to the African assassins along with much classical music. Meanwhile the music of ‘Live and Let Die’ the music is much more effective and the non-diegetic sounds are more common. The music in the opening credits also symbolises a new beginning, even via the song title.
The majority of the opening scenes are talking therefore not much music is implemented until Bond makes ‘a move’ on Miss Caruso, the Italian woman. Once they get together the music is quite suggestive and sensual. As the film moves onto the African jungle scene, the music becomes very festival like suiting the scenery and providing atmosphere. ‘Goldeneye’ shows the use of most non-diegetic sound effects to improve the cinema experience. As Alec Treveleyan sprays the Russian guards with his gun as they charge through the door, the sound is blatantly enhanced, to heighten the action.
During the car chase the music is very fast paced to suit with the action on the screen. The music also reaches a crescendo as the cars begin to approach the cyclists. However, the film remains almost silent in dialogue until Bond’s opening sarcastic line: ‘Sorry, forgot to knock’, which is approximately two minutes into the film. The language used in each of these three Bond films remains very similar yet changes to keep up with the times. In ‘Dr. No’ James Bond and the rest of the English staff all speak perfect standard English. They are devoid of accents nor do they use slang expressions.
This creates a very professional impression of England and its workers to the rest of the world. It reflects James Bond as a gentleman and suggests that he is well educated. Furthermore all the language is very formal which gives the impression that Bond is an obedient and efficient worker. In the later film ‘Live and Let Die’, the language hardly changes. Bond talks to M as a friend rather than a boss, showing that the language has become less formal and more relaxed though maintaining standard English format. ‘Goldeneye’ however reflects cultural language changes.
Today the language spoken by the public has changed and more slang is being used and more lazy expressions are being implemented, the language in the films has also changed. The language has become more informal and more characters are becoming sarcastic and casual. In ‘Dr. No’ the majority of the characters remain serious where as 1990s Bond thrives on sarcasm, for example “Shut the door, Alec. There’s a draught”. These humorous phrases entertain the audience and indentify with the protagonist. Women have almost always been portrayed as inferior to men in the vast majority of films throughout the ages.
The James Bond series is no exception as women are always taking the back seat to the action. In the earlier ‘Dr. No’, women are used very provocatively. The first woman that you see in the James Bond films is a secretary looking helpless being rushed and shot by a group of criminals. Her place as secretary is also very stereotypical. Meanwhile at MI6 all the workers are men, suggesting that women are not equal to men in the working world. However, strong women are also represented to satisfy the society’s rising feminism, as a very striking woman is shown matching, if not losing to James Bond at cards.
She is also wearing red, which is a very feminine but powerful colour. By the fact that she is matching James Bond at cards and that she is obviously quite rich, this shows that women can cope by themselves and that they can be very independent and successful. In ‘Live and Let Die’, the trend is continued as women remain inferior to men. The first clip of a woman is in bed with James Bond, which shows females as pleasure to men and nothing else. During the opening credits, women are also ‘perverted’ for sexual appearance. Many are shown erotically and half naked, purely provocatively.
However, sometimes women do get the ‘upper hand’: as Moneypenny is leaving the apartment she makes a joke to James Bond, maybe showing that she is his equal and understand his weaknesses. Once again women are the weaker sex in ‘Goldeneye’, but the extent of the sexism is less. Xenia Onatopp takes a leading role in this film as the evil villainess. She is very successful and independent. During her car chase with James Bond she is driving a very nice sports car showing her wealth and her independence. On many occasions she over takes James Bond showing that she is his equal if not his superior.
Once again every woman shown is very attractive and they are all used as suggestively and seemingly all fall victim to James Bond’s womanizing ways. Power is once again attributed to females, however when one of the women is shown smoking a cigarette along side male smokers. As smoking is used as a sign of power, this is a plus point for women as they are shown parallel to men. Also during the opening credits women are using sledgehammers on statues. This shows women’s independence and that they are capable doing what is stereotyped as mans job. Despite this there are subtle undertones suggesting male dominance.
After all Xenia Onatopp is the driver out of the two to loose control of her car as the lorry approaches. As Bond eases past Xenia spins out of control onto the dirt, thus illustrating mans superiority. James Bond’s character has changed as the audiences and the films have appropriately progressed. In ‘Dr. No’ Bond is serious and formal. He acts in a very business like way, using no slang and a very English tone. He is dressed smartly, wearing a top hat, bow tie and a three piece suit. His hair is ‘swish’ and he is seen smoking a cigar. This gives the impression of being serious and professional.
Yet while being serious, he does not pass up the chance for the odd sarcastic comment such as “Don’t forget to write” when he leaves the company of Moneypenny. Also he says “I would … but it would be illegal use of government property” as Moneypenny enquires about why she is not taken out and also, as he leaves the casino with Sylvia Trench, he asks her “Do you play any other games? “. This is suggestive as it implies Bond’s sexual innuendo. This adds some much needed comedy to the action packed film. However, although professional Bond is slightly rebellious.
