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die-another-day-011Here’s where it all began to fall apart. In 1964’s Goldfinger Sean Connery (the original and uber Bond) zoomed around Fort Knox in a tricked-out Aston-Martin. This car could do it all – it had an ejection seat and other deadly gimmicks – and it became part of 007’s folklore. Perhaps too much. It’s been a long time since the heady days of Swingin’ London when Bond was a rough and tumble action hero who used his wiles to outsmart villains. In the last 38 years the gadgets – beginning with the car – have slowly taken over the franchise. Interchangeable Bonds – from George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to the latest incarnation Pierce Brosnan – have become merely the keepers of the doodads. The actor playing Bond doesn’t matter so much as the cool weapons he uses. And so it goes for Die Another Day, probably the most critic proof movie to be released this year. Brosnan is this year’s Bond model, an effective enough master spy, and while he maybe getting a little longer in the tooth, with the help of lots of CG he can still drive an invisible car with panache. He’s no more or less effective than those who have gone before him, and that’s the point. The films, which have now become huge cash cows, aren’t about Dalton or Pierce or whoever (I think Clive Owen would make a good Bond), they’re about spectacle and hubris, with a few corny jokes thrown in to break up the action sequences. The James Bond series has been spoofed so often and so well – Our Man Flint and Austin Powers to name just a couple – that now, 40 years since Dr. No hit the screens that it is hard not to see Die Another Day as a parody. Humor has always been a part of the Bond movies, particularly during the Moore years, but when Brosnan and co-star Halle Berry exchange randy pillow talk it’s not much of a stretch to imagine Austin Powers delivering the same lines. Die Another Day isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it’s just more of the same. The names and faces may change, but the formula remains largely unaltered since Goldfinger. In the latest installment Bond’s boss M tells him, “While you were away, the world changed.” The world might have changed, but Bond hasn’t, he remains the cinema’s most enduring character, and that’s just the way the audience seems to like it.

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