For example when instructed to use a Wolfram P2K rather than his preferred gun. He attempts to sneak out his weapon rather than to do as he is told. This shows he has a cheeky attitude to authority. In ‘Live and Let Die’ James Bond has an even more laid back approach to work. He is more sarcastic, more comical and much more of a womanizer. Roger Moore’s opening line as the new Bond is “You’re not married are you darling? ” as he speaks to the Italian agent he is in bed with. This is suggestive and again enhances Bond’s sexual innuendo. This sets the scene for the oncoming Roger Moore series of Bonds.
When James Bond meets with the Italian agent again after she comes out from the cupboard he uses his gadget magnet watch to unzip her clothing. When complimented on his smooth touch, he wittily replies “Sheer magnetism darling”. As Bond’s attitude changes so does his appearance. No longer does James Bond wear a bowler hat, this showing his less professional status. His laid back attitude to work includes his boss M going to see Bond at his house rather than Bond going to M’s office. While James Bond is receiving his mission briefing he is making a cup of coffee and walking away from M, with his back to him.
This shows Bond’s ‘devil may care’ approach and his lack of respect for higher ranks. He speaks with a sarcastic tone when he address’s enemies and allies alike. Meanwhile in the later ‘Goldeneye’, Bond has become ever more sarcastic, comical and womanizing. However Bond has also become more of a ‘cool’ character an admirable rebel to authority. He takes part in a lengthy car chase between himself and Xenia Onatopp. While travelling at great speeds, he shows no concern for his assistant, who is very worried and scared. However, James Bond is very cool, calm and willing to up the tempo.
For example when the alarm sounds in the facility, Bond merely raises an eyebrow. Again, seconds later, as the guards break through the door, James Bond humorously says “Shut the door Alec; there’s a draught. ” Somewhat symbolic of James Bond’s character, he also drives a classic old car. Compared to the glaring red Ferrari of Xenia, he is driving a classic dull grey car, which reflects his classic status; James Bond has always been a man of principle and morality. This ethical dimension is shown when he is given the choice between detonating the bombs or saving his allies life – Alec Trevelyan.
Rather than completing the task at hand, he chooses to drop his weapon and show himself to General Ouromov and his guards. Bond is willing to ‘bail from a mission’ to save a friend’s life. Showing a role model and a hero to the audience. Yet, James Bond remains full of witty comments and sarcastic replies. His first line of the film, and the audiences first shot of Bond’s face both appear at once. As he hangs from the vent above the toilet, a guard’s paper moves to the left to reveal Bond’s face.
“Sorry … forgot to knock” exclaims James as he proceeds to knock him out. Also, when General Ouromov shouts ‘Come out with your hands up! , Bond sarcastically replies “Hmm, how original. ” Use of these and many more clever phrases make ‘Goldeneye’ the most humorous of the three Bond films in question. As the Bond films have progressed there has been a clear pattern in the way they have been presented. While the 60’s film ‘Dr. No’ was limited in its use of computer technology and stunts, it still provided the audience with many thrills and shocks, all advanced for its day. The sounds were weak; the camera angles were few in number and poor at that. The gadgets were limited and the credits were extremely basic. Yet due to the classic Bond image the film was a great success.
As the expectations for films grew larger, a greater quality of stunts sounds and camera was also expected, ‘Live and Let Die’ had a lot to live up to. It did not disappoint. When looked upon today the lighting and stunts seem stone-age but no doubt amazed audiences of the 70s. This film also saw a new actor playing James Bond and brought upon the sarcastic attitude which has been enhanced as the years have progressed. Women are shown in a better light yet still are seen in a derogatory light, taking the back seat to the action and always falling victim to Bond’s charm and wit.
The year 1995 brought about the latest in the Bond series with ‘Goldeneye’ hitting the big screens. Bond became more sarcastic, more laid back and cheekier. The plot became more sophisticated and the characters bigger names. Pierce Brosnan played the latest Bond and continued where the previous Bonds had left off. The camera angles were far superior to all other films before it, and the lighting and sounds were perfect. The gadgets had become regular at this point and ‘Goldeneye’ provided its fair share. With far less talking and much more action, ‘Goldeneye’ appealed much more to the modern audience.
Also some amazing stunts and a great car chase add to this film’s quality. All three of these Bond films address their appropriate audiences with accuracy and all suit the mood of the public at the time. Where ‘Dr. No’ has reggae undertones and blacks are always the villains, ‘Goldeneye’ is very modern and the plots have become more sophisticated as the public have become more clever and yet casual. All age’s groups are targeted, as well as many nations worldwide, as the Bond series appeals to all. The name James Bond is enough to cause a stir and get the public waiting for the next episode of this ongoing series.